Legislature(1995 - 1996)
02/09/1996 09:09 AM RES
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 313 - BIG GAME TAGS FOR WOLVES Number 100 BO FORREST, Volunteer, Alaska Environmental Lobby, testified that in the short time of being in Alaska, he had witnessed some pretty amazing arguments about what is best for the state of Alaska. He said HB 313 is a real beauty. MR. FORREST said he tried to identify a list of concerns aside from giving away $42,000 of the state's money. He felt that HB 313 will not affect the state's animal population one way or the other, unless the tourist is considered an animal. He stated that this bill might attract some wealthy trophy hunter from the outside to tip his guide a bit more. MR. FORREST said his interpretation of HB 313 is, "here hang on to my wallet, while I blast off my other foot." Number 275 KEN TAYLOR, Deputy Director, Division of Wildlife Conservation, Alaska Department of Fish and Game, testified that HB 313 would reduce the license fee for nonresidents and nonresident aliens. Currently, there are about 10,000 nonresidents that hunt in Alaska every year. Of these, about 250 will buy a wolf tag at the current price. There are about 30 nonresident aliens that buy a wolf tag every year. Of the 250 people with the tags, they harvest about 30 wolves a year. MR. TAYLOR said, reducing the tag fee to $10 or $15 as stated in this bill would probably stimulate some harvest. With the 10-15 percent of the people buying tags now, that would not be a serious increase in the harvest. As far as its affect on populations, it would have little or no affect and, probably, put more people in the field hunting wolves. Number 383 MR. TAYLOR said the reduction of the Fish and Game Fund by $42,000, is not a large percentage. He said due to the short notice of the hearing, he did not know the position of the department on HB 313. But, he said the bill is fairly simple and straight forward, and he does not see either a major wildlife concern or a major fiscal concern. Number 469 REPRESENTATIVE SCOTT OGAN remarked that he offered HB 313 as a alternative way to manage wolves in the state. He said 10,000 nonresident hunters come to Alaska every year. Wolf tags are expensive, and if we lowered the price, the incidental take of wolves could significantly increase. There is no guarantee, but the state has spent thousands and thousands of dollars on ill conceived, and ineffective control programs. This concept would allow the Board of Game to manage the level of harvest by adjusting the seasons. REPRESENTATIVE OGAN said his intent was to give the Board of Game tools to help them manage wolf populations in certain areas. In the areas where there are problems, they can set more liberal bag limits and seasons, and more hunters in the field will be carrying a wolf tag. Number 623 REPRESENTATIVE OGAN felt that HB 313 is a cost effective way to give the Board of Game an opportunity to manage wolves. He asked for the committee's support in passing the bill. Number 644 REPRESENTATIVE JOHN DAVIES said he appreciated the motivation in trying to find a way to do intensive game management, with respect to wolves, in a way that will be less controversial. He said for that reason the proposal has merits, but, geographically, there is no way to direct where takes occur. We could be taking wolves in areas where there is no problem and we might be taking wolves where populations are already low. He referred to testimony on SB 81 on January 31, 1996. Number 737 REPRESENTATIVE DAVIES said his second concern was that the state would be losing revenues while it encouraged people to hunt wolves in an area where it did not make any difference. REPRESENTATIVE DAVIES referred to Mr. Taylor's testimony that there might only be minimal effect on the wolf populations: therefore, the only affect of this bill would be the loss of revenue. He said he cannot support HB 313 as it is currently written. He suggested an alternative would be to reconstruct HB 313 so that it is directed at the areas where the Board of Game has determined that the state needs intensive harvest. Number 795 REPRESENTATIVE OGAN countered that he felt HB 313 is not indiscriminate because it does allow the Board of Game to set seasons and bag limits. If there are areas where the board does not want a lot of harvest, they simply tighten up the seasons and the bag limits. It gives them an active management tool to place seasons and bag limits according to what kind of pressure they want on the animal. Number 830 CO-CHAIRMAN BILL WILLIAMS stated that the bill still results in loss of revenue and it, potentially, adds more management to an issue the state is trying to cut back on. REPRESENTATIVE OGAN said the cry he hears is that there is not enough intensive management of wildlife. Number 967 CO-CHAIRMAN GREEN asked Mr. Taylor to return to the table and address this controversy. MR. TAYLOR responded that it is difficult to say how much impact HB 313 would have if it were applied statewide. The legislature has dealt with these issues previously for brown bear. For instance, the legislature enacted a statute authorizing the board to waive tag fees in areas where the board wanted to direct more pressure. If that is a possibility for resolving the disagreement on the committee, it might be something that you wish to consider. MR. TAYLOR offered that a similar statute giving the board the flexibility to waive nonresident tag fees entirely, in those areas the board has identified for intensive management, might be more directed toward the problem. Number 1025 CO-CHAIRMAN GREEN asked if either case added to the administrative requirements for the Department of Fish and Game. MR. TAYLOR felt that the administrative requirements would not be increased. Number 1051 REPRESENTATIVE IRENE NICHOLIA said wolves are usually taken during the winter. She pointed out that a lot of guiding activity takes place during the moose and caribou hunting seasons. She asked Mr. Taylor how much guiding activity occurs during the winter months. Number 1111 MR. TAYLOR said guiding activity predominately occurs during the fall season for moose, caribou and brown bear. Some clients will buy a wolf tag on the off chance that they see a wolf out on their hunt. MR. TAYLOR said in the late 1980s and early 1990s, there was some guiding activities exclusively for wolves during the wintertime in Unit 13, the Nelchina Basin, and Unit 26(B), along the Haul Road at Prudhoe Bay. He said that guiding activity is almost exclusively done during the fall. Number 1149 CO-CHAIRMAN GREEN asked explanation of the incidental taking of wolves. MR. TAYLOR talked about Board of Game restrictions on wolf hunting. He said a hunter cannot hunt the say day he is airborne. Almost all wolf harvest is incidental while moose or caribou hunting. Number 1196 REPRESENTATIVE OGAN said HB 313 is designed to enhance incidental take. He said he does not personally know of anyone who hunts wolves in fall. He said there is very little pressure on the wolves because of that. He discussed his experience on the guide board. Number 1305 REPRESENTATIVE DAVIES remarked that if HB 313 could be modified so that the reduction would be at the discretion of the Board of Game; the state could then surgically direct any loss of revenue into an area where there is a problem. He said, as the bill stands now, it is too indiscriminate and he cannot support it. Number 1348 REPRESENTATIVE OGAN expressed willingness to look at modifying HB 313. He suggested that the committee hold the bill for further review. Number 1363 CO-CHAIRMAN GREEN asked if the committee objected to holding the bill. There were no objections.