Legislature(1997 - 1998)

01/30/1997 01:07 PM RES

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
 HB 26 - BIG GAME TAGS FOR WOLVES                                            
 Number 1556                                                                   
 CO-CHAIRMAN HUDSON announced the next order of business was House             
 Bill No. 26, "An Act relating to big game tags for wolves; and                
 providing for an effective date."  He called on Co-Chairman Ogan to           
 present the bill.                                                             
 Number 1583                                                                   
 CO-CHAIRMAN OGAN, sponsor of HB 26, noted that it had been                    
 previously scheduled but not heard.  He explained the bill, saying,           
 "What it does is it lowers the price of a nonresident and                     
 nonresident alien wolf tag from $175 for a nonresident to $30, and            
 from $250 for a nonresident alien to $50."  He advised that a                 
 nonresident alien was someone from out of the country.                        
 Number 1610                                                                   
 CO-CHAIRMAN OGAN stated, "I would like to see more people,                    
 especially nonresident hunters who traditionally hunt with a guide,           
 in the field with wolf tags.  This gives the Board of Game the                
 ability to set the seasons and bag limits, and if there's an area             
 where the Board of Game and the Department of Fish and Game have              
 identified ... that needs to be intensively managed, there'll be              
 more opportunity for these incidental takes of wolves and give a              
 little bit of a tool to be able to manage the resource a little bit           
 more proactively."                                                            
 CO-CHAIRMAN OGAN said HB 26 would provide more fair-chase hunting             
 opportunities.  "I believe it's necessary in light of the recent              
 initiative that was passed on wolves, that the department's hands             
 are further tied to intensively manage," he concluded.                        
 CO-CHAIRMAN HUDSON asked if there were questions from the                     
 committee.  He called on Michele Drummond to come forward and                 
 Number 1666                                                                   
 MICHELE DRUMMOND, Volunteer, Alaska Environmental Lobby, testified            
 in opposition to HB 26, indicating she also spoke as a field                  
 biologist with six years' experience working in the commercial                
 fishing industry.  "The Alaska Environmental Lobby does not support           
 HB 26 because it calls for the reduction of tag fees for                      
 nonresidents," she explained.  "We believe that out-of-state                  
 hunters should continue to pay higher prices for the ability to               
 hunt game, which they can't do in other states.  It's something               
 that's only available in Alaska."                                             
 MS. DRUMMOND indicated there were few sightings of wolves.  She               
 believed the incidental take of wolves would not necessarily                  
 increase just because more tags were being issued.  "It seems that            
 this bill continues to persecute wolves as a `bad species' because            
 they tend to compete with humans for the caribou and moose                    
 populations, and the hunting tool as a wildlife management tool is            
 not necessarily a viable way to manage the wildlife stocks," she              
 Number 1756                                                                   
 REPRESENTATIVE IRENE NICHOLIA asked Ms. Drummond, "Have you ever              
 been out to the rural area where the people ... are experiencing              
 problems with a large decline in the moose populations and evidence           
 that there are a lot of moose being taken by wolves?"                         
 MS. DRUMMOND replied she had not.                                             
 Number 1779                                                                   
 REPRESENTATIVE JOE GREEN inquired whether Ms. Drummond was aware              
 that HB 26 referred only to areas designated a critical problem               
 with wolf kill, not statewide.                                                
 MS. DRUMMOND said yes.                                                        
 REPRESENTATIVE GREEN asked how Ms. Drummond would manage the                  
 overpopulation of wolves in those areas.                                      
 Number 1802                                                                   
 MS. DRUMMOND replied, "I couldn't give you a proper response on               
 that at the moment.  I could research it and get back with you."              
 Number 1817                                                                   
 WAYNE REGELIN, Director, Division of Wildlife Conservation,                   
 Department of Fish and Game, testified in support of HB 26.  He               
 believed Alaska's wolf population was currently underutilized and             
 could sustain a higher harvest level.  He stated, "It's about 15              
 percent across the state right now, and the population can                    
 withstand 30 percent harvest rates without causing any problems.              
 We think a reduction in fees for nonresident hunters may encourage            
 more nonresident hunters to purchase a wolf tag and increase the              
 harvest of wolves."                                                           
 MR. REGELIN said in the areas with too many wolves, designated by             
 the Board of Game for intensive management, the fee would be                  
 waived.  He explained, "Right now very few nonresidents purchase              
 wolf tags. ... In 1995, only 237 nonresidents and, I think, 35                
 nonresident aliens purchased wolf tags out of about almost 11,000             
 nonresident hunters.  So I think that a reduction in the fees may             
 very well encourage more people to harvest wolves."  Mr. Regelin              
 concluded by restating the department's support of HB 26.                     
 Number 1899                                                                   
 CO-CHAIRMAN HUDSON asked, "[I]f you didn't have this type of a                
 management tool - and of course the general public passed the                 
 initiative to halt the fly-and-shoot type of situation - what's               
 your assessment of your ability to control these predator                     
 Number 1919                                                                   
 MR. REGELIN replied that it would be difficult in areas with severe           
 predator problems.  "And this probably won't help," he admitted.              
 "But it won't hurt, and it will help in other places and provide a            
 lot more opportunity ... to harvest a resource that's currently               
 underharvested.  But in the areas where we have a very severe                 
 predator problem, this isn't going to be a lot of help."  He said             
 in those areas, more wolves would need to be harvested than would             
 occur through hunting.                                                        
 Number 1946                                                                   
 REPRESENTATIVE GREEN said, "Let's assume that this is effective and           
 that in certain areas that are certainly in need of `de-wolfing,'             
 if you will, do you see the fact that there would be more alien               
 nonresident hunters in any area like that?  As you indicated it               
 probably won't be a major help, do you see it as being a hindrance?           
 Is there a safety hazard that this could create, or is there any              
 negative to this?"                                                            
 Number 1973                                                                   
 MR. REGELIN did not see any negatives to it.  He mentioned                    
 nonresidents who come to Alaska to hunt sheep, bear, moose or                 
 caribou.  With the tag fee at $175, many people did not buy a tag.            
 "At $30, I think more will," he explained.  "I don't think it will            
 increase the number of hunters that we have or cause any kind of              
 problems.  I think that it ... might increase the harvest of                  
 wolves.  It will certainly give them more opportunity, and we're in           
 the opportunity business."                                                    
 Number 1996                                                                   
 CO-CHAIRMAN OGAN asked Mr. Regelin to address the board process,              
 including how season bag limits were set and how wolf harvest was             
 MR. REGELIN explained, "The legislature must set license fees and             
 tag fees.  The Board of Game can't do that.  But the Board of Game            
 then sets bag limits, seasons, and methods and means.  So if                  
 there's a problem in a certain area, the board can reduce the bag             
 limit, reduce the season for hunting and trapping.  Right now, in             
 many areas, we ... open the wolf season for hunting at the same               
 time other big game species open, so that people have an                      
 opportunity to take a wolf if they want to."                                  
 MR. REGELIN continued:  "Most of our wolf harvest occurs during the           
 winter by trappers that are doing it to make money. ... A ten-year            
 average of the wolf harvest in Alaska is 1107, and ... each wolf              
 pelt is worth about $300, so it's a significant amount of money,              
 especially in rural areas where there's very little opportunity to            
 make money.  And we manage trapping ... through season dates and              
 lengths, not through bag limits, because a trapper putting out a              
 trap line doesn't know exactly how many he'll catch."  Mr. Regelin            
 indicated Alaska's wolf population was abundant and healthy, with             
 7,000 - 10,000 wolves, up significantly from ten years before.                
 "They're managed well, most places," he concluded.                            
 Number 2081                                                                   
 CO-CHAIRMAN HUDSON asked if there were further questions or whether           
 anyone on teleconference wished to testify.  He stated his                    
 intention of moving the bill.                                                 
 Number 2107                                                                   
 REPRESENTATIVE NICHOLIA made a motion that HB 26 move from                    
 committee with individual recommendations and attached fiscal                 
 Number 2117                                                                   
 CO-CHAIRMAN HUDSON asked if there were objections.  Hearing none,             
 Co-Chairman Hudson advised that HB 26 was moved from the House                
 Resources Standing Committee.                                                 

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