Legislature(2005 - 2006)BUTROVICH 205
04/18/2005 03:30 PM RESOURCES
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|Confirmation Hearing: || Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (aogcc) - Cathy Forester|
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SB 170-BD/DEPT OF FISH & GAME POWERS & DUTIES CHAIR WAGONER announced SB 170 to be up for consideration. SENATOR SEEKINS, sponsor, said SB 170 addresses some housekeeping issues and then some substantive ones. It provides for sale of legally taken trophy mounts and certain parts of legally taken game animals and solves the current situation where a person cannot buy a trophy mount in Alaska, but the seller can take the mount to Seattle and conduct the transaction with the buyer there. He said there is no real good reason to prohibit their sale here and allowing it would raise revenues for the fish and game fund. It also provides for a small game-hunting license as differentiated from a general hunting license, which would be sold for $25. Some people don't want to hunt big game, but would like small game - particularly non-residents. It provides for some uniform application fees ($7.50 across the board) for certain hunting permits, drawings and stamps. Right now there are different fees for a musk ox than there are for a caribou. The fees are meant to defer 100 percent of the cost of processing the fees. If the department needed additional fees to do that, he would be willing to look at that number. SENATOR SEEKINS said that SB 170 also establishes a higher degree of accountability for the use of monies within the fish and game fund. This fund is dedicated to uses that directly benefit those who purchase hunting and fishing licenses. The fund currently has only loose internal guidelines as to how it is spent. SB 170 provides for new fees for hunting and trapping licenses and tags and requires that the increases in those fees be used to maximize management for an abundance of animals for human consumption. Hunters have said they are not willing to pay more to harvest less. It provides for certain predator control for bears in areas under intensive management where the Board of Game has determined first that bear predation is a cause of the problem and a reduction in bears would reasonably help cure that problem. 5:24:38 PM SENATOR SEEKINS said the next provision is a brand new concept. It provides for a new deferral fee that is limited to certain areas that are adjacent to or very near state wildlife sanctuaries or national parks. When the board authorizes permits to hunt bear or wolf in these areas, a person could take a permit off the table by paying into the fish and game fund the maximum market value the hunt would otherwise have contributed to the state economy. As an example, he used the McNeil River Sanctuary that has the McNeil River preserve next to it. Part of the reason for the preserve has always been to allow hunting. Because it is next to the McNeil River Sanctuary, people always try to make the preserve part of the sanctuary. This will allow people who don't want bears to be hunted to be able to contribute to the management of the sanctuaries, which are all managed from the fish and game fund, by buying a permit and taking it off the table for the year. 5:27:12 PM CHAIR WAGONER asked how many areas are similar to McNeil River. MATT ROBUS, Director, Division of Wildlife Conservation, Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G), answered Pack Creek on Admiralty Island, the Katmai National Park and Denali National Park. SENATOR SEEKINS said this provision would apply to areas where the bears have been habituated. 5:28:29 PM SENATOR ELTON asked what the definition of animal parts is as used in section 52. SENATOR SEEKINS replied that its not meant for sale of meat and he wanted to put an amendment in the bill saying that. But he has no objection to saying that a person could sell a gall bladder of a legally taken bear. An affirmative defense would be to show that a bear had been consumed by the same person who took it and sold the gall bladder. CHAIR WAGONER said that he read that the bottom has fallen out of the bear gall bladder market because of Viagra and drugs like it. MR. ROBUS replied that sale of bear gall bladders is legal in some states, but not most. He did not think there was a direct link between sale of Viagra and bear gall bladders, because the bladders have medicinal uses in addition to that. 5:31:11 PM SENATOR ELTON said it is a common practice to trade King salmon, for instance, for a roast of moose. It would be a barter. 5:31:43 PM SENATOR SEEKINS said there is nothing that he knows of that would preclude a barter of that sort. 5:31:48 PM MR. ROBUS responded that he wanted to read the regulations, but he knows that it is a common practice. SENATOR SEEKINS explained that he understands the title to the fish or game animal transfers to the owner at the time of harvest and he would have the right to share it with anyone he wanted to. The law could preclude its sale. 5:32:22 PM SENATOR STEDMAN asked him to talk about the proposed fees. 5:32:41 PM SENATOR SEEKINS responded that the fees were proposed to him by the department, although he may have increased a couple. 5:33:45 PM MR. ROBUS replied that is correct. SENATOR SEEKINS asked him to explain why the amounts were requested. MR. ROBUS explained that his division relies on the one source of non-federal funding that it gets to do all of its work - the fish and game fund, which is pretty much composed of hunting and trapping license fees and hunter tag fees. It has had no increase in the last 13 years. The division's expenses are going up and revenues are static or slightly declining. He can still get federal matching funds, but has run short to be able to do the additional wildlife management work to the extent that the division is running $2 million less this year. He has the increased demands of predator control and intensive management programs. We do have some serious fiscal issues in the division and we put forward a straw man proposal containing a fee increase that we've taken around to advisory committees, the Board of Game, various public groups, individual legislators - tried to put together a package that would once again bring back enough of that state license money to properly fund the wildlife management activities we need to do. That straw man package was the beginning of the evolution for the structure that you see in that portion of this bill today. 5:35:46 PM SENATOR STEDMAN said sheep are highly prized for hunters and Alaska shouldn't be the low-cost producer for out-of-state hunters. He wanted an explanation of why the fees mostly doubled. MR. ROBUS explained that the fees were based on the need to make up at least the $2 million annual shortfall at present plus the desired capability to be able to do more active wildlife management related to the intensive management law and the predator management programs he has going. In terms of the value of their dollars, state residents pay one half of what they paid for a hunting license at statehood. The sustained yield programs must be continued for multiple years to be effective and the department needs to be able to measure the situation before, during and after those predator programs in order to sustain them. The fees were structured to bring in $3.5 million that would restore the division's capabilities to manage wildlife. SENATOR STEDMAN said that some people don't buy licenses anyhow and doubling the fee doesn't encourage them. He asked how the department planned to handle enforcement. MR. ROBUS agreed with his comment, but said adamantly that he needs money for his programs. He explained that enforcement is a split effort between his division and the Department of Public Safety with DPS being the primary enforcers. SENATOR STEDMAN wanted a breakdown of who purchases licenses around the state. 5:42:00 PM SENATOR SEEKINS asked if other areas have asked for increased predator control. MR. ROBUS replied yes; the division has implemented five programs and it's challenging to keep them going. There are numerous desires for intensive management programs elsewhere. SENATOR SEEKINS asked if he agreed that certain predators have been allowed to over-harvest in many areas of the state and needs significant attention paid to it if they want to put moose and caribou on the tables of people in the State of Alaska. MR. ROBUS responded: I might state it slightly differently. I'm not sure that predators over harvest, but the situation we have now is that predators in many places are taking enough prey animals to prevent those prey populations from increasing to levels that can be supported by the habitat, which would provide more animals, more hunting opportunity, more meat in the freezer around the state. SENATOR SEEKINS noted that the section requiring a conservation tag from people who hunt waterfowl on page 14 will be deleted. It will require anyone who fishes who is of legal age or of capability to have a fishing license for the first time. Right now only a hunting license is required. 5:45:12 PM SENATOR STEDMAN asked if this changes the age requirement for having a license from anyone who is over 16 years of age. SENATOR SEEKINS replied that it doesn't change that. SENATOR STEDMAN asked if that isn't the law of the land today. SENATOR SEEKINS replied, "Not for subsistence purposes for fishing." 5:46:06 PM SENATOR ELTON asked if the first section, which is legislative intent, and the last couple of sections plus the sections that change 60 substantive operations in the Department of Fish and Game, could be taken out until they can get the department's take on what it really needs. 5:47:14 PM MR. ROBUS said that would lead into what he has to say. The department has identified the fee increase as a big need. He has talked to advisory committees and the Board of Game about it. "The license fee is a tremendously important aspect of this bill from the perspective of my division and the department." The size and complexity of the bill means that the department is still doing the analysis to figure out what the parts mean. It's clear that it had concerns over two-dozen significant changes to fish and game statutes. The relationship between the Board of Game, the Board of Fisheries and the department has been changed markedly in terms of who has the authority to do what. There is a change in the way wild animals are defined and some animals would not even be under his management jurisdiction until or unless the Board of Game took action to make them part of his business. The fiscal responsibility part of the bill would impose some pretty stringent constraints on both the division and the department and those need to be worked through, although he understands that accountability is something the public and the legislature want and deserve. KEVIN SAXBY, Department of Law (DOL), echoed Mr. Robus' comments saying he hadn't had that much time to look at the bill, but has identified a number of constitutional and statutory concerns that would have to be thought through. SENATOR SEEKINS said he appreciates the fact that the departments have not had a lot of time to look at this, but he wants an accounting of money the Department has spent. When the ADF&G budget was looked at in Finance Committee, the question was asked where the money goes. A statute says that the legislature is to receive a project-by-project analysis of how it was spent. But they were told "project" is not defined in statute. Alaska's Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy was put together with $600,000 or $800,000 worth of matching funds from the state to obtain $3 million worth of federal money to put into implementing a conservation plan. In this whole plan, there is not a single plan on how to develop a conservation plan for prey animals. There are conservation plans for voles and birds and even eel grass invertebrates. None of the 74 species were nominated by a single consumptive user group; they were nominated by the Audubon Society, Cook Inlet Keeper and other groups across the state. His folks would go along with some increase in fees, but they want some accountability there. "We don't want somebody to establish a conservation strategy for the State of Alaska that hasn't gone through the public hearing process that the Board of Game does." CHAIR WAGONER said he would hold the bill for further work and adjourned the meeting at 5:58:37 PM.