Legislature(2013 - 2014)HOUSE FINANCE 519

03/31/2014 06:00 PM FINANCE

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06:06:16 PM Start
06:07:40 PM HB202
07:55:37 PM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
-- Recessed to a Call of the Chair --
Heard & Held
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
                  HOUSE FINANCE COMMITTEE                                                                                       
                      March 31, 2014                                                                                            
                         6:06 p.m.                                                                                              
6:06:16 PM                                                                                                                    
CALL TO ORDER                                                                                                                 
Co-Chair Stoltze called the  House Finance Committee meeting                                                                    
to order at 6:06 p.m.                                                                                                           
MEMBERS PRESENT                                                                                                               
Representative Alan Austerman, Co-Chair                                                                                         
Representative Bill Stoltze, Co-Chair                                                                                           
Representative Mark Neuman, Vice-Chair                                                                                          
Representative Mia Costello                                                                                                     
Representative Bryce Edgmon                                                                                                     
Representative Les Gara                                                                                                         
Representative David Guttenberg                                                                                                 
Representative Lindsey Holmes                                                                                                   
Representative Cathy Munoz                                                                                                      
Representative Steve Thompson                                                                                                   
Representative Tammie Wilson                                                                                                    
MEMBERS ABSENT                                                                                                                
ALSO PRESENT                                                                                                                  
Michael  Paschall,  Staff,  Representative  Eric  Feige;  Ed                                                                    
Fogels,   Deputy   Commissioner,   Department   of   Natural                                                                    
PRESENT VIA TELECONFERENCE                                                                                                    
Doug   Vincent-Lang,   Director,    Division   of   Wildlife                                                                    
Conservation, Department  of Fish  and Game;  Bryce Wrigley,                                                                    
President,   Alaska  Farm   Bureau,  Delta   Junction;  Gary                                                                    
Stevens,   Member,  Board   of  Directors,   Alaska  Outdoor                                                                    
Council, Chugiak;  Don Quarberg,  Self, Delta;  Al Barrette,                                                                    
Member,   Fairbanks  Fish   and  Game   Advisory  Committee,                                                                    
HB 202    BISON DRAWING PERMIT FEES                                                                                             
          HB 202 was HEARD and HELD in committee for                                                                            
          further consideration.                                                                                                
HOUSE BILL NO. 202                                                                                                            
     "An  Act  raising the  application  fee  for a  drawing                                                                    
     permit for the  hunting of bison to  $20; requiring the                                                                    
     game management  plan for bison  in the  Delta Junction                                                                    
     Bison Range Area to include  mitigation of bison damage                                                                    
     to  farm  crops and  farm  and  personal property;  and                                                                    
     authorizing  the commissioner  of natural  resources to                                                                    
     make  grants to  mitigate or  prevent damage  caused by                                                                    
6:07:40 PM                                                                                                                    
MICHAEL PASCHALL, STAFF, REPRESENTATIVE ERIC FEIGE, read                                                                        
from a prepared testimony:                                                                                                      
     In 1928  a group of  hunters brought a small  number of                                                                    
     bison from the National Bison  Range in Montana to what                                                                    
     is now known as Delta  Junction Alaska and released the                                                                    
     animals  to   hopefully  one  day   provide  additional                                                                    
     hunting  opportunities in  the state.  This magnificent                                                                    
     animal is large, elusive, and  a prized hunting trophy,                                                                    
     as well as a source of excellent meat.                                                                                     
     When  the animals  were brought  to  Alaska, there  was                                                                    
     most likely  little discussion  on the  negative impact                                                                    
     of interaction  between these animals and  humans.  Nor                                                                    
     was there  likely any discussion  on these  animals not                                                                    
     being  native to  Alaska and  thus a  possible invasive                                                                    
     species being introduced into the state.                                                                                   
     As the animals  adapted to their new  home, they looked                                                                    
     for the most available  sources of food. Unfortunately,                                                                    
     some of  this food was located  at existing settlements                                                                    
     in the area along  the Tanana River. Documented history                                                                    
     shows  the  bison  interacting with  humans  at  Rika's                                                                    
     roadhouse shortly  after their release,  consuming food                                                                    
     planted for travelers using the roadhouse.                                                                                 
     By the  1950s, the  herd had  grown to  several hundred                                                                    
     animals and  plans were  made to  realize the  dream of                                                                    
     hunting  bison in  Alaska. Since  the first  hunts, the                                                                    
     desire to  hunt bison  has resulted in  the development                                                                    
     of the most popular draw  permit for hunting in Alaska.                                                                    
     In 2013,  19,605 applications  were received  with less                                                                    
     than 100 permits issued.                                                                                                   
     The  hunt is  not easy.  Most of  the hunt  takes place                                                                    
     during the winter  when it is cold, dark,  and windy in                                                                    
     Delta Junction.  Fish &  Game refers to  the hunt  as a                                                                    
     "challenging endeavor" and  requires those that receive                                                                    
     a  permit to  study a  package of  material and  pass a                                                                    
     test  before being  allowed to  hunt. The  success rate                                                                    
     for  the hunt  averages  around  80 percent,  depending                                                                    
     upon the specific hunt.                                                                                                    
     Hunting  Delta Bison  is one  of the  premier hunts  in                                                                    
     As mentioned previously, depredation  of crops has been                                                                    
     a problem  since shortly after the  bison were released                                                                    
     along the Delta River.                                                                                                     
     Traditionally the  largest herds  were found  along the                                                                    
     Delta and  Tanana Rivers and  animals were  often found                                                                    
     in  Delta  Junction.  Stories abound  of  children  not                                                                    
     being able to  go to school because they  could not get                                                                    
    out of the house because bison were in their yard.                                                                          
     Once the  herd discovered the presence  of grains being                                                                    
     grown east  of the community center,  the herd adjusted                                                                    
     its annual  migratory route,  traveling from  the Delta                                                                    
     River to the farm area  east of Delta Junction. On page                                                                    
     17 of  the "Delta  Bison Interim Management  Plan," you                                                                    
     can see that  the bison travel over  military land from                                                                    
     the spring calving area west  of the Delta River to the                                                                    
     Bison Range  and agricultural areas to  the east. Today                                                                    
     bison  are rarely  seen in  the more  heavily developed                                                                    
     areas or  around Rika's Roadhouse. Two  smaller animals                                                                    
    were reported near the city limits a few years ago.                                                                         
     Work  to  determine  the  damage  to  crops  and  other                                                                    
     property has  only been casually  reviewed in  the past                                                                    
     few  years.  Up to  that  point,  no known  surveys  of                                                                    
     damage  have been  done. Most  recent surveys  have put                                                                    
     the  damage  near   $100,000  annually.  Unfortunately,                                                                    
     damage isn't  spread equally  across all  producers and                                                                    
     can  have a  significant  negative impact  on a  single                                                                    
     producer. Also, loss of  opportunity income from higher                                                                    
     dollar  crops,   that  are  not  planted   due  to  the                                                                    
     potential  for  loss, is  not  included  in the  damage                                                                    
6:11:40 PM                                                                                                                    
Co-Chair Stoltze wondered if the  $100,000 was the aggregate                                                                    
for all farms,  or per farm. Mr. Paschall  replied that that                                                                    
the $100,000 referred to three years of surveys.                                                                                
Co-Chair  Stoltze   restated  his  question.   Mr.  Paschall                                                                    
responded that it referred to the aggregate.                                                                                    
Co-Chair Stoltze stressed that he  did not make a statement.                                                                    
Mr. Paschall apologized, because he  thought that he heard a                                                                    
Co-Chair  Stoltze  announced  that   the  $100,000  was  the                                                                    
aggregate  for  the  entire  farms  combined.  Mr.  Paschall                                                                    
replied that  it was $100,000  per year that  was determined                                                                    
as the amount of damage that occurred.                                                                                          
Mr. Paschall continued with his presentation:                                                                                   
     In  addition  to  the  problems  the  bison  cause  for                                                                    
     farmers and  the occasional vehicle/bison  collision is                                                                    
     the problems  the animals cause  for the  military. The                                                                    
     military  operates  under  strict rules  pertaining  to                                                                    
     interference   with   local  wildlife.   The   Donnelly                                                                    
     Training Area "Integrated  Natural Resources Management                                                                    
     Plan"  places   restrictions  on   interaction  between                                                                    
     military  training operations  and wildlife,  including                                                                    
     To  help address  both  the  problems with  interaction                                                                    
     between the military and bison  and between farmers and                                                                    
     bison, along with improving the  condition of the herd,                                                                    
     the state has  developed the Delta Bison  Range and the                                                                    
     military has  done work to improve  the conditions near                                                                    
     the calving areas.                                                                                                         
     The military  contracted with the local  soil and water                                                                    
     conservation district  in 2012 to make  improvements to                                                                    
     food for the bison on land  along the Delta River in an                                                                    
     attempt  to control  the location  and movement  of the                                                                    
     bison  by keeping  the  herd nearer  the  river and  on                                                                    
     inactive  ranges  for a  longer  period  of time,  thus                                                                    
     keeping the bison off agricultural land.                                                                                   
     The bison range,  created and funded by  the state, has                                                                    
     cleared  fields  where  grains   and  other  crops  are                                                                    
     planted  in  an  attempt  to  provide  the  bison  with                                                                    
     sufficient food and to attempt  to keep the bison south                                                                    
     of the  Alaska Highway  until after harvest.  The bison                                                                    
     range also  has wells where  water is provided  for the                                                                    
     bison. The herd is  intensely managed, fed, and watered                                                                    
     by the  state for  the benefit  of hunters.  Similar to                                                                    
     how farmers manage their livestock.                                                                                        
     During discussion on the management  plan for the bison                                                                    
     range, the  state's wildlife biologist  indicated there                                                                    
     is no  definitive evidence that the  natural habitat is                                                                    
     sufficient to  supply food and  water to the  herd and,                                                                    
     absent  the food  on the  bison range  and in  farmer's                                                                    
     fields, the herd may not  be sustainable at its current                                                                    
     Questions   also   arose    surrounding   the   current                                                                    
     activities on  the bison range  as to whether  they are                                                                    
     having  the desired  effect of  keeping bison  south of                                                                    
     the highway until  later in the farming  season or does                                                                    
     the feed on the range move  up the arrival of the bison                                                                    
     in the  area. Also,  does the feed  on the  bison range                                                                    
     allow a herd  to exist that is larger  than could exist                                                                    
     Reducing the  herd size was recommended  by the state's                                                                    
     biologist  to  determine  if  such  a  reduction  would                                                                    
     reduce   damage.  The   experimental   plan  that   was                                                                    
     introduced was  rejected by the hunters  on the working                                                                    
     One  consensus that  the working  group  did reach  was                                                                    
     that fencing  was the option  that would have  the most                                                                    
     impact on  reducing the amount  of damage  that occurs.                                                                    
     Four major  options were  considered; fencing  the herd                                                                    
     in,  creating an  enclosure to  temporary restrain  the                                                                    
     herd,  placing some  type of  barrier  along the  south                                                                    
     side of the highway to  restrain the herd, and finally,                                                                    
     fence  the  farms.  All  of  which  have  positive  and                                                                    
     negative aspects.                                                                                                          
     Fencing farms  solves the immediate problem  of keeping                                                                    
     bison out of  fields while, at the  same time, proposes                                                                    
     to cause  the animals to  relocate in search  of winter                                                                    
6:15:29 PM                                                                                                                    
Co-Chair Stoltze wondered how many farms he was                                                                                 
referencing. Mr. Paschall replied that there were                                                                               
approximately 30 to 40 farms that were impacted currently.                                                                      
Co-Chair Stoltze queried that number that would potentially                                                                     
be fenced. Mr. Paschall did not know the intention of the                                                                       
individual farmers.                                                                                                             
Co-Chair Stoltze stressed that the state would be providing                                                                     
grants. He felt that other committee members may restate                                                                        
the concerns.                                                                                                                   
Mr. Paschall continued with his presentation:                                                                                   
     The idea  of having farmers  fence in their  own fields                                                                    
     was   mostly  supported   by  hunters.   Unfortunately,                                                                    
     fencing  crops is  not normally  part  of the  business                                                                    
     plan for  farming. Yes, farmers  often fence  fields to                                                                    
     keep animals  in and it  is a realized cost  of raising                                                                    
     livestock,  it   is  generally  not  viable   to  fence                                                                    
     wildlife out of crop fields.                                                                                               
     The Delta  Bison Interim  Management Plan,  produced by                                                                    
     the Department  of Fish &  Game and Completed  in 2012,                                                                    
     introduced four  new management objectives  directed at                                                                    
     addressing bison damage.  They are listed on  page 3 of                                                                    
     the plan.                                                                                                                  
     The first  recommendation is  to reduce  the precalving                                                                    
     herd size objective from 360 bison to 275-325.    Fish                                                                     
     and Game has not implemented this objective.                                                                               
     Second, continue the  cooperative program between ADF&G                                                                    
     and DNR  to annually assess  the level of  bison caused                                                                    
     crop damage.  Fish and Game and  Natural Resources have                                                                    
     discontinued this assessment.                                                                                              
     Third, for the legislature to  increase the cost of the                                                                    
     drawing  permit  application  fee   from  $10  to  $20.                                                                    
     Section 1 of HB 202 completes this objective.                                                                              
     Fourth, for the legislature  to establish a state cost-                                                                    
     sharing  program to  assist  farmers with  constructing                                                                    
     fences  to  keep  bison  out  of  private  agricultural                                                                    
     lands.  Section  3 of  HB  202  is  the first  step  to                                                                    
     completing this objective.                                                                                                 
     There has  been some  misunderstanding about  this bill                                                                    
     appropriating money from  the game fund to  be spent on                                                                    
     the proposed grant program. As  I expect this committee                                                                    
     is  fully  aware,  this legislation  only  creates  the                                                                    
     ability for  the Commissioner  of Natural  Resources to                                                                    
     spend  money   on  the  grant  program,   it  does  not                                                                    
     appropriate funds for this purpose.  That would be done                                                                    
     through  the  appropriation  process, which  would  not                                                                    
     include a prohibited appropriation from the game fund.                                                                     
Co-Chair  Stoltze  surmised  that  the  expectation  was  to                                                                    
double  the  bison  permit  fee,  and  earmark  it  for  the                                                                    
program.  Mr.  Paschall  replied  that  the  intent  was  to                                                                    
increase the fee,  as recommended by Department  of Fish and                                                                    
Game (DFG)  to create  the ability  for the  commissioner of                                                                    
DNR to request an appropriation.                                                                                                
Co-Chair Stoltze  stressed that there  was a linkage  in the                                                                    
expectation. Mr. Paschall agreed.                                                                                               
Representative  Wilson  wondered  if  the  bison  originally                                                                    
inhabited  the   area  before  the  farmers.   Mr.  Paschall                                                                    
responded  that people  were farming  that  area before  the                                                                    
bison were introduced.  The commercial agricultural projects                                                                    
that  were referred  in  the Sawmill  Creek  and Barley  Way                                                                    
areas were created after the bison were introduced.                                                                             
Representative  Wilson asked  if the  original farmers  were                                                                    
still farming, or if the focus  was only on the farmers that                                                                    
came after  the bison.  Co-Chair Stoltze further  queried if                                                                    
timeframe was  surrounding the  1970s. Mr.  Paschall replied                                                                    
that the timeframe regarding when  the bison was introduced,                                                                    
but as the  population grew and outside  food was introduced                                                                    
to the area,  but agriculture was enhanced in  the 1970s and                                                                    
1980s. During  that time, the  state created a land  sale in                                                                    
the area where  they sold property in the Delta  1 and Delta                                                                    
2 projects. The  Delta 1 project did not have  any notice of                                                                    
the  bison,   other  than  it   was  out  as  part   of  the                                                                    
advertising. The Delta 2 project  specified that the farmers                                                                    
could  not  sue the  state  from  damage  by the  bison.  He                                                                    
stressed that  the legislation protected  the Delta 1  and 2                                                                    
6:21:11 PM                                                                                                                    
Representative  Wilson looked  at  the  Delta Bison  Interim                                                                    
Management Plan 2012 (copy on  file), and noted that page 20                                                                    
discussed  fences. The  legislative  intent stipulated  that                                                                    
they would be  managed as a free-ranging  herd. She wondered                                                                    
if the  bill was contradictory  to the management  plan. Mr.                                                                    
Paschal responded that the  legislative intent language that                                                                    
created the Delta Bison Range  indicated that the purpose of                                                                    
the bison  range was  to support  a free-ranging  herd. This                                                                    
lead to  dismissing the  idea of fencing  the bison,  but he                                                                    
stressed  that the  current  legislature  was not  currently                                                                    
restricted by previous legislatures' intent language.                                                                           
Representative  Wilson  felt  that "fencing  out"  was  also                                                                    
"fencing in", but looked slightly different.                                                                                    
Representative  Gara  queried the  cost  of  a fence  on  an                                                                    
average farm. Mr. Paschall replied  that // He stressed that                                                                    
the  intent  of the  legislation  was  to assist  the  cost,                                                                    
rather than cover the full cost.                                                                                                
Representative Gara  queried the  cost of an  average fence.                                                                    
Mr.  Paschall  replied  that there  were  two  distinctions:                                                                    
bison are not  native to Alaska, and were  only brought into                                                                    
the  state for  the  purpose  of hunting;  and  there was  a                                                                    
policy decision  to provide the farmers  protection from the                                                                    
Co-Chair  Stoltze  felt that  the  farmers  in his  district                                                                    
would not  ask him to  build a  fence. He felt  that animals                                                                    
many different types of animals destroyed crops.                                                                                
Representative Gara  stressed that  he was asking  a serious                                                                    
Co-Chair Stoltze  felt that his  constituency would  not ask                                                                    
for fences to be built on their farms.                                                                                          
6:26:34 PM                                                                                                                    
Vice-Chair  Neuman asked  if he  had heard  from farmers  in                                                                    
other areas  of the state regarding  similar assistance. Mr.                                                                    
Paschall  responded that  he  had  discussions with  various                                                                    
farmers  across  the  state regarding  assistance  from  the                                                                    
Vice-Chair  Neuman  stressed that  he  had  never heard  the                                                                    
issue at the forefront. He  felt that his constituency would                                                                    
not ask him to ask the state to pay for fencing.                                                                                
Co-Chair Stoltze  stressed that he  had never been  asked to                                                                    
get the state to pay for fencing.                                                                                               
Vice-Chair Neuman  restated that his constituency  had never                                                                    
asked to keep  moose out of their land.  Mr. Paschall stated                                                                    
that the farmers in the  Delta Junction area were not asking                                                                    
for  funding to  keep  the  moose out  of  their land.  They                                                                    
understand  that  the moose  are  a  natural animal  to  the                                                                    
Vice-Chair Neuman  felt that fencing  out bison  would fence                                                                    
out all  of the animals.  Mr. Paschall replied that  most of                                                                    
the farmers  wanted to  see the  bison restrained,  but that                                                                    
was not the recommendation of DFG.                                                                                              
DOUG   VINCENT-LANG,   DIRECTOR,    DIVISION   OF   WILDLIFE                                                                    
CONSERVATION,   DEPARTMENT    OF   FISH   AND    GAME   (via                                                                    
teleconference), explained  that DFG participated in  a work                                                                    
group  to  assess  Delta   Junction  bison  management.  The                                                                    
department's  involvement  was  to facilitate  a  discussion                                                                    
regarding  bison damage  to  crops. The  meetings  led to  a                                                                    
publication  of  an   interim  management  plan,  referenced                                                                    
previously. The management plan  was published to facilitate                                                                    
a discussion  of the  options that  were identified  by that                                                                    
work group. One of the  options determined by the work group                                                                    
to  address  bison  damage to  agricultural  fields  was  an                                                                    
increase  to the  application for  Delta bison  from $10  to                                                                    
$20. The funds  from the increase would be  used to mitigate                                                                    
bison damage to farm crops  and farm personal properties. By                                                                    
law, the funds raised by  the fee increase must be deposited                                                                    
into  the  Fish and  Game  Fund.  The department  would,  in                                                                    
accordance  with the  plan, determine  the best  approach to                                                                    
mitigate  damage  to   agricultural  interest,  which  could                                                                    
include fencing or  other options such as  working on barley                                                                    
fields that provide some diversionary  feeding. He urged the                                                                    
inclusion  of  flexibility   in  the  legislation  regarding                                                                    
development of management options to address the issue.                                                                         
6:31:45 PM                                                                                                                    
Co-Chair Stoltze  felt that the legislature  should make the                                                                    
decisions  regarding the  action. Mr.  Vincent-Lang remarked                                                                    
that he  facilitated the discussion, and  there were options                                                                    
regarding fee increases for the construction of fences.                                                                         
Co-Chair Stoltze  stressed that  a fee increase  for hunters                                                                    
should be  backed up with  a specific use of  the additional                                                                    
Representative Wilson  queried what other  diversionary feed                                                                    
the state  used for other animals.  Mr. Vincent-Lang replied                                                                    
that DFG used forest cutting to create browse for moose                                                                         
Co-Chair  Stoltze  interjected  that  DFG  used  browse  for                                                                    
Mr. Vincent-Lang  announced that the animals  were not being                                                                    
fed across  the landscape  with the type  of program  at the                                                                    
Delta Bison Range.                                                                                                              
Representative Wilson queried the  cost of the barley field.                                                                    
Mr. Vincent-Lang agreed to provide that information.                                                                            
Representative Wilson asked if  the diversionary feeding was                                                                    
effective. She remarked that if  it were working, the fences                                                                    
would be unnecessary. Mr. Vincent-Lang  felt that the barley                                                                    
field was  effective, however the  bison were  transient. He                                                                    
stated that the bison could not  be contained to one area of                                                                    
Representative  Wilson wondered  if the  uneaten barley  was                                                                    
sold.  Mr. Vincent-Lang  responded that  the barley  was not                                                                    
Representative Wilson stressed that  barley could be used in                                                                    
wood stoves,  and burn cleaner  than wood.  Mr. Vincent-Lang                                                                    
responded  that the  bison's barley  would not  be competing                                                                    
with the farmers.                                                                                                               
Representative   Gara  understood   that   the  bison   were                                                                    
introduced to the state over  100 years ago, and wondered if                                                                    
the   state  had   spent  money   to  encourage   the  moose                                                                    
population. Mr.  Vincent-Lang stressed  that the  bison were                                                                    
introduced to Alaska, before Alaska became a state.                                                                             
Representative  Gara  felt  that  the  financing  of  fences                                                                    
should be  used for farmers  who want  to keep the  moose of                                                                    
their crops.                                                                                                                    
6:36:54 PM                                                                                                                    
Co-Chair  Stoltze   asked  for   the  two   different  bison                                                                    
projects. Mr. Vincent-Lang replied  that the bison that were                                                                    
identified in the bill were  Delta bison, which were brought                                                                    
up  from the  Lower 48  approximately 100  years prior.  The                                                                    
wood  bison was  a sub-species  of bison  from the  woodland                                                                    
areas of Canada,  but were not introduced  to Alaska because                                                                    
of the Endangered Species Act.                                                                                                  
Co-Chair  Stoltze restated  that  there  were two  different                                                                    
types of  bison in Alaska,  and should not be  confused with                                                                    
one another.                                                                                                                    
ED  FOGELS,  DEPUTY   COMMISSIONER,  DEPARTMENT  OF  NATURAL                                                                    
RESOURCES, testified in support of  HB 202. He felt that the                                                                    
legislation   would  stem   a   long-standing  problem.   He                                                                    
understood  that  farms in  other  parts  of the  state  had                                                                    
experienced  damage  from  wildlife. He  stressed  that  the                                                                    
sport hunt was maintained by  the bison's ability to eat the                                                                    
high  value food.  He remarked  that the  main focus  of his                                                                    
department was to ensure the  protection of Alaska's natural                                                                    
Co-Chair  Stoltze  understood  the  frustration  of  getting                                                                    
one's crops destroyed.                                                                                                          
Representative  Thompson   wondered  how  many   acres  were                                                                    
producing  barley  for  the  bison.  Mr.  Fogels  agreed  to                                                                    
provide that information.                                                                                                       
Representative  Thompson noted  that there  were 5000  acres                                                                    
producing  barley  on Fort  Greely.  He  stressed that  most                                                                    
farms were approximately 1000 acres each.                                                                                       
Representative  Thompson wondered  if  there  was a  current                                                                    
cost sharing program for fencing.  Mr. Fogels responded that                                                                    
the Delta  Soil and Water  Conservation District had  a cost                                                                    
sharing program. The  intent of the program  outlined in the                                                                    
legislation  was  to pass  the  money  to that  district  to                                                                    
augment  their cost  sharing program.  He stressed  that DNR                                                                    
did not intend to begin a grant program.                                                                                        
6:41:42 PM                                                                                                                    
Representative  Thompson noted  that there  were areas  that                                                                    
did not  have any bison,  and wondered if the  fencing would                                                                    
move  the   bison  to  undesirable  locations.   Mr.  Fogels                                                                    
responded that  the program was  intended to be  ongoing. He                                                                    
stated that  there would be  constant work with  the farmers                                                                    
in order to determine the best course of action.                                                                                
Representative  Thompson  noted  that the  report  from  the                                                                    
Division of  Wildlife Conservation indicated  problems about                                                                    
more animals  hit by  vehicles, because  they could  not get                                                                    
across fences.  He encouraged the committee  to examine that                                                                    
Co-Chair Stoltze  wondered if Mr.  Fogels was  familiar with                                                                    
the Conservation  Range Protection Program from  the federal                                                                    
government.  Mr.  Fogels  replied   that  he  was  not  very                                                                    
familiar with that program.                                                                                                     
Co-Chair Stoltze explained that  the program paid landowners                                                                    
to leave portions  of their land. He wondered if  any of the                                                                    
farmers  participated in  that program.  Mr. Fogels  replied                                                                    
that there were farmers that  took advantage of the program,                                                                    
but  did not  know the  numbers  of acreages.  He agreed  to                                                                    
provide that information.                                                                                                       
Co-Chair Stoltze shared program's website.                                                                                      
Vice-Chair Neuman stressed that  the program required public                                                                    
access  on the  land. He  wondered  how the  fenced in  land                                                                    
would  allow for  public access.  Mr. Fogels  responded that                                                                    
the  program  was  for  ongoing  mitigation  for  the  bison                                                                    
problem. He explained  that there would probably  be a focus                                                                    
on the fields that held higher value crops.                                                                                     
Vice-Chair  Neuman understood  that the  barley was  a large                                                                    
part of  the bison's diet.  He wondered if there  was enough                                                                    
food for the  animals to live off of, outside  of the fenced                                                                    
in areas. Mr.  Vincent-Lang responded that the  bison may be                                                                    
impacted  by the  restricted area.  He felt  that the  bison                                                                    
would be diverted to other food crops.                                                                                          
6:46:19 PM                                                                                                                    
Vice-Chair  Neuman remarked  that  the  legislation did  not                                                                    
have an  end date. If the  bill was enacted, and  five farms                                                                    
were fenced in, and people continue  to pay a $230 fee after                                                                    
every farm  was fenced in,  he wondered  if there were  be a                                                                    
decision  to lower  the fee.  Mr. Vincent-Lang  replied that                                                                    
feed  associated  with   drawing  permits  were  legislative                                                                    
Vice-Chair Neuman  stressed that  the amount of  money would                                                                    
be substantial after the fee raise.                                                                                             
Representative  Guttenberg expressed  concern regarding  the                                                                    
bison  interfering  with the  safety  of  the bison  on  the                                                                    
highway. Mr. Vincent-Lang replied  that there were two types                                                                    
of bison in  the world: ranched bison and  free range bison.                                                                    
He  stated that  Alaska's bison  were free  range. He  noted                                                                    
that  there  were  some bison  ranches,  which  held  fenced                                                                    
Representative  Guttenberg  wondered  if  there  were  other                                                                    
mitigating programs.  Mr. Vincent-Lang was not  aware of any                                                                    
large  agricultural  fencing   projects  to  restrict  bison                                                                    
Representative  Guttenberg  wondered  if  there  were  other                                                                    
places  in the  U.S. that  mitigated the  ruined crops.  Mr.                                                                    
Vincent-Lang replied  that there  were some projects  in the                                                                    
lower 48  that dealt with  wolf purgation. He was  not aware                                                                    
of other  programs where farmers  were paid for  damage from                                                                    
Representative Thompson wondered if  the passage of the bill                                                                    
would require changing AS 16.23.20.  Mr. Fogels replied that                                                                    
he was  not very  aware of Title  16 statutes.  He furthered                                                                    
that the  intent of the  project was to fence  property, not                                                                    
fencing public lands.                                                                                                           
6:52:32 PM                                                                                                                    
Co-Chair  Austerman wondered  if  the area  where the  bison                                                                    
were located  was open range. Mr.  Vincent-Lang replied that                                                                    
the area was for free-range bison.                                                                                              
Co-Chair  Austerman   understood  that  the   Kodiak  farmer                                                                    
referenced  had his  bison on  open range.  Mr. Vincent-Lang                                                                    
responded that there was an  expectation for him to keep the                                                                    
bison on his property, and have control of his herd.                                                                            
BRYCE   WRIGLEY,  PRESIDENT,   ALASKA  FARM   BUREAU,  DELTA                                                                    
JUNCTION (via  teleconference), testified in support  of the                                                                    
legislation.  He   remarked  that  the  working   group  was                                                                    
intended  to address  the  bison damage  to  the crops,  and                                                                    
there was  agreement on  the success  of fencing.  The bison                                                                    
range was created  around the same time that  farms were put                                                                    
into  production. At  that  time,  the legislature  provided                                                                    
funding for a  drift fence. The drift fence would  go on the                                                                    
south side of the Alaska  Highway, which would have kept the                                                                    
bison off of the developing  farm land. The governor at that                                                                    
time stripped  the funding  for the  drift fence.  He stated                                                                    
that, at  the time, the  bison were considered a  free range                                                                    
herd. The  legislature at that  time, however, did  not feel                                                                    
that a drift  fence violated the free  range designation. He                                                                    
stated  that the  exclusion of  the drift  fence created  an                                                                    
inevitability that the  bison would venture to  the crops at                                                                    
the same time of harvest.  He stressed that the bison travel                                                                    
in herds,  which was  a greater burden  than lone  moose. He                                                                    
announced that the Delta Junction  farmers had no issue with                                                                    
the native  wild animals. He  objected to the fact  that the                                                                    
bison  were so  intensively managed  by the  state, but  the                                                                    
farmers  were unable  to receive  high impact  solutions. He                                                                    
acknowledged that  the bison were there  before the farmers,                                                                    
but stressed that the farmers  were an important part of the                                                                    
economy.  He stated  that the  large farms  would require  a                                                                    
fence  that would  cost approximately  $100,000 to  $110,000                                                                    
per  farm. The  cost share  program  paid for  half of  that                                                                    
cost, at a rate of $1.25  per quarter foot. He remarked that                                                                    
there were many farmers that  could not afford their portion                                                                    
of the cost  share, so there were many farms  that would not                                                                    
be fenced.                                                                                                                      
7:00:33 PM                                                                                                                    
Co-Chair  Stoltze  referred  to  HB 121  that  had  enhanced                                                                    
ability  for commercial  loans for  farming. He  wondered if                                                                    
Mr. Wrigley  had examined that legislation.  Mr. Wrigley was                                                                    
not aware  of that bill.  He furthered that there  were some                                                                    
loans that  ranged from 3  to 4.5 percent, which  was fairly                                                                    
low.  He  stressed  that many  farmers  borrowed  money  for                                                                    
operating expenses.  He felt that farmers  would utilize all                                                                    
resources to protect their crops.                                                                                               
Co-Chair  Stoltze   stressed  that  the   legislation  would                                                                    
provide a loan not a grant. Mr. Wrigley agreed.                                                                                 
GARY  STEVENS, MEMBER,  BOARD OF  DIRECTORS, ALASKA  OUTDOOR                                                                    
COUNCIL,  CHUGIAK   (via  teleconference),   testified  very                                                                    
strongly  against the  legislation. He  felt that  the state                                                                    
should  find a  different source  of funding,  if the  state                                                                    
wanted  to support  private  for-profit businesses.  Revenue                                                                    
from hunting permits should be  spent on game management and                                                                    
habitat by DFG. He remarked  that the legislation raised the                                                                    
price on all  permits, not just Delta Bison.  He shared that                                                                    
the state  had a unique  system in fish and  game management                                                                    
in that  there were regional and  local advisory committees.                                                                    
The  Delta Advisory  Committee expressed  opposition on  the                                                                    
Vice-Chair  Neuman  wondered  if any  other  outdoor  groups                                                                    
opposed  the legislation.  Mr.  Stevens  responded that  the                                                                    
thought the Rough Grouse Society probably opposed the bill.                                                                     
7:05:11 PM                                                                                                                    
DON  QUARBERG, SELF,  DELTA (via  teleconference), spoke  in                                                                    
opposition the  legislation. He  shared that  he had  been a                                                                    
resident of  Delta Junction  for a long  time. He  served on                                                                    
the Delta  Bison Working Group since  the group's inception.                                                                    
He  understood that  the $20  fee for  the application  of a                                                                    
bison  hunting permit  would  be used  to  manage the  Delta                                                                    
Bison  Range.  The  $10  fee  that  existed  previously  was                                                                    
enacted  in  the  1980s,  so  there was  20  years  of  flat                                                                    
funding. He  felt that it was  time to increase the  fee. He                                                                    
shared that there was approximately  1000 acres of crop land                                                                    
that  was  destroyed  by  the  bison.  He  shared  that  the                                                                    
legislation was  written and presented by  the Delta Chapter                                                                    
of  the Alaska  Farm Bureau  of  which Mr.  Paschall is  the                                                                    
chair. He  felt that  Mr. Paschall  had worked  to eliminate                                                                    
the  species. The  Delta land  purchasers signed  a contract                                                                    
with the state acknowledging the  presence of bison, and the                                                                    
likelihood that the bison would cause damage.                                                                                   
7:12:00 PM                                                                                                                    
AL  BARRETTE,  MEMBER,  FAIRBANKS  FISH  AND  GAME  ADVISORY                                                                    
COMMITTEE,  FAIRBANKS  (via  teleconference),  testified  in                                                                    
opposition to  the legislation. He  looked at  AS 16.05.130,                                                                    
and  stressed that  money  collected  from hunting  licenses                                                                    
could  not be  used  for a  purpose  other than  protection,                                                                    
investigation,  and  restoration   of  game  resources.  The                                                                    
revenue from  the sales  of hunting  licenses and  tags were                                                                    
intended  to benefit  the license  purchasers. He  felt that                                                                    
the legislation  was against statute.  He stressed  that the                                                                    
intent of the working group  was to create a management plan                                                                    
within  the  90,000  acres of  the  Delta  Bison  Management                                                                    
Range. He  felt that  the discussion of  fencing was  out of                                                                    
the working group's jurisdiction.                                                                                               
Co-Chair Stoltze CLOSED public testimony.                                                                                       
7:15:49 PM                                                                                                                    
Mr. Paschall agreed to answer any questions.                                                                                    
Co-Chair Stoltze  wondered if Mr. Paschall  could respond to                                                                    
the concerns of the testifiers.                                                                                                 
Mr.  Paschall  stated  that  he   would  provide  a  written                                                                    
response to the inaccuracies.                                                                                                   
Co-Chair  Stoltze felt  that Mr.  Paschall had  responded by                                                                    
saying  that the  testimony was  "inaccurate." Mr.  Paschall                                                                    
announced that he was attempting to complete a statement.                                                                       
Co-Chair  Stoltze  did  not  want  to  get  in  a  combative                                                                    
Mr.  Paschall  announced that  he  would  provide a  written                                                                    
response to the testifiers.                                                                                                     
Representative  Wilson  wondered  how many  of  the  farmers                                                                    
would be  impacted by the legislation.  Mr. Paschall replied                                                                    
that the  geographic area would  include all  producers that                                                                    
received any form  of federal payment under any  of the farm                                                                    
Representative  Wilson queried  the  exact  number of  farms                                                                    
that were being  discussed. She also wondered  why the state                                                                    
should  manage the  bison in  this  legislative manner.  Mr.                                                                    
Paschall  responded that  he did  not know  what loans  were                                                                    
forgiven. The  herd was managed  as the millions  of dollars                                                                    
the state spends on managing wildlife throughout the state.                                                                     
Representative   Thompson  noted   that   there  were   some                                                                    
diversion  mechanisms  including  the creation  of  watering                                                                    
holes. He wondered  if the revised language  would allow the                                                                    
ability  to build  more wells.  Mr.  Paschall responded  the                                                                    
language was removed by the Legislative Legal.                                                                                  
7:20:25 PM                                                                                                                    
Representative  Thompson  felt  that   the  removal  of  the                                                                    
phrase, "but not  limited to" would restrict  the ability to                                                                    
build a well.  Mr. Paschall replied that  he understood that                                                                    
the removal of the term "but  not limited to" was done every                                                                    
time  there  was  a  revision of  statute.  He  deferred  to                                                                    
Legislative  Legal for  more information,  but assumed  that                                                                    
the removal of the phrase had no impact.                                                                                        
Vice-Chair Neuman agreed that the  removal of the phrase had                                                                    
a significant impact.                                                                                                           
Representative Gara felt  that Mr. Paschall did  not need to                                                                    
respond to the testimony. Co-Chair Stoltze agreed.                                                                              
Mr.  Paschall announced  that he  would not  respond to  the                                                                    
testifiers unless his boss advised him to do so.                                                                                
Co-Chair  Austerman  felt  that  after  hearing  the  public                                                                    
testimony, he felt that he was  not in favor of the bill. He                                                                    
expressed concern  regarding using the DFG  receipts to fund                                                                    
the program.                                                                                                                    
Co-Chair Stoltze  wondered if there  was a  consideration of                                                                    
proposing  the  project as  a  capital  budget request.  Mr.                                                                    
Paschall replied that there was  not a discussion to include                                                                    
the request in a capital project.                                                                                               
Co-Chair Stoltze  assumed that the proposal  would be funded                                                                    
through fees, the  Fish and Game Fund, and  the farmers. Mr.                                                                    
Paschall responded in the affirmative,  because that was the                                                                    
recommendation of DFG.                                                                                                          
Co-Chair  Austerman stated  he fenced  his own  property, in                                                                    
order to protect his land.                                                                                                      
Co-Chair  Stoltze felt  that there  was always  a risk  with                                                                    
land ownership.                                                                                                                 
7:24:49 PM                                                                                                                    
Representative Thompson  stated that  he did not  take issue                                                                    
with an  application fee,  but rather  took issue  with some                                                                    
other concerns that were expressed.                                                                                             
Co-Chair  Stoltze remarked  that there  was some  discussion                                                                    
regarding increasing DFG licenses  as a conservation method.                                                                    
He was  a strong supporter  of the agriculture  industry. He                                                                    
felt   that  the   legislation  proposed   a  very   awkward                                                                    
Mr. Paschall thanked the committee for hearing the                                                                              
7:28:51 PM                                                                                                                    
7:55:12 PM                                                                                                                    
HB 202 was HEARD and HELD in committee for further                                                                              
7:55:37 PM                                                                                                                    
The meeting was adjourned at 7:55 p.m.                                                                                          

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