Legislature(1997 - 1998)
03/07/1997 03:40 PM RES
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SENATE RESOURCES COMMITTEE March 7, 1997 3:40 P.M. MEMBERS PRESENT Senator Lyda Green, Vice Chairman Senator Loren Leman Senator Bert Sharp Senator Georgianna Lincoln Senator John Torgerson MEMBERS ABSENT Senator Rick Halford, Chairman Senator Robin Taylor COMMITTEE CALENDAR SENATE CONCURRENT RESOLUTION NO. 2 Relating to management of Alaska's wildlife resources. - MOVED CSSCR 2(RES) OUT OF COMMITTEE PREVIOUS SENATE COMMITTEE ACTION SCR 2 - No previous action to consider. WITNESS REGISTER Mr. Joe Ambrose, Staff Senator Taylor State Capitol Bldg. Juneau, AK 99801-1182 POSITION STATEMENT: Read the sponsor statement for SCR 2. Mr. Neil Plested Alaska Environmental Lobby 1924 Baurick Ct. Fairbanks, AK 99709 POSITION STATEMENT: Opposed SCR 2. Mr. Dick Bishop Alaska Outdoor Council 211 4th St, #302 Juneau, Ak 99801 POSITION STATEMENT: Supported SCR 2. Mr. Ken Taylor, Deputy Director Division of Wildlife Conservation Department of Fish and Game P.O. Box 25526 Juneau, AK 99802-5526 POSITION STATEMENT: Commented on SCR 2. Mr. Oliver Burris Alaska Wildlife Conservation Association % Tanana Valley Sportsman's Association 2801 Talkeetna Fairbanks, AK 99709 POSITION STATEMENT: Supported SCR 2. Mr. Noel Putman Ketchikan Sports and Wildlife Club 846 Brown Deer Rd. Ketchikan, AK 99901 POSITION STATEMENT: Supported SCR 2. Mr. Jim Ramsdell Environmental Action Association P.O. Box 2004 Seward, AK 99664 POSITION STATEMENT: Opposed SCR 2. Mr. Michael Tetreau P.O. Box 3046 Seward, AK 99664 POSITION STATEMENT: Opposed SCR 2. Mr. Mark Luttrell East River Kenai Peninsula Environmental Association P.O. Box 511 Seward, AK 99664 POSITION STATEMENT: Opposed SCR 2. Mr. Eric Coufal P.O. Box 2185 Seward, AK 99664 POSITION STATEMENT: Opposed SCR 2. ACTION NARRATIVE TAPE 97-16, SIDE A Number 001 SCR 2 MANAGEMENT OF WILDLIFE RESOURCES VICE CHAIRMAN GREEN called the Senate Resources Committee meeting to order at 3:40 p.m. and announced SCR 2 to be up for consideration. MR. JOE AMBROSE, Staff to Senator Taylor, sponsor of SCR 2, explained that if it were implemented the State of Alaska would go a long way toward solving the subsistence dilemma by managing wildlife for abundance. The shortage of wildlife will not be solved by determining who may have the preference regarding harvest. Article 8, Section 3 of the Constitution explicitly states wherever occurring in their natural state, fish, wildlife, and waters are reserved for the people for common use. Our Constitution also mandates that fish and game resources be managed on a sustained yield principle. The current administration has failed to implement an intensive management program that would insure an abundance of wildlife. Attempting to manage complex wildlife populations by only addressing human use will not work. Alaskans currently harvest less than 3% of the harvestable surplus. An abundance of fish and wildlife for all Alaskans is the only practical solution to the subsistence impasse. Present policies only perpetuate shortages. SENATOR LEMAN said he didn't believe there was an impasse over subsistence, but over subsistence priority. MR. AMBROSE agreed that's what he meant. Number 78 MR. NEIL PLESTED , Alaska Environmental Lobby, said at first the legislation looks good, but there are ambiguities which create a document that they can't support. One of the phrases that's vague is "biological basis for abundance." He asked if the sponsor applies the term equally to predator species and prey species. He asked if there are two species competing for the same habitat, like black tail deer and elk, that may be introduced, which species is given preference for abundance. He also felt that it restricted management options. Wildlife issues frequently must be examined on a case specific basis. Factors to consider are constantly changing, and new studies offer fresh data to evaluation. The formulation and coordination of plans of action for management of a given population require that complex decisions be made with the public forum. To restrict biologists at ADF&G and members of the Boards of Game and Fisheries to decisions based solely on the concept of biological abundance is to deny the reality of the realm in which these people must function. SENATOR LEMAN gave an example of moose eating trees and if they were managed for abundance, their numbers would increase in the urban areas as well and asked if there would be a harvest season for those because of their impact on people. MR. PLESTED replied that's what he meant. There are several things that have to be considered and urban sprawl is one of them, another is clear-cut logging which has a big effect on wildlife habitat. SENATOR LEMAN noted that this is a resolution which essentially is a letter from the legislature stating their intent. It may be implemented by legislation or regulation. MR. PLESTED said he didn't think they disagreed on the abundance issue, at all, but the point is that the resolution suggests that regulatory agencies deal only on a biological basis. Number 201 SENATOR LINCOLN said she was glad he didn't take it too lightly that this is just a resolution, because it is more than a letter. It requests the Governor and everybody to do everything in their power to manage solely on a biological basis. She asked if by saying biological use only, it meant disregarding other uses of the area, like timber sales, etc. MR. PLESTED replied that that was one of the difficult things to understand about it. SENATOR SHARP said he thought a reasonable person would think manage for abundance would be the opposite of managing for scarcity and there are vast areas of perpetual scarcity out there in the last 25 years compared to what the historical numbers in various populations have been. He said Commissioner Rue stressed the importance of continuing to spend tens of millions of dollars to maintain biological scientific data so they could make management decisions. He asked if that biological data should not be the driving factor. MR. PLESTED replied that he wasn't saying that at all. He thought data already in the files could be outdated and a new study may be required and it might not be totally biological. He said it is wrong to restrict agencies that have to deal with these major problems. They need a broad spectrum of methods and tools to work with in order to carry out their function. SENATOR SHARP said he looked at this as setting goals for management, not as a specific directive to use certain techniques. Number 324 MR. DICK BISHOP, Executive Director, Alaska Outdoor Council, supported SCR 2 as an important reminder that the opportunities we all share in relation to wildlife uses do depend on sound, sustained yield management. Through prudent management we can contribute to the biological basis for abundant populations of wildlife which will benefit all user groups. He said it is important to remember that 60% of Alaska is in federal hands and there is no management directive to manage for uses of wildlife. It is simply a caretaker status, so there is no opportunity on those lands for active management in order to meet the needs of people be they hunters or viewers. He thought that only 10 - 15% of the State was available for active management because of legal restrictions under federal or State law and because of ecological limitations. SENATOR LINCOLN asked, if managing solely on a biological basis, how he would respond to those people who want to develop the Tongass, ANWR, etc. Does that mean that development cannot take place, if there is any indication that the abundance factor would be in jeopardy, she asked. MR. BISHOP replied that he didn't think it meant that. For instance a development project is not inimical to the well-being of wildlife and there can be management techniques that mitigate the effects, if they are anticipated. Also, the term "abundance" is a relative term. Number 414 MR. KEN TAYLOR, Deputy Director, Division of Wildlife Conservation, said he thought most everyone on his staff and the people they interact with on a daily basis would concur that managing for abundant wildlife in Alaska is the way to go. Many of the Division's programs and those of the Commercial Fisheries are aimed at doing just that. It sounds to him as though the scope of the legislation is narrowed by the phrase "solely on a biological basis." Management of wildlife uses not just biological information, but economic impacts. He said the Board of Fisheries and the Board of Game manage within a biological framework, but they listen to public testimony balancing various public needs. Number 435 SENATOR LEMAN thought it might work to delete "solely on a biological basis." MR. TAYLOR said that sounded better than the original bill. MR. AMBROSE said he thought deleting "solely" would solve the problem. SENATOR LEMAN moved to amend lines 2 and 6 to delete "solely." There were no objections and it was adopted. MR. OLIVER BURRIS , Alaska Wildlife Conservation Association and the Tanana Valley Sportsman's Association, supported SCR 2. He said ever since the Sheffield administration the major impediment to progressive wildlife management has been the administration especially in response to the intensive management law. ADF&G proposes that the Nelchina caribou herd be reduced from 55,000 to 40,000 and the harvest reduced proportionally. They also propose to maintain the moose herd at its lowest population level since the early 1950s. This is not managing for abundance. There is no incentive within the administration to manage for abundance and no planning for the future of hunting or the health and diversity of our wildlife population. MR. NOEL PUTMAN, Ketchikan Sports and Wildlife Club, strongly supported SCR 2 and would like to see the State game statutes enforced. He said they have one predominant game animal there - Sitka black tail deer. They have a lot of wolves that have been fictitiously put into a subspecies classification by word of mouth which goes against any kind of biological information that has been produced on the wolves. MR. JIM RAMSDELL, Environmental Action Association, said the wild in the wildlife of Alaska seems to be increasingly tailored to a select group of the population. This proposal by Senator Taylor would solely benefit the consumptive users, he said. It is a minority of people who purchase hunting licenses and if we continue to manage wildlife towards that minority, rather than trying to understand the natural cycles which produce knee jerk reactions to fluctuation in the form of wolf, brown bear, and other predator control, an imbalance could come back to haunt them. Number 500 SENATOR SHARP agreed that regulation of hunter harvest was part of the management techniques that have always been used by the Department, but there are large areas north of the Brooks Range where there has been no hunter harvest what-so-ever and the population is still declining in spite of good winters. This is only because of the 365 day-a-year harvest by predators, not the human element. MR. MICHAEL TETREAU testified he thought the issued looked like it boiled down to an abundance versus lack of abundance management philosophy which was pretty much a no-brainer. He didn't think there was anyone in the State who would disagree that we want to have wildlife. He said that Senator Taylor was focusing in on the biological aspect and there was nothing biological about the predator control programs he has supported in the past. MR. TETREAU said the last sentence of the resolution mentions restoring the abundance of wildlife in Alaska and asked to what levels - pre sport hunting levels, pre-European levels, or what. Number 559 MR. MARK LUTTRELL, Director, East River Kenai Peninsula Environmental Action Association, opposed SCR 2 because it ignores the best of 100 years of advancement in the natural sciences while favoring the worst of a hundred years of short-sighted ignorance. The fifth "Whereas" he didn't think was logically possible. An abundance of wolves in the same place where there's an abundance of caribou cannot benefit all user groups. This legislation hurts Alaska's image and makes us look silly. It's ambiguous, much too simple, and should be discarded. MR. ERIC COUFAL said he owned a recreational tourism business and he shuddered to think of what kind of impressions we were making on the rest of the country. He mentioned the time when people were boycotting our State over the wolf control issue and asked if it referred to both predator and prey stocks. Number 580 SENATOR LINCOLN said she has absolutely no problem with the State of Alaska having good biological data in which to make decisions. She also was not pleased with our fish and game populations. NUMBER 97-16, SIDE B However, there is too much ambiguity within the resolution for her to vote it out of committee. As an example she didn't understand the legislature requesting the Governor, the Boards of Fisheries and Game, etc. to use their significant powers and influence and implement regulations, policies, and programs to restore these things when for years we had seen the restricted funding to the Division of Habitat and there have been reductions to the ADF&G. She thought they would ask what is meant by the biological basis for abundance, restoring programs, or developing new programs. There are too many questions. She said she supported having scientific data for healthy growth of our fish and game, but she didn't think this was the way to do it. She thought they needed to look at funding ADF&G to the point where they could manage our resources for everyone who has testified today and written to them over the years. SENATOR SHARP said he agreed with some of her statements, but disagreed that the ADF&G, now in excess of $95 million, has gone down. He thought the funding has been close to what the Governor has submitted to the legislature. He noted that the Division of Habitat has nothing to do with enhancing habitat. They are a permitting and regulation division. Number 559 SENATOR LEMAN moved to pass CSSCR 2(RES) from committee with individual recommendations. SENATOR LINCOLN objected. SENATORS LEMAN, SHARP, TORGERSON, AND GREEN voted yea ; SENATOR LINCOLN vot no; and the motion passed. VICE CHAIRMAN GREEN adjourned the meeting at 4:35 p.m.