Legislature(1999 - 2000)
03/15/1999 01:35 PM RES
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 114 - REPEAL PROHIBITION ANTLERLESS MOOSE Number 0080 CO-CHAIR OGAN announced the first order of business would be House Bill No. 114, "An Act repealing the prohibition against the taking of antlerless moose." Number 0120 EDDIE GRASSER, Legislative Assistant to Representative Beverly Masek, Alaska State Legislature, came forward at the sponsor's request. He explained that HB 114 would repeal the statute relating to antlerless moose hunts. In effect since 1975, with rare exceptions the statute is nonfunctional; there have only been a few instances in which advisory committees stopped an antlerless moose hunt that had been presented to the Board of Game. MR. GRASSER described the current process. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) goes to areas where it is proposing antlerless hunts, or where there are ongoing antlerless hunts; rounds up the advisory committees for a vote; then brings that before the Board of Game, which determines whether it will allow the hunt to continue. This bill would repeal that process, returning regulation of antlerless hunts to the same format as for all other proposed regulations that come before the board: the advisory committee would be just that, advisory, on each and every regulation. Noting that he had served on the Board of Game for a few years, Mr. Grasser expressed belief that HB 114 will save a lot of time, because the board rubber-stamps these hunts yearly; it will also save the state some money. Number 0299 CO-CHAIR OGAN asked whether approval of the advisory committees now must be unanimous. MR. GRASSER said it must be a majority of the advisory committees in the affected area. CO-CHAIR OGAN asked whether, to Mr. Grasser's knowledge, a request by the board to get a majority of the advisory committees has ever been denied. MR. GRASSER said yes, there have been a couple of antlerless hunts where they did not get a full majority of the advisory committees, but those have been rare occasions. Number 0374 CO-CHAIR OGAN asked whether Mr. Grasser recalls what the problem was with those particular hunts. MR. GRASSER responded that part of the problem is that many Alaskans, for personal rather than biological reasons, oppose antlerless moose hunts. In addition, many "old-timers" believe these hunts are a bad idea. It took a huge educational process by the ADF&G to initiate them in the first place. CO-CHAIR OGAN asked why Mr. Grasser believes antlerless moose hunts are a good idea. MR. GRASSER suggested the ADF&G could answer better, because he is not a biologist, then stated, "In any population of wildlife, and what they've found in deer populations is that once you reach a certain population level, there's always going to be a few extra animals around. And the older cows, especially - unfortunately, probably most people can't identify those - but if you take so many cows out of that population, you can maintain a stable population, because the younger moose will have a chance at browse. And the whole goal is to maintain a certain ratio of bulls-to-cows in a population. Sometimes the bull-cow ratio gets out of kilter and you have too many cows for bulls. ... Again, I think the department can answer this better than I, but if you have too many cows-per-bulls, not all the cows are going to have calves the next spring." Number 0571 WAYNE REGELIN, Director, Division of Wildlife Conservation, Alaska Department of Fish and Game, told members the ADF&G supports HB 114, which would repeal the statute requiring annual approval of the local advisory committees before cow moose hunts can be authorized by the Board of Game. This law, enacted in 1975 to prevent overharvest of cow moose, followed some rather big cow moose hunts and subsequent severe winters; populations in areas had dropped, causing many people to adamantly oppose cow moose hunts, and some of that attitude continues today. MR. REGELIN said the ADF&G has had over 20 years' experience with practical management and research since then; they have a much better understanding of moose biology and how to manage the populations, with real advances in the ability to inventory and census the moose populations. There is little chance of overharvest now, and advisory committee approval before taking cow moose is no longer necessary for sound management. Rather than annually reauthorizing these hunts throughout the state, it would be much more efficient to make changes to a cow moose hunt if the situation warrants. "And we would certainly bring that to the attention of the board, if need be, and the local advisory committee," Mr. Regelin stated. "We'd work with them closely, but they could also bring this to the board, and we could make changes that are necessary." He said it would certainly remove a burden from the ADF&G, the Board of Game and the advisory committees of having to go through this year after year. MR. REGELIN pointed out that the board is on a two-year cycle, moving from Southeast to Southcentral, to the Interior, and then to Northwest Alaska; although the ADF&G is not considering regulations throughout the state, they still must reauthorize all the cow moose hunts. He said HB 114 would also prevent occurrences where advisory committees, for one reason or another, are unable to meet and therefore cannot take action; in those situations, the Board of Game is unable to allow a cow moose hunt that year. He concluded that HB 114 is a step forward in management of Alaska's moose populations. The ADF&G estimates it would save about $9,000 and a lot of time on the board that could be put into other efforts. Number 0861 CO-CHAIR OGAN asked about the reference in committee packets to Bobby v. Alaska. MR. REGELIN said he hadn't seen that. Number 0926 DAVID KELLEYHOUSE, Alaska Outdoor Council, came forward to testify, noting that he had previously served as director of the Division of Wildlife Conservation for four years and as a field biologist for sixteen years. He agreed that the statute was unnecessary in the first place, a misreading of severe winters of the early 1970s that caused dramatic declines in moose populations statewide; many people erroneously believed that it was the result of hunting cow moose. In his area, the Forty Mile area, only 150 cow moose have been taken, yet the population has declined from about 10,000 to about 2,500 animals. He said although that wasn't a cause-and-effect relationship, the state has labored under AS 16.05.780 ever since. MR. KELLEYHOUSE said at one time he figured AS 16.05.780 probably cost the departments about $50,000 per year, which could be better applied to active wildlife management programs and some real problems. While he was director, the Galena and Middle Yukon advisory committees had failed to meet in order to vote on whether to continue a cow moose hunt; it had taken a great deal of telephoning of Board of Game members to get that hunt restored. MR. KELLEYHOUSE pointed out that in Alaska one can hunt female black bears, brown bears, mountain goats, sheep and caribou, without this kind of requirement of public involvement. He said moose are physiologically more productive than any of those, capable of having twin calves every year. Consequently, he believes this statute was never needed in the first place, and it certainly isn't needed now that the state is facing some fiscal problems. Number 1168 HOLLY CARROLL came forward, specifying that she lives in Fairbanks; a zoologist and animal ecologist, she was testifying on her own behalf as a resident of the Interior. Ms. Carroll agreed that it is hard to tell the difference between an old female moose and a young one. When antlerless moose walk through her neighborhood, she sometimes can't tell whether they are yearlings, males or females. If shooting of antlerless moose is opened up, hunters could kill either females or two-year-old moose, for example, but any long-term damage from killing perhaps 150 to 200 more females per year may not be clear for a few years. If population effects do happen, a study will likely be necessary; Ms. Carroll requested that such a study be completed before repealing the statute, to determine how many females or two-year-old calves we can afford to lose. She pointed out that not every female moose has twins, and the survival rate isn't superb. She closed by again requesting that the legislature investigate before repealing this statute, which was put there for a reason. Number 1284 CO-CHAIR OGAN asked whether Mr. Regelin wanted to comment, suggesting that the ADF&G wouldn't have made a recommendation unless it had scientific data to support it. He said he is comfortable personally with the job the ADF&G does managing moose. REPRESENTATIVE BARNES agreed that before a season is opened up, there is biological data available in the ADF&G for the board to base its decisions upon. Number 1361 MS. CARROLL expressed concern that although there may be biological data for one year, she hasn't seen five-year or six-year projections that say the population could sustain that kind of hunting every season; she would like to see something like that. She noted that her father is a hunter and she is for hunting. Ms. Carroll added that she also wants to ensure that road kills are being considered. MR. REGELIN responded that the ADF&G doesn't make five-year or six-year projections about the harvest. They collect data annually or biannually on moose populations, and they do surveys each year, or every other year, depending on the status of the population. They therefore have current data that they review, and if changes are necessary, they take those to the Board of Game. Those data are also made available to advisory committees, if they want to take proposals to the Board of Game. The regulations are reviewed on a two-year cycle throughout the state. Number 1490 REPRESENTATIVE WHITAKER asked Mr. Regelin, "You're confident that your science is valid to withstand the question raised by the young woman?" MR. REGELIN replied, "Absolutely." CO-CHAIR OGAN asked whether there were other testifiers; none came forward. Number 1513 REPRESENTATIVE BARNES made a motion to move HB 114 from the committee with individual recommendations and the attached fiscal note; she asked unanimous consent. There being no objection, HB 114 moved from the House Resources Standing Committee.