Legislature(1995 - 1996)
02/20/1995 03:38 PM RES
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SENATE RESOURCES COMMITTEE February 20, 1995 3:38 P.M. MEMBERS PRESENT Senator Loren Leman, Chairman Senator Steve Frank Senator Rick Halford Senator Georgianna Lincoln Senator Lyman Hoffman COMMITTEE MEMBERS ABSENT Senator Drue Pearce, Vice Chairman Senator Robin Taylor COMMITTEE CALENDAR SENATE BILL NO. 81 "An Act classifying the wolf as a predator and providing for a bounty on wolf." SENATE BILL NO. 49 "An Act relating to the Board of Fisheries; and providing for an effective date." SENATE BILL NO. 50 "An Act relating to the Board of Game; and providing for an effective date." PREVIOUS ACTION SB 81 - No previous action to consider. SB 49 - No previous action to consider. SB 50 - No previous action to consider. WITNESS REGISTER Senator Bert Sharp State Capitol Juneau, AK 99801-1182 POSITION STATEMENT: Prime Sponsor of SB 81. Wayne Regelin, Acting Director Division of Wildlife Department of Fish and Game P. O. Box 25526 Juneau, AK 99802-5526 POSITION STATEMENT: Opposed SB 81 Ken Erickson, Legislative Aide Senator Pearce State Capitol Juneau, AK 99801-1182 POSITION STATEMENT: Commented on SB 49 and SB 50. Michael Martin 13300 Zenith Way Anchorage, AK 99515 POSITION STATEMENT: Commented on SB 49. Don Johnson P.O. Box 876 Soldotna, AK 99669 POSITION STATEMENT: Commented on SB 49. ACTION NARRATIVE TAPE 95-10, SIDE A Number 001 SRES - 2/20/95 SB 81 CLASSIFYING WOLF AS PREDATOR CHAIRMAN LEMAN called the Senate Resources Committee meeting to order at 3:38 p.m. and announced SB 81 to be up for consideration. SENATOR SHARP, prime sponsor, said there are several reasons to reinstate a bounty on wolves. He pointed out that there were no longer general open seasons on caribou and moose and in the 1960's there used to be 160 day seasons. He thought the reason was that the state inherited large, healthy game populations from the federal government at the time of statehood. Then it was state policy to vigorously manage predators by aerial hunting and a severe poisoning program. The last four governors have ignored recommendations from the ADF&G calling for intensive predator control actions in many areas of the state where the ungulate population declined to critical levels. These recommendations were based on many scientific studies and game surveys. Last year, Senator Sharp noted, this Legislature passed intensive game management mandate legislation. At its December 1, 1994 meeting the Board of Game asked ADF&G to review the Unit 13 moose situation, a big concern with the public. ADF&G said that moose populations were down 25% - 30% and continuing down. Moose calf and 15 month yearlings population was at an all time low level which would cause an additional deterioration of moose numbers. There was a higher than average wolf population with strong indications of a much lower level of wolf harvest by trappers or hunters, and continued high levels of grizzly bear population in Unit 13. ADF&G still chooses not to recommend intensive management, so Senator Sharp stated, there would be continued reduction of seasons and management of the people and not the resource. SENATOR SHARP said statistics from ADF&G indicated 87.5% of all moose are harvested by predators - bears and wolves. 10% die from natural causes and 2.5% are harvested by people. It doesn't make sense to manage the 2.5%. SENATOR SHARP said his constituents want the state budget cut when the state workers aren't doing their job. He would like ADF&G to refocus on managing resources, not people. He said this could be accomplished within the ADF&G budget. SENATOR SHARP said careful review of this bill would reveal that it is also Alaska hire legislation. Number 216 SENATOR HALFORD asked if he had predation statistics for whether bears or wolves are the major harvester of the prey. SENATOR SHARP said that bears in Unit 13 are more responsible for harvesting moose calves, in Unit 20 he didn't recall, in Unit 20 A wolves are the primary problem. SENATOR HALFORD asked which would do the most good, to reclassify the wolf or to create a bounty. SENATOR SHARP answered that reclassifying the wolf as a predator and liberalizing most methods and means, except poison, was best. Number 283 SENATOR HALFORD moved to adopt the CS to SB 81. There were no objections and it was so ordered. SENATOR LINCOLN said she supported some kind of wolf control, but she had a number of concerns with SB 81 which, she thought, might be a reaction to recent press. She had a problem with the wolf being taken by any method other than poison. Another issue was specifying adult wolves or pups. For instance someone could go into a den and eliminate the whole den and get $400 for each pup and also have the hide of the adult. She was concerned that it would cost the state $675,000 according to her calculations. Number 334 SENATOR SHARP responded that it would be more economically feasible for people to go out and harvest wolves if there was a bounty, although he wasn't set with the $400 figure. There are variables like the fluctuation in the price of fur and the cost of hunting. SENATOR LINCOLN asked why we couldn't dust off the ADF&G studies we had spent so much on to see how we can have humane predator control. SENATOR SHARP said the studies were implemented by the Board several times, but were not seen through to fruition. Unfortunately, politics enters into the situation and the resource is not being managed effectively. More studies will not produce different results on what can happen. There is adequate money in the Department now to be rechanneled and get the job done. SENATOR LINCOLN again asked if pups in a den could be killed. SENATOR SHARP responded that that was done in the bush years ago and he had no idea how practical it is, but it is legal under this bill. Number 400 SENATOR LINCOLN asked again if the wolves can be taken any way, except by poison. SENATOR SHARP replied that is right. She emphasized that she supported some type of wolf control, but not necessarily the methods in this bill. SENATOR LINCOLN asked if they could use a snare without having it specific to wolves. SENATOR SHARP said experienced trappers have testified to the Department of Public Safety that snares are the most effective, humane way to take wolves. However, you have to expect by-catch, because of the changing snow conditions. WAYNE REGELIN, Acting Director, Division of Wildlife, said they believe this bill would provide few, if any positive, benefits to our wildlife resources, but it could provide several significant negative results. In general, bounties do not target specific areas where wolf populations need to be reduced. It is likely the increased harvest would happen in areas where wolves are already at appropriate levels or even lower than they would like, because there's better access for hunters and trappers in these areas. Statewide bounties have been eliminated as a game management tool in all states, MR. REGELIN said, because they are unpopular with the public and they are very costly. Specifically, SB 81 would eliminate all regulations governing wolves. Allowing all other methods and means, except poison, would complicate enforcement methods for other species, because every violator they catch would be hunting wolves. It would allow ownership of wolves for breeders and exhibitors. He also thought it would result in the listing of wolves under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). This is because the ESA specifically says that animals may be listed due to inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms. Listing of the wolves would also have a major impact on logging. The federal government would very likely close federal lands to the taking of wolves resulting in a lot less wolf harvest and ultimately more restrictions on moose and caribou harvest. MR. REGELIN estimated that approximately $600,000 would be spent before an extra wolf would be killed, because you pay the bounty on all the wolves, not just the ones that are in excess of the average. MR. REGELIN stated the Department thinks wolves should be managed in a manner similar to other wildlife. The current classification of wolves as a big game animal and a fur bearer is appropriate. They deserve the same respect in management as other species. SB 81 would be bad wildlife policy and there would be tremendous public opposition. Number 496 MR. REGELIN said he has done a thorough analysis of all the seasons and bag limits since 1965 at 10 year intervals. In the vast majority of the state seasons are longer or the same length and have a higher bag limit. There are some exceptions that are on the road system. SENATOR HALFORD asked him if the high ungulate population was due to the poisoning of wolves that was going on before statehood. MR. REGELIN said that was the major reason for it. MR. REGELIN commented that in Unit 13 there is a lot of effort from Anchorage and Fairbanks. There is a problem there and they are trying to solve it. They will recommend maintaining the moose season with antler restrictions. The Board took significant action in January where they took off the $25 grizzly tag fee to increase the take of bears to manage that area primarily for moose and caribou. However, they do want to maintain a viable population of bears there. SENATOR HALFORD said he thought the bill was not drafted giving ADF&G enough leeway to make an effective predator control program. He would like to see the bill work. He commented on the video that went around the country and asked if the man who shot the wolf pup still had a job. MR. REGELIN said he still has a job and that he is one of the most professional biologists they have. He doesn't know of any other mistakes he has made and supports him as much as he can. SENATOR HALFORD, referring to CSSB 81 (Res), line 7, said if you insert "legal for predators or other unclassified game" instead of "other than poison", you would still have your regulatory authority, but you could set up big game type protections. TAPE 95-10, SIDE B SENATOR HALFORD continued saying that he would delete (c) so wolves could be treated as any other predator. Paying a bounty in all areas of the state has problems also, but if the law said a bounty would be paid for each wolf taken in a predator reduction area as designated by the Board of Game, you would have the control to avoid any problems with eliminating wolves in areas where they are close to being threatened. MR. REGELIN said he had analyzed the problem of targeting a bounty to specific areas and he thought in reality every wolf killed in Alaska would be reported to be killed in whatever areas had bounties. He thought the best thing was to work with the local trappers and trapper incentive programs, by trying to get them to trap more intensively. SENATOR HALFORD said you just have the bounties paid in the areas where the harvest takes place. There wouldn't be a bounty office in Southeast Alaska. MR. REGELIN said throughout the entire road system, people would move the wolves around for $400. Number 546 SENATOR SHARP added he strongly favored ADF&G contracting with groups that have expertise in local areas where there are problems. SENATOR HOFFMAN asked why on line 6 is the wolf listed as "not a fur bearing animal." SENATOR SHARP responded that if it was listed as fur bearing, it would be subject to regulated seasons, etc. It would be the same situation as declaring it a game animal. MR. REGELIN informed the Committee that the wolf season is set to be when the fur is prime, about the first of November through the end of March, and there is no limit. SENATOR LINCOLN said she hoped to work on this bill in a subcommittee. She said she might not disagree with Senator Sharp's comments on not implementing the studies ADF&G has paid millions of dollars for. Addressing Mr. Regelin, she said she hoped he would have had some suggestions on how to make this bill better and asked him to be prepared to tell them what is workable since they do have all those studies. MR. REGELIN said he would be happy to work with her and with a subcommittee on something called trapper incentives. He reiterated that using the word "bounty" would be detrimental to the state nation wide. In a dialogue with SENATOR HALFORD, MR. REGELIN said that Texas still has a bounty on shrub wolves and coyotes by county. Most counties don't do it anymore; nothing is state-wide. He said most counties don't budget for it and because they end up getting coyotes from all over the state. A Predator Control Program run by the Department of Agriculture can use planes which is the only way aerial hunting can legally be used. The Federal Airborne Hunting Act doesn't apply to state authorized programs. He said the recent rabies outbreak in Texas was attempting to be solved with bait treated with a rabies inhibitor. He didn't know how that was working. SENATOR LEMAN announced that SB 81 would go into a subcommittee consisting of Senator Halford as Chairman, Senator Lincoln and Senator Frank. SRES - 2/21/95 SB 49 RESTRUCTURE BOARD OF FISHERIES SENATOR LEMAN announced SB 49 to be up for consideration. KEN ERICKSON, Legislative Aide for Senator Pearce, briefed the Committee on the provisions of the bill. He said historically the Legislature and the Governor have struggled over confirmations of Board members. Different geographic districts and economic interests have always felt they were slighted and not proportionately represented. This legislation would go a long way to decrease these problems as well as save money. SENATOR HOFFMAN asked under the definition of "no vested economic interest in the fishery" does that include a subsistence fisherman? MR. ERICKSON replied that hadn't been addressed, yet. There is a similar question regarding sports fishermen. MICHAEL MARTIN said he was testifying to try to refocus the Legislature and the Governor in a direction that needs to be taken to resolve the issues facing the state. He said he is a third generation Alaska who has participated in the fisheries for the past 27 years and participated in the regulatory process as a Board of Fisheries member and Chairman and Joint Boards Chairman. It is clear that sports fishing, tourism, and commercial fishing are crucial to the present and future of Alaska's economic diversification, he stated. Subsistence is also important to this state. MR. MARTIN said this issue needs good planning by the management of our renewable resources. There are two main issues that have not been solved to the public's satisfaction - the False Pass interception of chums and the Cook Inlet sports fish/commercial fish allocations. These two issues have polarized the appointments to the Board. The polarization has also affected how the public perceives the Board process. The process is in jeopardy if these two issues are not resolved. People who are opposed to the Board process have deep concerns over the way the Board has allocated in the past, being dominated by commercial fishermen. When the Board was dominated by commercial fishermen, 90% of the allocation issues were between commercial fishermen. Commercial and sports fishermen have some common philosophical traits - you are either a terminal commercial fisherman, a terminal sportsman, or a mixed stock commercial fisherman or a mixed stock sports fisherman, or a mixture of both. The Board, dealing with commercial vs. commercial fisheries allocation, would use historical catches as a base for allocation. But taking historical catches of commercial harvest and compare it to historical sport fish harvest, sport fisheries would normally not have significant allocation. Without long term planning, he cautioned, the state would tear itself apart trying to deal with sports fisheries growth in a reactionary forum. He also believed that additional tools are needed when addressing allocation between sports and commercial fisheries. There is still a lack of information especially in the False Pass area. However, Board members have the responsibility to totally understand the issues at hand before voting on what will affect fellow Alaskans. He proposed that the Governor appoint qualified people from diverse regions who will accept the position without an agenda. Along with that, the legislature would confirm appointees with the same considerations. The Board should go back to a two year cycle and there should be a change in the ethics law as it applies to the Board of Fisheries and the Board of Game. The most important change would be that the Governor puts together a working group of past chairmen and vice chairmen. The group would be asked to come up with creative alternative solutions for current difficult issues that face the state. Number 283 SENATOR LEMAN said that with two recent appointees, at least 30 members of the Legislature had opposed confirmation mainly because of a vote that had just been taken on a difficult issue. Another proposal is that the person not be seated until after confirmation. MR. MARTIN replied that if you're a Board member who hasn't been confirmed and you are in a cycle in which a False Pass or Cook Inlet issue will come forth, you are guaranteed to have a difficult time with your confirmation. Those two issues are the main problems, he reiterated. He still felt it was the responsibility of the Board members "to vote the way they felt" on those issues with the information that is provided to them. Not having them vote before confirmation would rectify that problem. SENATOR LEMAN announced he was putting SB 49 into a subcommittee with himself as chairman with Senator Pearce and Senator Hoffman. Number 249 DON JOHNSON, Soldotna fisherman, supported the bill in general, but he thought changing the number of Board members from seven to three was unrealistic and having the chairman picked by the Governor was a bad idea. The people working on the Board should be able to determine who they work with best. However, he thought it possible to have lay people without fishing interests as Board members and thought it was a good idea because then they would be totally unbiased. He feels very uncomfortable with people who have a prejudice against him up front. SENATOR LEMAN asked him if he was a guide on the Kenai River? MR. JOHNSON answered that he was. SRES 2/20/95 SB 50 RESTRUCTURE BOARD OF GAME SENATOR LEMAN announced SB 50 to be up for consideration. KEN ERICKSON, Legislative Aide for Senator Pearce, briefed the Committee on SB 50. He said it was substantially the same as SB 49, but would change the composition of the Board of Game. SENATOR HALFORD noted that both Boards serve at the pleasure of the Governor, but he says its going to "depoliticize" the Board. He asked what would keep the Governors from replacing all the members on the Board without regard to their term? MR. ERICKSON admitted that could be a problem, but this legislation was intended to bring the issue to the table and try to make a better way of doing it. SENATOR HALFORD suggested in this instance to have fixed terms with removal for cause and having some overlap so there is significant disincentive to change it. SENATOR LEMAN said they would hold this bill over until they could decide who might want to participate in the subcommittee. Number 198 SENATOR LEMAN adjourned the meeting at 5:05 p.m.