Legislature(1997 - 1998)

04/07/1997 03:38 PM Senate RES

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
          SB  16 USE OF F&G FUND/COMMISSIONER'S POWERS                         
CHAIRMAN HALFORD announced SB 16 to be up for consideration.                   
SENATOR TAYLOR, sponsor, read his sponsor statement.  He said the              
ADF&G has adopted a philosophy which is now opposed to managing                
Alaska's wildlife for a return to abundance.  Unlike all other                 
state agencies however, the Division of Sport-fish and Game are                
funded solely by license sales, user fees ad self imposed taxes                
paid by consumptive users.  This legislation would recognize the               
public trust for the use of these funds and prohibit the use of                
these funds for any activity other than projects which directly                
increase wildlife and sport fish populations or directly benefit               
license purchasers.                                                            
He said there is documented misuse of these funds and the actual               
misappropriation of funds provided by the legislature during                   
previous years.  The department has violated the public trust by               
shifting $900,000 earmarked specifically for increasing wildlife               
populations under intensive management projects and improperly                 
redirecting those funds for payment of employee salaries.                      
Alaska license holders are further outraged by the department's                
adoption of a preservationist philosophy which opposes consumptive             
uses.  At the fall 1995 Board of Game meeting, the department urged            
the board to close 236 square miles to Alaska's hunters.  The                  
department's biologists testified that there was no biological                 
problem, nor justification nor actual conflict among user groups in            
the area.  The department's director admitted that the only issue              
was one based solely on a misperception resulting from purposeful              
misinformation and disinformation promulgated by animal rights                 
He concluded that this legislation would require that all money                
deposited in the Fish and Game Fund would be prohibited from any               
use other than reintroduction, restocking, transplantation, habitat            
manipulation, intensive management, predator removal, public access            
and the restoration of sport fish and game resources or other                  
projects that directly benefit Alaska's consumptive users.                     
CHAIRMAN HALFORD noted that they had a statement from Dave                     
Kellyhouse, former director of the Division of Wildlife                        
Conservation, pointing out the difficulties in the bill.                       
MR. WAYNE REGELIN, Director, Division of Wildlife Conservation,                
said this bill would have a profound negative affect on his                    
division and would cause a lot of harm to the citizens of Alaska,              
especially to the hunters and trappers.                                        
Section 1 adds language requiring them to cooperate with                       
sportsmen's organizations in efforts to increase game populations              
and they already do this.  To add this section wouldn't have any               
impact, but to add it suggests that they aren't doing that now, and            
that's just not accurate.  He said they work with numerous groups              
across Alaska to benefit wildlife and to increase hunting                      
opportunities.  They have cooperative projects with the Rough                  
Grouse Society, The Foundation of North American Wild Sheep, Tanana            
Valley Sportsmen's Association, the Tok Shooters Association, the              
Safari Club, and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.  They also have            
an excellent working relationship with the Alaska Outdoor Council              
and all the different trapping organizations in Alaska.                        
The only conflict that they have between the division and some                 
minority interests in sportsmen's groups is related to their policy            
against the introduction of exotic species.  He explained in Alaska            
we have suitable habitat for numerous species of birds and mammals             
that occur in other parts of North America or Europe or Asia and a             
lot of them would survive here, but would compete with our native              
species and they don't think it's wise to introduce them.  So they             
don't.  They do have a policy that allows transplantation of native            
species in the new areas of the State if they find that they don't             
harm anything and they have done so with transplants of rough                  
grouse to Kenai and Palmer.  They have transplanted caribou across             
the State.  They have put musk ox on the North Slope and put goats             
on an island in Southeast.  He said he thought they have a good                
record and their policy against introducing exotics is very                    
Section 2 would require separate appropriations for each project               
that the division would undertake including the Division of Sport-             
fish.  Currently, in his division they have one BRU component, four            
components, and 17 very general projects.  These 17 projects are               
very general administration and then each species of caribou or                
moose, but the intent of the bill is to have separate allocations              
(BRUs) for each individual project within each of these categories.            
They have 151 projects in the Division of Wildlife and 170 in the              
Division of Sport fish that they appropriate money to.  These                  
projects cost from $10,000 to $300,000.  It would very difficult               
for them to track 151 budgets in their division.  Their                        
administrative managers said it would take two more full time                  
administrative assistants to do this.  They think this money would             
be better spent on biologists and technicians working in the field.            
Section 2 would restrict use of the Fish and Game funds to very                
specific activities, but provides for spending money on intensive              
management for maximum sustained yield for human harvest and a few             
other things.  He said all funds must result in a direct benefit to            
hunters of fishermen that increase sport fish or game populations              
and increase human harvest or decrease predation.  This bill                   
expressly prohibits the expenditure of funds on projects other than            
those listed.                                                                  
Section 4 puts most of the same restrictions with a couple of minor            
changes, on the federal aid budget that is half of their funding.              
He explained that there are a lot of things they have done for a               
long time and are important for and popular with the public and                
necessary for the division that they wouldn't be able to do any                
longer.  They would be unable to spend any money on hunting                    
programs where they don't manage for maximum sustained yield such              
as their trophy areas for sheep in the Delta, Tok, and Anchorage               
areas, for trophy moose management they have in the Soldotna area              
and for brown bear management throughout the State. He explained               
they do not manage them for maximum sustained yield because it's               
not practical to do that in most of the State because it's too                 
remote for hunters and trappers to harvest at that rate.                       
Sport fisheries would be unable to have any trophy fish areas and              
catch and release programs because that wouldn't be maximum                    
sustained yield. They would be unable to continue their wildlife               
education programs such as project wild and all the work they are              
doing with the different school districts in the State to promote              
hunting.  They would not be able to issue predation permits to                 
airports or other agencies that promote public safety.  They would             
be unable to build new office buildings, like in Fairbanks, or                 
maintain their other office buildings, unless they wanted to                   
provide general funds for those purposes.  He continued saying that            
they wouldn't be able to continue their planning effort in the                 
Anchorage Bowl where they are working to solve the problems of too             
many moose, bears, and geese.                                                  
His position and that of several of his staff people are funded                
from the general fund and he would be unable to respond to most                
legislative and public requests because he's not sure they would               
have any direct benefit to increasing the game population.                     
Continuation of some of these programs would depend on how a judge,            
most likely, would interpret the intent of the words, "to provide              
a direct benefit to hunters by increasing game populations,                    
increasing harvest or decreasing predation."  They could probably              
interpret that to mean that their routine surveys and inventory                
work couldn't be done because that's more of a monitoring function             
than a direct benefit.  He thought it would be left up to a judge              
to decide because section (g) of this bill would allow officials of            
the department to be sued in civil court if they didn't follow this            
bill.  He said he didn't include the cost to the Department of Law             
to defend him, but it would be pretty high.                                    
MR. REGELIN said that Section 2 also repeals the language that                 
prohibits diversion of hunting and fishing license fees for                    
purposes other than fish and wildlife management.  By taking that              
out of the statute, future legislatures could divert those funds               
and they could lose up to $17 million in federal dollars in the                
hunting and fishing area.                                                      
Section (h) defines harvestable surplus, the high levels of human              
harvest, intensive management and maximum sustained yield and these            
definitions all tie back to section 2 that mandates funds shall                
only be used for projects that provide for intensive management and            
for maximum sustained yield.  The harvest levels mandated by this              
wording is not possible to achieve for most species in Alaska over             
the long term.  It would be unnecessary and cost prohibitive to do             
He said he doesn't support the bill, but he understands the                    
frustration that some people have. He said we are never going to go            
back to the way it was in the 60s.  Our human population is three              
times higher, demand for game is greater, and land ownership has               
changed.  Most of it is off bounds for hunting and the federal                 
government is right in the middle of management.  In spite of these            
problems, most hunters are still pretty pleased with their efforts             
and support the Division.  He thought this bill would make it                  
impossible for them to do their job.  He said he just attended a               
sportsman's show in Anchorage with 50,000 people.  Those people are            
supportive of them.                                                            
Number 480                                                                     
CHAIRMAN HALFORD noted that it repealed the Board of Game's                    
authority to exempt water fowl tags from some areas and he asked if            
the Board ever used that authority.  MR. REGELIN replied no.                   
CHAIRMAN HALFORD said he thought the bill was drafted in                       
frustration to some of the things the department has done with fish            
and game fund money and it might be more direct to list                        
prohibitions instead of trying to list all the things that need to             
be done.  He didn't think the legislature wanted to prohibit                   
sex/age composition counts, etc.                                               
SENATOR TAYLOR explained that the reason the drafters went at it               
from the affirmative side instead of the negative is because it's              
difficult to draft in the negative tone and because primarily a                
good portion of the funds we receive in this State come from the               
federal government and they specifically listed those areas that               
monies could be spent upon.  This legislation basically parallels              
that.  He thought that an audit of federal funds would show that               
those funds are not being spent correctly.  CHAIRMAN HALFORD                   
commented that he thought the Department over the years has worked             
with the feds to get the regulatory definitions of their list broad            
enough to get the things they are talking about to still occur.                
He's sure the Department has regulatory authority to do their                  
sex/age composition, management, stream surveys, with State/federal            
funds and he's sure those things would survive.                                
SENATOR TAYLOR said he has difficulty with the testimony and the               
statement from Mr. Kellyhouse because they are testifying as though            
merely holding them to some standard from the people who are paying            
for all of their efforts will immediately cause them to cease doing            
all sorts of activities.  That's baloney.  He asked why they                   
wouldn't do them, because they are necessary to manage the wildlife            
population that is their jurisdiction.  He wanted to know what the             
fiscal note is on general funds they are going to need to replace              
these funds, should these funds be restricted.                                 
CHAIRMAN HALFORD said that statement is strongly supported by the              
constituency and that's what they should be going after.  SENATOR              
TAYLOR said he didn't know how to go about that - stating there is             
a trust relationship on these monies.                                          
SENATOR SHARP said he shares some of Senator Taylor's frustration              
and he gave the example of the Department using $300,000 of the                
$900,000 earmarked for intensive management to pay for a National              
Academy of Science Study, authorized by Tony Knowles.  He said the             
methodology used to siphon money from ADF&G is highly suspect to               
benefit the users of the resource.                                             
MR. REGELIN said that they undergo an annual audit by federal                  
agents and he also thought a number of years ago when they had a               
new administration some funds were moved around that shouldn't have            
been, but they haven't done that since.  There have been no                    
problems since then and they have worked with Senator Sharp on the             
budget.  He said they would not stop doing the things they have to             
do, but the way the bill is drafted, it says they can only do those            
things for maximum sustained yield which is a very specific way of             
managing.  It's a mathematical definition of managing at a certain             
level of carrying capacity of wildlife.  He said he has been more              
than willing to work with them on this and he has worked with                  
Senator Taylor and he is still willing to work with them on it.                
SENATOR TAYLOR said it seemed to him they should have a portion of             
general fund dollars if they wish to use them for general fund                 
TAPE 97-24, SIDE B                                                             
SENATOR TAYLOR said he thought if the Department has general                   
concerns, they should bring them in and there ought to be a general            
fund portion of the budget for them.  The last thing in the world              
they should do is expect people to pay for it out of the back                  
pocket as a hunting license when they're going to use that money to            
prevent them from going hunting and prevent them from maintaining              
the game species that they'd like to hunt.                                     
To say that intensive management to the maximum sustained yield                
possible is somehow in opposition to trophy areas is an incredible             
statement.  If you've decided the area is a trophy area, then the              
maximum sustained yield is the maximum number of trophy animals                
that can be taken from that area.                                              
MR. REGELIN explained that they have defined maximum sustained                 
yield as being able to take one third of the reproduction each                 
year.  SENATOR TAYLOR retorted that the reproduction each year in              
those areas would be one third of the trophy bulls in that area.               
It wouldn't be one third of the total population and he thought                
they could do that by regulation very easily.                                  
Number 557                                                                     
SENATOR TAYLOR moved to pass SB 16 from committee with individual              
recommendations. There were no objections and it was so ordered.               

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