Legislature(1999 - 2000)

03/29/2000 02:00 PM House FIN

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HOUSE BILL NO. 349                                                                                                              
"An Act relating to powers of the Board of Game, means                                                                          
of access for hunting, trapping, and fishing, the                                                                               
definition of 'means' and 'methods,' and hunting safety                                                                         
education and game conservation education programs;                                                                             
relating to the purposes of game refuges, fish and game                                                                         
critical habitat areas, and public use areas."                                                                                  
EDDIE GRASSER, STAFF, REPRESENTATIVE MASEK spoke in support                                                                     
of HB 349.   He observed that HB 349 was introduced as a                                                                        
result of Representative Masek's discussion with long time                                                                      
Alaskans who have witnessed the steady erosion of hunting                                                                       
and trapping opportunities throughout the state. He                                                                             
maintained that since statehood, millions of acres of land                                                                      
have been closed to hunting and trapping, and millions more                                                                     
restricted from being managed under the sustained yield                                                                         
principle due to federal management prerogatives.                                                                               
Mr. Grasser observed that HB 349 does not require any other                                                                     
uses to be restricted or in any way infringed upon. He                                                                          
asserted that the legislation would protect hunting, fishing                                                                    
and trapping on lands belonging to the state as a legitimate                                                                    
use of fish and wildlife. He observed that federal                                                                              
legislation clarifying hunting, fishing and trapping as                                                                         
legitimate uses on National Wildlife Refuge Lands was passed                                                                    
and explained that HB 349 would do the same thing on state                                                                      
refuges, state wildlife ranges, critical habitat areas and                                                                      
public use areas.                                                                                                               
Mr. Grasser reviewed the legislation by section:                                                                                
Section one and two amends AS 16.05.221 and 16.05.255                                                                           
by adding the term enhancement to current statute. By                                                                           
doing so it is hoped past efforts of the Legislature to                                                                         
make clear the desire to manage for sustained yield is                                                                          
followed. Currently the Board of Game has attempted to                                                                          
follow the Legislature's policies on sustained yield                                                                            
only to be thwarted by administrative problems. By                                                                              
adding the term enhancement we hope to make Clear that                                                                          
wildlife populations should be managed for the benefit                                                                          
all Alaskans, not just those who for personal reasons                                                                           
oppose legitimate human uses of those common property                                                                           
Section three creates new language clarifying the                                                                               
Boards authority to close areas to access.                                                                                      
(TAPE CHANGE, HFC 00 - 89, SIDE 1)                                                                                              
Mr. Grasser continued with his sectional analysis of the                                                                        
The board may continue to close areas to certain                                                                                
methods and means for a variety of reasons without any                                                                          
legislative oversight. However, in cases where a                                                                                
biological concern is not addressed, the Board is                                                                               
required to adhere to advisory committee oversight in                                                                           
that an AC with jurisdiction in the affected GMU may                                                                            
object in writing. This language will protect fishers,                                                                          
hunters and trappers from unnecessary closures in their                                                                         
area by giving them more of a voice in the process                                                                              
through their local advisory committees. We would like                                                                          
to note that each GMU currently has a listing of AC's                                                                           
with jurisdiction under 5 AAC 97.005 For instance, GMU                                                                          
13 includes the following AC's -Paxson, Copper Basin,                                                                           
Middle Nenana, Tok Cutoff/Nabesna, Denali, Anchorage,                                                                           
Mat Valley, Copper River/Prince William Sound.                                                                                  
Section 4 - Defines means and methods. Example of need                                                                          
is meat on bone. Section 5 - Amends language relating                                                                           
to state refuges to ensure hunting, fishing and                                                                                 
trapping are protected uses.                                                                                                    
Section 6 - page 4, line 6. Amends language relating to                                                                         
critical habitat areas to insure hunting, fishing and                                                                           
trapping are protected uses. Also the new language "and                                                                         
traditional uses of fish and wildlife" may have the                                                                             
desired effect of helping the Division of Habitat                                                                               
exclude troublesome new uses that may have a damaging                                                                           
affect on an area.                                                                                                              
Sections 7,8 & 9 - Pages 4 & 5. Section 7 has been                                                                              
amended to clarify that it is clear the Dept. may                                                                               
continue providing hunter education but also should                                                                             
cooperate with other groups who are interested to                                                                               
providing those services as long as they meet state                                                                             
Section 8 was amended to clarify that the Dept. should                                                                          
assist nonprofits who are supportive of hunting,                                                                                
fishing and trapping in developing shooting ranges and                                                                          
associated educational programs.                                                                                                
Section 9 was amended to delineate that nonprofits                                                                              
supportive of hunting, fishing and trapping may receive                                                                         
grants to provide for hunter safety training and                                                                                
wildlife conservation education training.                                                                                       
Sections 10 - 15. These sections were amended to                                                                                
further protect hunting, fishing and trapping as                                                                                
legitimate uses on Public Use lands.                                                                                            
With these changes, Representative Masek feels this                                                                             
legislation meets the needs of both those Alaskans whose                                                                        
cultural heritage is being jeopardized by an                                                                                    
increasingly urbanized society. The reasons for this                                                                            
legislation should be apparent to most Alaskans                                                                                 
supportive of traditional Alaskan values. As further                                                                            
evidence that traditional uses of wildlife to feed one's                                                                        
family need this extra consideration, we would like to                                                                          
point out a couple of items.                                                                                                    
First, there appears to be a growing sentiment in the                                                                           
environmental community that their views and their                                                                              
economic well being deserves the highest level of                                                                               
protection. Environmentalists and their supporters                                                                              
rarely acknowledge the lands that have already been set                                                                         
aside for their exclusive use; there are no lands set                                                                           
aside for hunting, fishing and trapping. It is not                                                                              
enough that viewing, photography and other non-                                                                                 
consumptive uses have huge areas of Alaska already set                                                                          
aside; they would like more areas set aside. He noted                                                                           
that under the game regulations viewing is the first                                                                            
priority in almost every instance on every species, by                                                                          
virtue of limits on hunting, fishing bag limits and                                                                             
seasons. He noted that on unit 9, which is a prime bear                                                                         
hunting area, hunting is only allowed every other year.                                                                         
Mr. Grasser asked: "In short, where is the equity, or the                                                                       
balance in further attacks on legitimate human uses of                                                                          
wildlife when we have already done so much to give a                                                                            
priority to nonconsumptive uses?"                                                                                               
Mr. Grasser conclude by stating that:                                                                                           
HB 349 provides a solution to a flagging question. "Are                                                                         
we going to allow further attacks on the Alaskan Way of                                                                         
Life, the way of life that many of you in this room                                                                             
grew up with?" By providing protection for those                                                                                
cultural and spiritual values associated with ancient                                                                           
uses of wildlife by Native and non-natives alike we                                                                             
will insure that the diversity of Alaska's peoples                                                                              
In response to a comment by Representative Foster, Mr.                                                                          
Grasser observed that he found numerous sites on the                                                                            
Internet that attack hunting, fishing and trapping. The                                                                         
concern is that there is a movement in society to move away                                                                     
from the traditional uses of wildlife. He noted that federal                                                                    
legislation was passed to protect hunting, fishing and                                                                          
trapping on federal land and added that the legislation                                                                         
would do the same on state lands. He acknowledged that there                                                                    
might be amendments but emphasized that the goal is to                                                                          
assure some protections for consumption uses.                                                                                   
Representative Austerman referred to section 6. Mr. Grasser                                                                     
explained that the language on section 6, line 9 "and                                                                           
traditional uses of fish and wildlife in the critical                                                                           
habitat area" would provide statutory authority to regulate                                                                     
or restrict the use of jet skis in Katchemak Bay.                                                                               
Representative Austerman felt that the language "and to                                                                         
restrict all other uses not compatible with that primary                                                                        
purpose" would do the job. Mr. Grasser explained that newer                                                                     
uses like jet skis would not fall under the traditional use                                                                     
MATT ROBUS, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, WILDLIFE CONSERVATION,                                                                             
DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND GAME testified on HB 349. He                                                                             
expressed concerns by the department. He noted that several                                                                     
of the issues that were identified in testimony before other                                                                    
committees have been resolved. For example, reinsertion of                                                                      
the word "development" in Section 1 emphasizes the                                                                              
importance of human utilization as a resource use.                                                                              
Mr. Robus noted that there are still several areas of                                                                           
concern to the department. Section 3 of the bill would limit                                                                    
the Board of Game's authority to restrict the means of                                                                          
access for the purpose of taking fish or game. Access                                                                           
restrictions could be authorized only in the six specific                                                                       
ways outlined in this section. Management of access is and                                                                      
has been one of the most useful tools available to the Board                                                                    
of Game for reducing conflicts between user groups while                                                                        
still allowing maximum opportunity to harvest wildlife                                                                          
populations. Without the ability to craft appropriate                                                                           
mixtures of access methods and timing, the Board will be                                                                        
faced with the need to shorten hunts and reduce bag limits                                                                      
in order to scale back harvests that would climb in some                                                                        
areas due to unrestricted access.                                                                                               
Changes made to the bill have done away with several of the                                                                     
problems that were originally identified in this section by                                                                     
simplifying the process by which advisory committees would                                                                      
be involved in access issues considered by the Board and                                                                        
grandfathering existing access rules where they are in                                                                          
effect. However, according to the department's                                                                                  
interpretation, the current version would allow a single                                                                        
fish and game advisory committee to veto an access-related                                                                      
proposal. He acknowledged that there are few wildlife                                                                           
management measures that are universally beloved and stated                                                                     
that it is unwise to instill this degree of power in a                                                                          
single advisory committee. He maintained that one committee                                                                     
could prevent an access rule that had general support                                                                           
within the region and across the state.                                                                                         
In response to a question by Representative J. Davies, Mr.                                                                      
Robus expressed concern is in regards to subsection 2, on                                                                       
page 3, lines 6 - 9.                                                                                                            
Mr. Robus continued review of the legislation. Section 4 of                                                                     
the bill would define "methods and means" in statute to mean                                                                    
"tools, implements, devices, or vehicles" used to take fish                                                                     
or game. Methods and means are not currently defined in                                                                         
either statute or regulation, but an entire section of the                                                                      
fish and game regulations deal with methods and means. This                                                                     
section addresses issues such as shooting off of highways,                                                                      
definition of bait, prohibiting the use of poison, wanton                                                                       
waste, same day airborne restrictions, and many other rules                                                                     
that are necessary for good wildlife management. The way the                                                                    
bill is structured it would limit the use of methods and                                                                        
means only to tools, implements, and vehicles. All other                                                                        
methods and means regulations would conflict with the                                                                           
statute and would probably go away. He emphasized that the                                                                      
section would need to be changed if it is not the intent to                                                                     
delete regulations that are currently being used.                                                                               
Co-Chair Mulder questioned if some of the examples given                                                                        
would be included as a tool or device. Mr. Robus observed                                                                       
that "tools, implements, devices, or vehicles" are concrete                                                                     
items and explained that the concern is that the definition                                                                     
could restrict the regulation of things that are not tools.                                                                     
He explained that if methods and means are defined in a                                                                         
narrow fashion that the ability to regulate other things                                                                        
could be lost.  Items of concern include wanton waste,                                                                          
definition of bait, same day airborne restrictions,                                                                             
prohibiting the use of poison, or  shooting off or across of                                                                    
Mr. Robus noted that section 5 expands the purposes for                                                                         
state game refuges to include enhancement of fish and game,                                                                     
fish and game habitat, and traditional public uses of fish                                                                      
and game. The department's concern is that section 5 makes                                                                      
public recreational use coequal to protection of habitat and                                                                    
wildlife. He explained that there could be a situation such                                                                     
as in Potter's Marsh where the department might not be able                                                                     
to prohibit kayaking in the springtime when it would                                                                            
displace birds that are trying to establish nests. The value                                                                    
of the refuge as bird habitat would be effected by the                                                                          
prominence of protecting human use. He explained that the                                                                       
Department of Fish and Game has managed refuges and other                                                                       
special areas to primarily protect habitat and to promote                                                                       
use of the habitat by animals and to then manage it as a                                                                        
multiple use human area to the extent that human use fits                                                                       
with the original purpose of the refuge.  He felt that                                                                          
conflict and degradation of the purpose of the refuge would                                                                     
Section 7 of the bill addresses the department's authority                                                                      
for hunter education and wildlife conservation education                                                                        
programs. The change made to subsection (2) in this version                                                                     
answered earlier concerns expressed by the department. Mr.                                                                      
Robus pointed out that the department would take a broad                                                                        
interpretation of the term "wildlife conservation education                                                                     
program." He noted that there are other areas such as                                                                           
Potter's Marsh where the department is working with private                                                                     
non-profits and other agencies to establish a visitor                                                                           
center. The department feels that this would be part of a                                                                       
wildlife conservation program and should be included.                                                                           
Co-Chair Mulder questioned if there have been objections.                                                                       
Mr. Robus stated that the motivation is to make sure that                                                                       
the understanding is clear.                                                                                                     
SUE SCHRADER, ALASKA CONSERVATION ALLIANCE, JUNEAU stated                                                                       
that the Alliance was pleased that the term "development"                                                                       
was added back into the bill. She noted that they continue                                                                      
to have problems with the inclusion of "enhancement" in                                                                         
sections 1 and 2. She estimated that the changes would                                                                          
increase conflict (between the user groups).                                                                                    
Ms. Schrader stated that the Alliance has concern with                                                                          
language in section 3 that would make it more difficult to                                                                      
regulate access. She spoke in opposition to removing                                                                            
authority from the Board of Game and biologists of the                                                                          
Department of Fish and Game to deal with access issues, by                                                                      
allowing advisory committees veto power over regulations on                                                                     
Ms. Schrader noted that section 5 is a major area of                                                                            
concern. She maintained conflict will arise over placing                                                                        
hunting and trapping interests at the same level as                                                                             
protection of the habitat and wildlife in refuges such as:                                                                      
Creamers Field, McNeil River, Anchorage Coastal, and                                                                            
Mendenhall Wetlands. She stressed that the legislation is                                                                       
confusing and emphasized that it is not going to help with                                                                      
the debate over hunting and trapping.                                                                                           
CAROL CARROLL, DIRECTOR, DIVISION OF SUPPORT SERVICES,                                                                          
DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES addressed sections 10 - 19.                                                                     
She noted that the Department of Natural Resources manages                                                                      
the public use areas. The Department of Natural Resources                                                                       
considers public use areas as multiple-use areas. She noted                                                                     
that public use areas are open to oil and gas leasing,                                                                          
mining, and other types of development. In the past the                                                                         
department has paid attention to the habitat, as required by                                                                    
statute. She expressed concerns that the bill would make                                                                        
public use areas more like refuges. The department would                                                                        
have additional authority to develop, preserve and protect                                                                      
fish and the wildlife that use the habitat. She emphasized                                                                      
that this would be outside of the normal purview of the                                                                         
Department of Fish and Game. She felt that the balance would                                                                    
be upset toward creating more of a refuge for fish and game                                                                     
within a habitat.                                                                                                               
DICK BISHOP, ALASKA OUTDOOR COUNCIL spoke in support of the                                                                     
legislation.  He agreed with the emphasis on protecting the                                                                     
traditional means of access and traditional uses of fish and                                                                    
wildlife in state special use areas. He maintained that                                                                         
preserving fish and wildlife habitat in state public use                                                                        
areas institutionalizes a purpose that many thought was                                                                         
already there. He asserted that the bill does not reduce the                                                                    
multiple use opportunities in public use areas. He noted                                                                        
that they would still be open to development. He spoke in                                                                       
support of the broadening of the Department of Fish and                                                                         
Game's contact and support of private organizations                                                                             
dedicated to perpetuating traditional fishing, hunting and                                                                      
trapping uses of fish and wildlife. These pursuits are basic                                                                    
to the values of rural and urban Alaskans that rely on and                                                                      
enjoy participating in Alaska's ecosystems as consumptive                                                                       
Mr. Bishop stated that he had some concern with language on                                                                     
page 4, lines 2 and 3: general public recreation on refuges.                                                                    
He questioned the addition of the language as part of the                                                                       
purpose of the refuge.  He recommended that the language be                                                                     
deleted and added that it goes beyond the recreational                                                                          
opportunities associated with fish and wildlife refuges.                                                                        
Representative J. Davies referenced section 5, which defines                                                                    
the purposes of the wildlife refuges. He asked for Mr.                                                                          
Bishop's understanding of the inclusion of "enhance".  He                                                                       
noted that the general concept of wildlife refuge is a place                                                                    
that is a preserve, in as close a way as possible, as a                                                                         
natural habitat.  He questioned what is meant by: "enhancing                                                                    
a natural habitat".                                                                                                             
Mr. Bishop responded that there is nothing in the national                                                                      
or state refuge system that suggests or implies that it                                                                         
needs to be maintained in the status quo.  He asserted that                                                                     
there are active efforts to enhance habitat on many refuges.                                                                    
He noted that there have been controlled burns on Creamers                                                                      
Field refuge.  An enhancement would be to improve the                                                                           
habitat conditions to the benefit of the fish and wildlife                                                                      
species that normally reside there.                                                                                             
Representative J. Davies asked specifically about predator                                                                      
control.  Mr. Bishop stated that predator control would not                                                                     
be included under sections 1 or 2.  Predator control is a                                                                       
management technique that might apply under some                                                                                
circumstances, but would not be considered as a traditional                                                                     
Representative Phillips referred to section 4, page 3, line                                                                     
23. She expressed concerns about the elimination of                                                                             
management tools by the Department of Fish and Game.                                                                            
Mr. Bishop acknowledged that it is a legitimate concern that                                                                    
those types of regulations not be lost.  He felt that it was                                                                    
only a matter of labeling.                                                                                                      
Representative Phillips pointed out that the word "tools"                                                                       
could be interpreted to mean many different things.  She                                                                        
maintained that it is a dangerous thing to use "tools" if                                                                       
other concepts are not included.  Mr. Bishop maintained that                                                                    
the matter could be addressed by including the kinds of                                                                         
regulations that Mr. Robus discussed under a different label                                                                    
of methods and means.                                                                                                           
Co-Chair Mulder expressed concern if the statutory language                                                                     
would led disputes to court.  Mr. Bishop stressed that the                                                                      
regulations should be sufficiently clear to avoid problems.                                                                     
Representative Austerman commented that true Alaskans,                                                                          
understand that the habitat must be protected or there is no                                                                    
resource. He referred to section 5.  He expressed concern                                                                       
that the protection of traditional public use would be                                                                          
brought to the same plane as protection of habitat. He                                                                          
suggested that other traditional uses should be one step                                                                        
beneath the protection of the habitat.                                                                                          
Mr. Bishop responded that there would be two ways to look at                                                                    
the issue.  It could be looked at in relationship to the                                                                        
order of the purposes: the order in which the purposes are                                                                      
listed. The first listed purpose would be the most                                                                              
important. He maintained that logical administration of the                                                                     
law would follow that public uses could not be protected if                                                                     
the habitat and resource are not protected.                                                                                     
Vice Chair Bunde noted that he shared the concern voiced by                                                                     
Ms. Schrader regarding increasing the volatility between                                                                        
hunter and non-hunter.                                                                                                          
Mr. Bishop acknowledged the concern.  He stated that in most                                                                    
cases when hunters, trappers and fishermen have tried to                                                                        
reduce the level of controversy through compromising some of                                                                    
their interest that they have lost their interest and have                                                                      
been asked to give up more.  He maintained that it is                                                                           
important for hunters, trappers and fishers to assert their                                                                     
rights, to assert the ecological correctness of their                                                                           
pursuits.  In the context of other legislation it is                                                                            
important that the resources be managed on the sustained                                                                        
yield principle. He stressed that consumptive use is part of                                                                    
the sustained yield principle.  He concluded that the                                                                           
pursuits of hunting, fishing, and trapping are protected and                                                                    
recognized as the foundation for the management of natural                                                                      
resources on the sustained yield principle. Resources can be                                                                    
conserved and used into perpetuity.  It is essential for                                                                        
public officials to state that (hunting, fishing and                                                                            
trapping) are legitimate uses and should be accommodated and                                                                    
protected with other uses.                                                                                                      
Vice Chair Bunde stated that it comes down to issues of                                                                         
power and control. Mr. Bishop responded that it is implicit                                                                     
that "you can not have the use unless you have taken care of                                                                    
the resource".                                                                                                                  
Representative Austerman referred to section 6, page 4.  He                                                                     
asked why the language was not included and asked how its                                                                       
deletion would affect the bill.                                                                                                 
(TAPE CHANGE, HFC 00 - 89, SIDE 2)                                                                                              
Mr. Bishop stated that the language institutionalizes the                                                                       
concept that critical habitat areas are important to                                                                            
traditional uses of fish and wildlife, which includes                                                                           
fishing, hunting, trapping and viewing. He stressed that if                                                                     
the language was deleted that the impact would be to                                                                            
identify by omission that compared to the others items                                                                          
identified, critical habitat areas are not considered as                                                                        
important for traditional uses. He felt that such an                                                                            
interpretation would be illogical and inconsistent with the                                                                     
direction and purpose of the legislation in regards to other                                                                    
areas such as refuges. He concluded that deletion of the                                                                        
language would detract from the effectiveness of the                                                                            
legislation in terms of institutionalizing and recognizing                                                                      
the importance of fishing, hunting, trapping uses and                                                                           
diminish it's effectiveness.                                                                                                    
HB 349 was heard and HELD in Committee for further                                                                              

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