Legislature(2017 - 2018)BARNES 124

04/13/2017 05:00 PM House RESOURCES

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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
-- Continued from 4/12/17 --
Scheduled but Not Heard
-- Testimony <Invitation Only> --
Heard & Held
-- Public Testimony --
<Bill Hearing Postponed to 4/14/17>
-- Testimony <Invitation Only> --
<Bill Hearing Postponed to 4/14/17>
-- Testimony <Invitation Only> --
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
Moved CSHJR 9(RES) Out of Committee
-- Public Testimony --
Heard & Held
-- Public Testimony --
**Streamed live on AKL.tv**
        HB 211-NONRESIDENT HUNTING REQUIREMENTS: CARIBOU                                                                    
6:01:52 PM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR  JOSEPHSON announced  that  the next  order of  business                                                               
would be HOUSE  BILL NO. 211, "An Act requiring  a nonresident to                                                               
be accompanied  by a  guide or resident  spouse or  relative when                                                               
hunting certain caribou; and providing for an effective date."                                                                  
6:02:21 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  WESTLAKE,  speaking as  the  sponsor  of HB  211,                                                               
informed  the  committee  the  bill   is  about  more  than  game                                                               
management  unit (GMU)  23, but  addresses the  migrating caribou                                                               
herds - wherever they traverse -  to perpetuate the health of the                                                               
herds.  He paraphrased from the sponsor statement as follows:                                                                   
     House  Bill  211  affords Alaskans  an  opportunity  to                                                                    
     harvest  vital  subsistence  resources  while  allowing                                                                    
     nonresident hunters,  without a  second degree  of kin,                                                                    
     to  hunt  through  requiring  a  licensed  professional                                                                    
     guide  in order  to take  a caribou  any of  these four                                                                    
     arctic   herds:   Western   Arctic,   Central   Arctic,                                                                    
     Porcupine, and Teshekpuk.                                                                                                  
     The Central  Arctic Herd population  has fallen  by 69%                                                                    
     since 2010 while the Western  Arctic Herd has decreased                                                                    
     by  41%  since  2003.  With  no  definitive  cause  yet                                                                    
     determined for  the population  decline, now  more than                                                                    
     ever  is  the  time   to  take  extra  precaution  when                                                                    
     managing these  herds, which are a  vital resource that                                                                    
     many rural communities depend on for subsistence.                                                                          
     Recently,  game  management  unit  23  has  experienced                                                                    
     over-harvesting issues  and hunting has  been federally                                                                    
     closed to anyone  that does not reside in  the area. It                                                                    
     is my hope that by  requiring nonresident hunters to be                                                                    
     accompanied by  a licensed guide  who is  familiar with                                                                    
     the areas  and migration patterns of  these magnificent                                                                    
     herds, the need  for game unit closures  similar to the                                                                    
     one in 23 will be prevented.                                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE WESTLAKE  advised brown bear, sheep,  and goat all                                                               
have  guide  requirements  because  of the  inherent  dangers  of                                                               
hunting,  and the  need  for guide  requirements  for caribou  is                                                               
sought  to avoid  conflicts with  local residents,  the need  for                                                               
hunters to  be familiar with  the territory, and respect  for the                                                               
resource.   Furthermore, guides would  have a vested  interest to                                                               
not  disrupt  caribou  migration   patterns.    He  advised  that                                                               
subsequent  to the  closure of  GMU 23  - due  to the  decline in                                                               
caribou - the subsistence harvest,  the resident harvest, and the                                                               
guided  resident  harvest   declined;  however,  the  nonresident                                                               
unguided -  or transporter -  harvest increased.   Representative                                                               
Westlake pointed out  that in Canada, the  Porcupine Caribou Herd                                                               
is managed with  guide requirements for nonresidents,  and HB 211                                                               
would  bring Alaska's  caribou regulations  "just  in line  [with                                                               
Canada] and  looking at  a successful model."   He  concluded the                                                               
bill is a vision for the last great herd in America.                                                                            
REPRESENTATIVE  BIRCH asked  for information  related to  caribou                                                               
herd population decline, herd management, and statistics.                                                                       
6:08:02 PM                                                                                                                    
BRUCE DALE,  director, Division of Wildlife  Conservation, Alaska                                                               
Department of Fish  & Game, said the herds represented  in HB 211                                                               
have mixed histories.  The  Western Arctic Herd has declined from                                                               
500,000  to 200,000  due to  a combination  of factors  including                                                               
nutrition, weather,  and age structure,  and at the  current rate                                                               
will  further decline  substantially;  however, in  the last  two                                                               
years  there have  been  good  signs such  as  good calf  cohorts                                                               
[groups], good  body condition, and  better pregnancy rates.   He                                                               
said  ADFG  has  concerns  about  both the  herd  and  the  local                                                               
residents.   In its last  major decline, the Western  Arctic Herd                                                               
declined to about  75,000; in fact, in the early  '70s there were                                                               
250,000 caribou in the state, and now there are about 750,000.                                                                  
REPRESENTATIVE BIRCH recalled  there was a wanton  waste issue in                                                               
the  region at  one  time;  he asked  for  the  level of  hunting                                                               
pressure on the caribou, in general.                                                                                            
MR. DALE stated hunting did not  cause the caribou decline.  With                                                               
the population  now at  200,000, hunting  needs to  be restricted                                                               
through  actions by  the Board  of  Game, ADFG,  and the  Federal                                                               
Subsistence  Board, U.S.  Department of  the Interior.   He  said                                                               
"...  on the  other extreme,  the  Porcupine herd  is at  200,000                                                               
caribou and it's  as big as it  has ever been.  East  of that, in                                                               
Canada, herds  have declined catastrophically."   [ADFG]  is also                                                               
investigating the  declines of the  Central Arctic  and Teshekpuk                                                               
herds.   In further  response to  Representative Birch,  Mr. Dale                                                               
explained calving  occurs in the  north and northwest,  and herds                                                               
migrate to the south to spend winter in the boreal forest.                                                                      
6:12:06 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  PARISH asked  for  the  potential ecological  and                                                               
economic impacts of the bill.                                                                                                   
MR.  DALE  advised the  ecological  impact  would be  very  small                                                               
because the nonresident harvest is  a small component for most of                                                               
the  herds.   He  was  unsure  of  the  economic impact,  but  he                                                               
estimated that  80 percent of  nonresidents hunt  without guides,                                                               
thus the bill may cause a  reduction in the number of nonresident                                                               
harvests;  as a  result of  the  federal closure,  the number  is                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE PARISH concluded there would  be a decrease in the                                                               
overall number  of nonresident  hunters, and  an increase  in the                                                               
number of guided hunts.                                                                                                         
MR.  DALE agreed,  but said  the degree  of decrease/increase  is                                                               
6:14:19 PM                                                                                                                    
REGGIE JOULE  stated his support  for HB  211, and said  the bill                                                               
addresses several issues, such as  a declining herd and many user                                                               
conflicts in certain areas.   Mr. Joule opined relegating out-of-                                                               
state  hunters to  guided hunts  would have  a small  impact, but                                                               
would  make   a  difference.     He  suggested  the   subject  of                                                               
transporters  before the  [Big  Game  Commercial Services  Board,                                                               
Department of  Commerce, Community  & Economic Development]  is a                                                               
larger  and  difficult  issue,  but a  close  look  reveals  that                                                               
[funding]  resources are  needed to  manage [natural]  resources.                                                               
He remarked:                                                                                                                    
     Currently, the  situation is, at  least in  the Western                                                                    
     Arctic Caribou  Herd, local  residents were  allowed to                                                                    
     hunt fifteen  a day,  every day of  the year  - fifteen                                                                    
     caribou - we're down to five.   Now, we make that work.                                                                    
     And,  there were  no  closed seasons  at  one point  in                                                                    
     time, and  now we  have closed  seasons for  both bulls                                                                    
     and  cows  at various  times  of  the year,  when  it's                                                                    
     appropriate.     And  people  are  making   that  work:                                                                    
     everybody  is giving  in a  little bit  here.   And the                                                                    
     local residents certainly understand that.                                                                                 
MR. JOULE, as  an aside, observed predators - wolves  and bears -                                                               
are out  of control.  He  concluded that HB 211  would impact the                                                               
local  economy,  but  Alaska  residents  would  be  able  to  use                                                               
transporters  and provide  for their  families.   In response  to                                                               
Representative  Birch,  he  said   his  experience  is  that  the                                                               
population of the herd has  declined to a combination of factors:                                                               
predators are more  successful in years of low  snow, and hunters                                                               
are responsible  for taking  less than  30,000 out  of a  herd of                                                               
250,000.    Therefore,  all  [conservation]  measures  should  be                                                               
carefully considered.                                                                                                           
6:20:38 PM                                                                                                                    
PAUL  (CHRIS) MCKEE,  Supervisor,  Wildlife  Division, Office  of                                                               
Subsistence   Management,  Fish   and   Wildlife  Service,   U.S.                                                               
Department of  the Interior, informed  the committee  the Federal                                                               
Subsistence Board closed GMU 23  to non-federally qualified users                                                               
from  [7/1/16 to  6/30/17],  and has  received  a special  action                                                               
request submitted  by the  Northwest Arctic  Subsistence Regional                                                               
Advisory  Council, Federal  Subsistence Management  Program, U.S.                                                               
Department  of  the Interior,  seeking  another  closure for  the                                                               
upcoming  year.   If approved,  GMU 23  would remain  closed from                                                               
7/1/17 to 6/30/18.  He said  his staff is responsible for writing                                                               
the analysis  of the request for  closure, but he was  unsure how                                                               
the board  would rule,  and expressed his  intent to  provide the                                                               
analysis  in a  timely manner  so that  the board  can issue  its                                                               
decision  prior  to  hunting  season.    Also,  the  North  Slope                                                               
Subsistence  Regional   Advisory  Council,   Federal  Subsistence                                                               
Management Program, U.S. Department  of the Interior, submitted a                                                               
special action request  to close caribou hunting in  GMUs 26A and                                                               
26B to non-federally  qualified users as well.   If both requests                                                               
are approved, all of GMU 23 and  all of GMUs 26A and 26B would be                                                               
closed to  non-federally qualified users,  including nonresidents                                                               
and  nonrural Alaska  residents.   Mr.  McKee added  that a  U.S.                                                               
Department  of the  Interior interagency  group  meeting will  be                                                               
held  [4/17/17],  attended  by  representatives  of  the  Federal                                                               
Subsistence Management  Program, the  National Park  Service, the                                                               
Bureau of Land Management, the  Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the                                                               
U.S.   Fish  and   Wildlife  Service,   and   also  attended   by                                                               
representatives from  ADFG, all of  whom will seek ways  to avoid                                                               
unit-wide  closures.   He expressed  hope  that participants  can                                                               
"come up with  some options that can avoid, you  know, having all                                                               
of  unit  23 closed  out,  so  that's  kind  of where  we're  at,                                                               
currently, on the federal side."                                                                                                
6:25:08 PM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR JOSEPHSON opened public testimony.                                                                                     
6:25:23 PM                                                                                                                    
AL BARRETTE said  mandatory guiding is not, and should  not be, a                                                               
tool  used  to  limit  nonresident  hunting  opportunities.    He                                                               
stressed that  this purpose is not  the intent - or  the reason -                                                               
mandatory guiding  is in statute.   He directed attention  to the                                                               
bill on page 1, line 1, which read [in part]:                                                                                   
     "An Act requiring a nonresident to be accompanied by a                                                                     
       guide or resident spouse or relative when hunting                                                                        
MR. BARRETTE opined  "spouse or relative" should  read, "a second                                                               
degree  of  kindred," which  is  defined  in  statute.   He  then                                                               
directed attention to page 1, lines 12-14 which read [in part]:                                                                 
      ... misdemeanor and upon conviction is punishable by                                                                      
     imprisonment for not more than one year, or by a fine                                                                      
     of not more than $5,000, or by both.                                                                                       
MR. BARRETT urged  for this language in the bill  to comport with                                                               
proposed  HB  129  or  proposed  SB  60.    Lastly,  he  directed                                                               
attention to page 2, lines 9-12 which read:                                                                                     
          (g) In  addition to the  animals listed  under (a)                                                                    
     of this  section, it is  unlawful for a  nonresident to                                                                    
     hunt,  pursue,  or  take caribou  from  the  Porcupine,                                                                    
     Central Arctic, or Western  Arctic caribou herds unless                                                                    
     the  nonresident  is accompanied  by  a  person who  is                                                                    
     qualified under the terms of (a) of this section.                                                                          
MR.  BARRETT  pointed  out the  bill  stipulates  the  Porcupine,                                                               
Central  Arctic,   and  Western  Arctic  caribou   herds  and  he                                                               
questioned   how  -   for  enforcement   purposes  -   one  would                                                               
distinguish a Teshekpuk caribou from  a Western Arctic caribou or                                                               
others as the  Teshekpuk herd lies in between  the Western Arctic                                                               
and [Central Arctic] herds.                                                                                                     
6:27:54 PM                                                                                                                    
MARK RICHARDS,  Executive Director,  Resident Hunters  of Alaska,                                                               
referred  to written  testimony from  Resident Hunters  of Alaska                                                               
dated [4/10/17] in opposition to  HB 211 [document not provided].                                                               
He said Resident Hunters of  Alaska believes only the legislature                                                               
should have  the authority  to add  to the  list of  species that                                                               
must  be  guided  under  AS  16.05.407 and  AS  16.05.408.    Mr.                                                               
Richards informed the  committee the Board of  Game (BOG), Alaska                                                               
Department  of Fish  & Game,  without  legislative approval,  has                                                               
added  moose and  black  bear  to the  list  of  "must be  guided                                                               
species"  in  some  areas.    This action  in  the  Interior  has                                                               
restricted   resident   opportunities    for   the   purpose   of                                                               
guaranteeing an  allocation to  guides.   As has  been previously                                                               
stated,  all  nonlocal  federally qualified  subsistence  hunters                                                               
have  been prohibited  from hunting  the Western  Arctic Herd  on                                                               
federal  lands in  GMU  23, including  all  nonresidents and  all                                                               
Alaskans  who do  not live  in  the region.   At  the recent  BOG                                                               
meeting in Fairbanks, the board  severely reduced seasons and bag                                                               
limits  in  the  Central  Arctic Herd,  for  both  residents  and                                                               
nonresidents,  which  came  about  "via" a  Resident  Hunters  of                                                               
Alaska  proposal.   Further,  under  consideration  is a  federal                                                               
wildlife  special   action  request  to  restrict   all  nonlocal                                                               
federally qualified subsistence hunters  from hunting the Central                                                               
Arctic Herd on federal land.  Mr. Richards stated:                                                                              
     If the  intent of  this bill  is to  reduce nonresident                                                                    
     harvest when  caribou herds are in  steep decline, that                                                                    
     is  something Resident  Hunters of  Alaska agrees  with                                                                    
     and has  already been proposing  to the Board  of Game:                                                                    
     That in all cases, if  and when any wildlife population                                                                    
     is in  decline, and [residents'] needs  and opportunity                                                                    
     are going to  be restricted, we should  first reduce or                                                                    
     eliminate   all   nonresident  hunting   opportunities.                                                                    
     Those are  functions of  the Board  of Game,  which the                                                                    
     legislature  has given  authority  to  deal with  these                                                                    
     matters.   Requiring nonresidents  ... to hire  a guide                                                                    
     to  hunt  these  herds,  however, in  order  to  reduce                                                                    
     nonresident harvest,  is in no  way a solution  to less                                                                    
     nonresident hunting and harvest.   What this bill would                                                                    
     do  is create  a  new subsidy  to  guides, that  wasn't                                                                    
     there before, and we can't  use the current percentages                                                                    
     of unguided versus guided caribou  hunters on the North                                                                    
     Slope, and say that  those percentages would remain the                                                                    
     same should this bill pass.                                                                                                
6:31:11 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE PARISH was unclear how  the bill would result in a                                                               
new subsidy for guides, although he  agreed it would result in an                                                               
increase  in  guided  hunts.    He  asked  whether  Mr.  Richards                                                               
expected the bill  would result in a reduction  to the allocation                                                               
for Alaska residents.                                                                                                           
MR. RICHARDS  answered the allocation  is a function of  BOG, and                                                               
there are  examples of BOG  actions that have added  new must-be-                                                               
guided species  resulting in restrictions on  residents, "because                                                               
the  board is  then beholden  to  provide that  allocation."   He                                                               
provided an  analogy.  Mr.  Richards clarified that  a guaranteed                                                               
client   base  is   the  subsidy.     In   further  response   to                                                               
Representative  Parish, he  said not  all contracting  guides are                                                               
Alaskans,  and  a  larger  percentage  of  assistant  guides  are                                                               
6:33:19 PM                                                                                                                    
JAKE  JACOBSON stated  he lives  in Kodiak  and Kotzebue,  and is                                                               
representing  himself  and  his  Alaskan  family  members.    Mr.                                                               
Jacobson said  he has hunted  and eaten caribou from  the Western                                                               
Arctic Herd  for 50  years and  has guided in  the region  for 45                                                               
years.  In the  '70s and '80s he worked for  ADFG, when there was                                                               
a focus on  caribou in GMUs 23  and 26.  In  1972, the population                                                               
of the  Western Arctic  Herd was estimated  at 242,000,  and ADFG                                                               
was concerned  that the  herd would  overgraze and  then decline;                                                               
therefore, the  department closed  areas on  the North  Slope and                                                               
elsewhere, and compared grazed tundra  with un-grazed tundra.  He                                                               
said  botanists noticed  no difference,  and there  was no  great                                                               
threat  of overgrazing  with a  herd size  at 242,000.   However,                                                               
ADFG remained  concerned and  opened the  hunting season  with no                                                               
limits, and allowed  [hunted] caribou to be sold -  and many were                                                               
- at  $35 per carcass.   Mr. Jacobson said  the herd is  now over                                                               
200,000,  the harvest  is estimated  at  12,000-15,000 for  local                                                               
subsistence users,  and at  500-600 for  nonlocals -  those being                                                               
transported  and  guided hunts.    The  harvest records  for  the                                                               
transported  and guided  hunts  are accurate,  and estimated  for                                                               
local harvest,  he added.   Mr.  Jacobson spoke  in favor  of the                                                               
bill and  agreed that the  language "relative" should  be clearly                                                               
defined as  "second degree  of kindred."   Furthermore,  the bill                                                               
would  reduce and  defuse user  conflicts  in GMU  23, and  would                                                               
restore resident  access to  caribou hunted  in GMU  23, provided                                                               
the federal  subsistence board does  not continue to  prevent all                                                               
but local  subsistence users access  to the  herd.  He  urged for                                                               
the passage of HB 211.                                                                                                          
6:36:41 PM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR JOSEPHSON,  after ascertaining no one  further wished to                                                               
testify, closed public testimony.                                                                                               
[HB 211 was held over.]