Legislature(2021 - 2022)BUTROVICH 205

02/15/2021 03:30 PM RESOURCES

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Audio Topic
03:31:22 PM Start
03:31:56 PM SB22
04:18:15 PM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Moved SB 22 Out of Committee
-- Invited & Public Testimony --
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
**Streamed live on AKL.tv**
                    ALASKA STATE LEGISLATURE                                                                                  
              SENATE RESOURCES STANDING COMMITTEE                                                                             
                       February 15, 2021                                                                                        
                           3:31 p.m.                                                                                            
MEMBERS PRESENT                                                                                                               
Senator Joshua Revak, Chair                                                                                                     
Senator Peter Micciche, Vice Chair                                                                                              
Senator Gary Stevens                                                                                                            
Senator Jesse Kiehl                                                                                                             
Senator Scott Kawasaki                                                                                                          
MEMBERS ABSENT                                                                                                                
Senator Click Bishop                                                                                                            
Senator Natasha von Imhof                                                                                                       
COMMITTEE CALENDAR                                                                                                            
SENATE BILL NO. 22                                                                                                              
"An Act repealing the termination date for the intensive                                                                        
management hunting license surcharge."                                                                                          
     - MOVED SB 22 OUT OF COMMITTEE                                                                                             
PREVIOUS COMMITTEE ACTION                                                                                                     
BILL: SB 22                                                                                                                   
SHORT TITLE: INTENSIVE MGMT SURCHARGE/REPEAL TERM DATE                                                                          
SPONSOR(s): SENATOR(s) REVAK                                                                                                    
01/22/21       (S)       PREFILE RELEASED 1/8/21                                                                                


01/22/21 (S) RES, FIN 02/12/21 (S) RES AT 3:30 PM BUTROVICH 205 02/12/21 (S) -- MEETING CANCELED -- 02/15/21 (S) RES AT 3:30 PM BUTROVICH 205 WITNESS REGISTER EMMA TORKELSON, Staff Senator Revak Alaska State Legislature Juneau, Alaska POSITION STATEMENT: Provided an overview of SB 22. DOUGLAS VINCENT-LANG, Commissioner Alaska Department of Fish and Game Anchorage, Alaska POSITION STATEMENT: Provided an overview and answered questions regarding SB 22. RONALD SOMERVILLE, representative Territorial Sportsmen Juneau, Alaska POSITION STATEMENT: Testified in support of SB 22. JOHN STURGEON, advocate Safari Club International-Alaska Chapter Anchorage, Alaska POSITION STATEMENT: Testified in support of SB 22. SAM ROHRER, President Alaska Professional Hunters Association Kodiak, Alaska POSITION STATEMENT: Testified in support of SB 22. MARK RICHARDS, Executive Director Resident Hunters of Alaska Fairbanks, Alaska POSITION STATEMENT: Testified in support of SB 22. ROD ARNO, Policy Director Alaska Outdoor Council Palmer, Alaska POSITION STATEMENT: Testified in support of SB 22. ACTION NARRATIVE 3:31:22 PM CHAIR JOSHUA REVAK called the Senate Resources Standing Committee meeting to order at 3:31 p.m. Present at the call to order were Senators Kawasaki, Kiehl, Stevens, and Chair Revak. SB 22-INTENSIVE MGMT SURCHARGE/REPEAL TERM DATE 3:31:56 PM CHAIR REVAK announced the consideration of SENATE BILL NO. 22, "An Act repealing the termination date for the intensive management hunting license surcharge." CHAIR REVAK noted some of the committee members heard the legislation during the previous session, but COVID-19 interrupted its progress. He said the committee plans to hear and move Senate Bill 22 (SB 22). 3:33:00 PM EMMA TORKELSON, Staff, Senator Revak, Alaska State Legislature, Juneau, Alaska, explained SB 22 is an act repealing the termination date of the intensive management hunting license surcharge. She said hunting is an essential part of many Alaskan's lives, but to maintain sustainable wildlife populations for future generations, careful management of these populations is necessary, which is where intensive management (IM) comes in. The moment caribou, moose, or deer population becomes at risk of falling below a sustainable level, the IM program identifies the root cause of the population decrease and then develops and implements a plan to rectify the issue. Most often the IM plans focus on research and management, but they can also include habitat enhancement. She noted prior to 2016, the IM program received funding via capital project appropriations, but since 2016 the program has received funding via a surcharge placed on several types of hunting license that federal grant money matchestrue subsistence hunters and senior hunters are exempt from paying this fee. She detailed when the bill initially passed, the surcharge included a sunset date that is set to expire soon, the bill before the committee repeals that sunset date to keep the successful program going into the future. Every year the surcharge brings in approximately $1 million in user funds that leverages another $3 million from the Pittman-Robertson (PR) match grant in federal money. She summarized the passage of SB 22 ensures that the IM program can be self-sustainable and user-funded into the future so it can continue to protect Alaska's wildlife populations and promote food security across the state. CHAIR REVAK invited Commissioner Vincent-Lang to address the committee. 3:35:36 PM DOUGLAS VINCENT-LANG, Commissioner, Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Anchorage, Alaska, detailed the Alaska Legislature recognized the importance of wild game meat to Alaskans as a food source, and consistent with Article VIII, Section 4 of the Alaska Constitution, passed the Intensive Management (IM) Law in 1994; this law requires the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) and the Alaska Board of Game to identify moose, caribou, and deer populations that are especially important food sources and to ensure that the populations remain large enough to provide food security for Alaskans through an adequate sustained harvest. He said recognizing the potential for federal interference in state IM programs, the department funded its IM program under the IM law from a series of capital projects. However, as the department expended capital funds and new funds were not allocated, hunters became concerned about the future of IM in Alaska. He noted because of the success of the state IM programs and increasing ungulateprincipally caribou and moosepopulations on state land, hunters requested the addition of an IM surcharge to their licenses. The hunters made their request to ensure that dedicated funds were available for assessing and conducting IM activities, especially given the reluctance of federal managers to conduct IM on their lands or using federal funds to conduct IM. He detailed the legislature added an IM surcharge to hunting licenses in 2016. The department has collected surcharges since January 1, 2017 and used the funds to fulfill its obligations under the state's IM law. IM programs that enhance habitat or manage predators are a core element of game management on state lands. He emphasized IM programs also include habitat enhancement in addition to predator control. The department has done several habitat enhancement projects across Alaska aimed at improving ungulate numbers. He noted in addition to reliable funding, careful planning is essential to ensuring the state's IM programs are both effective and defendable. IM protocol guides all IM programs to ensure decisions are based on the best available science. IM allows the department to put food on the table of Alaskansone of his priorities as commissionerand is essential to meeting subsistence needsthe department's first priority. COMMISSIONER VINCENT-LANG asked the committee to consider the success the department has had in meeting the food needs of Alaskans via the Fortymile caribou herd; this herdrestored through IM effortsput over $2.6 million of healthy meat in the freezers of Alaskans. He added the IM surcharge funds also ensures the department can implement the state's IM law without interference from federal oversight. He pointed out two thirds of Alaskan lands are federal and are off limits to IM activities as the federal government manages for natural diversity and not human use, despite a rural subsistence priority. There is no assurance one can feed one's family under a natural diversity objective. 3:36:24 PM SENATOR MICCICHE joined the committee meeting. 3:38:59 PM COMMISSIONER VINCENT-LANG explained the legislation before the committee repeals the sunset of the IM surcharge. The IM proposal does not have any additional cost to the department. However, should the surcharge sunset, the department will see a significant decrease in its revenue to pay for IM and its ability to meet it obligations under the IM law. He detailed revenue from the IM surcharge totaled approximately $1 million in each of the last 3 calendar years with most funds used to match Pittman-Robertson (PR) dollars at a 1:3 ratio to conduct and defend the science the department uses to implement IM; that means absent of an appropriation for the match, the department could stand to lose nearly $4 million, hampering its ability to conduct IM activities. He said he urges the committee's support for SB 22, an important piece of legislation. CHAIR REVAK thanked the commissioner for his comments. SENATOR KIEHL noted the Division of Subsistence does a lot of research the department references in its materials. He asked him if the division receives any portion of the surcharge to help fund the division's activities that some of the research materials rely on. 3:40:35 PM COMMISSIONER VINCENT-LANG answered the department has not funded the actual collection of subsistence information using the surcharge. However, the department focuses on providing animals to meet the subsistence needs because the department is collecting the research information irrespective of whether an IM law is on the books, and funds come from other sources. COMMISSIONER VINCENT-LANG added once the department has determined [amounts reasonably necessary for subsistence] (ANS) for each of the department's hunts across Alaska, the department then looks at whether there are defined-problem cases with the IM law, then the department deals with it though the collected IM funds to provide food on the landscape for those subsistence hunters. SENATOR KIEHL noted the commissioner considered the [Fortymile caribou herd] as a successful IM program. He said he thinks the Alaska Peninsula caribou herd is another IM success. He said the IM system has been going on for a while. He asked him to highlight some of the lessons the department has learned from less successful IM programs and how the department is avoiding those problems in its current programs. COMMISSIONER VINCENT-LANG detailed he has been involved with IM since its protocol development when the law passed. He said one of the things he has learned is not to underestimate the necessity for local support in the IM programs because too often the IM requirement relies solely on the department. However, a successful IM program must have community engagementthe department's most successful programs had community-level engagements. 3:42:58 PM SENATOR STEVENS noted habitat enhancement is a fairly small bit of the overall spending from the IM programsomething that seems really important. He asked him what has the department used the money for in habitat enhancement and what are its future plans for that money. COMMISSIONER VINCENT-LANG answered when the IM law first passed, the department focused on predation control. However, the second critical equal element towards improving ungulate numbers on the landscape is habitat. He noted habitat can degrade over timelargely due to the desire to not let fires burn on the landscape. One of the things the department has focused on is trying to find areas where fire can occur for landscape restoration. However, a lot of people do not like smoke around Fairbanks, Anchorage, or getting into villagesthe department certainly does not want cabins to burn down. COMMISSIONER VINCENT-LANG said one of the things the department did last year in the Kenai Peninsula was to look at building firebreaks. The firebreaks allow for controlling naturally caused fires to protect community health and hopefully restore habitat for moose and caribou to thrive. The federal government is not excited about killing predators on their lands. However, the department has found ways to deal with firebreaks and habitat manipulation with its federal partners. He noted the department is looking at different opportunities in the Alphabet Hillsthat have some fires thereto improve habitat. Also, a patchwork of landownership requires cooperation to look at habitat manipulation for the Mulchatna caribou herd which is dismally downwhere just predator removal will not solve that. 3:45:26 PM SENATOR KAWASAKI asked him if the capital and general fund spending prior to FY2018 [for the IM program] was roughly equal to $1 million. COMMISSIONER VINCENT-LANG answered yes. He detailed about 8 years ago there was a capital project for about $4 million that the department could spend over 4 yearsapproximately $1 million a year. SENATOR KAWASAKI asked him the following questions: • When the [surcharge] first started three or four years, was the idea to capture the existing PR funds? • Does the State anticipate the same level of support for PR funds coming from the federal government in the future? • Is the State leaving dollars on the table by not supporting a higher surcharge to capture the federal funds that are not in the current capital or operation budgets? COMMISSIONER VINCENT-LANG noted he was involved in the effort as a private citizen to get the surcharge in place. He said he thinks there were two rationales that the private sector was look at. One was to use PR funds to match surcharge funds to conduct the science that must go into making sure the predator control programs are effective and defendable. However, the intent was not to tie federal funding to actual predator removal and federal thoughts on that process. COMMISSIONER VINCENT-LANG explained there was a desireat least from the public's point of viewto have a pot of money to do the actual predator removal using state license dollars and have enough money for the science with PR matching funds. He said, "I think we have done a pretty good job over time on that match." 3:47:57 PM SENATOR KAWASAKI noted there was a rush during the Obama administration to buy firearms and ammunition. He asked him if he anticipates another rush for purchasing firearms and ammunition which would increase the size of the PR fund at the federal and state levels. COMMISSIONER VINCENT-LANG noted he went to a local sporting goods store to buy .30-06 shells and could not find them. He said he thinks a rush is starting to buy ammunition and guns, and suspects that the PR fund will increase againespecially with increased talks for potential gun regulation. SENATOR KIEHL remarked the increase [in purchasing ammunition and guns] has been since October, at least. He said since the bill would eliminate a sunset date, he looked at the department's website and noted several programs that had either ended, gone inactive, or have been active for a very long time. He asked him what the department's decision-making process is for those programs. 3:49:41 PM COMMISSIONER VINCENT-LANG noted the Alaska Board of Game's adoption of IM targets across the state is not in regulation for various caribou, moose, and deer population. When the department is not meeting its IM targets, the department has a statutory obligation to report back to the Board of Game about why the department thinks it is not meeting those targets. The department conducts an assessment as whether it believes its limiting factor to meet the Board of Game targets are habitat limited, predator limited, or other factors. He stated if the factors for not meeting targets is predator or habitat limited, the department comes back with a plan to the Board of Game to address what the department thinks is necessary to get ungulate populations up to its harvest objectives that the board specifies. The department has an obligation every year to report back to the Board of Game as to how well it is doing towards an adopted IM plan. COMMISSIONER VINCENT-LANG noted some casesfor instance the Mulchatna caribou herdthe department has an IM plan in place. The department was conducting IM on the landscape for wolves, but in some respects the department is unsuccessful in some programs simply because the amount of state land versus the amount of federal land, the department is not making the difference alone with that. The department goes back and reevaluates whether habitat improvement could be a mechanism to start touching some of those federal lands. He pointed out programs turn on and off based on whether the department is meeting its population and harvest objectives, but secondarily if the department can fulfill its IM plan. He said if the department cannot [fulfill its IM plan], the department turns the program off because, "Why should the department spend money on it?" 3:51:44 PM SENATOR KIEHL asked him if the bill passes and hypothetically things go great and the department hits its management targets in the vast majority of areas in the state, does he have the ability to switch off the surcharge and if so, what happens to the money. COMMISSIONER VINCENT-LANG answered he does not see the surcharge going away simply because the IM statute is there. If the legislature repeals the IM statute and the foundation for it, then he agrees that there is very little need for the IM surcharge. However, the IM law is in the booksit is kind of an unfunded mandate to the department to fulfill its obligations under that statuteand the surcharge helps the department fulfill its mandate under the IM law. SENATOR KIEHL referenced the rosy scenario he previously painted for the commissioner and asked him to explain the department's requirement for the [surcharge] money at that point if the department does not have predator removal or habitat manipulation costs, he said, "Then we are talking about, if memory serves, eight to nine percent of the wildlife conservation's fund source." 3:53:37 PM COMMISSIONER VINCENT-LANG answered he is not seeing that rosy picture within the next decade and a half. He said he sees a growing population, an increased demand for ungulates on state land, and an increased desire by the state's federal partners to not manage for need on the landscape. COMMISSIONER VINCENT-LANG added he does not believe the State is going to be able to meet the [ungulate] demand without some type of active management program. He said he sees the necessity of having the [management program] tool in the toolbox, but without money the tool is useless. He noted he watches the program carefully. He added he thinks the department has the safeguards in place to ensure the program is employed in a scientific and discretionary manner. He summarized from what he has seen over his two-and-a-half- decade involvement in wildlife that [management programs] work and is something he supports to put food on Alaskans' tables while meeting the state's subsistence needs in rural Alaska. SENATOR MICCICHE noted he talked earlier about the increased willingness for the refuge and federal land managers to work towards solutions, particularly in the wildland that is more adjacent to populated areas like on the Kenai Peninsula. He added when the commissioner talked about potential growing demand, he does not think that is going to happen overnight. He asked him if demand does occur, have the [management plans] been active enoughlike controlled burnsto not only reduce the threat to communities, but to create more habitat. He explained he asked the question because he has been in those conversations and said, "Things that were not only a no but a hell no a few years back have become things that seem possible today." 3:56:12 PM COMMISSIONER VINCENT-LANG answered he is more optimistic than he was in the past. He noted the Kenai Peninsula has some fire burning because they recognized [fires] got out of control and they now need some firebreaks. When dealing with diversity mandates that means letting nature run its course, which means having fires with the realization for having some controls around those fires. He said he is optimistic that the [state] is moving towards a commonality in management regimes that hopefully results in increased moose numbers on the Kenai Peninsula that goes into people's freezers. He referenced the demand comments and noted how amazed he is in Alaskans' desire to put meat in their freezers based on what happened at the Fortymile hunt this year. The Fortymile hunt clearly showed a pent-up demand for Alaskans to put food in their freezers. SENATOR MICCICHE stated he would not have supported removing a termination date in 2016, and he would not have supported the legislation without the legislature's ability to experiment with the functionality of the program and how successful it could be. However, with four years he is very comfortable moving SB 22 at this point. He noted in 2016 he was concerned with not providing the department with a certain level of funding and what its outcome would look like. However, he is no longer concerned and thinks the program is positive and needs to go forward. CHAIR REVAK explained he brought SB 22 forward for many of the reasons [Senator Micciche] addressed. He added now is not the time to leave federal dollars on the table. The [IM program] definitely fills a gap. 3:59:04 PM CHAIR REVAK opened public testimony. [A technical difficulty occurred with public testimony.] 4:01:32 PM At ease 4:01:45 PM CHAIR REVAK called the committee back to order. 4:02:00 PM RONALD SOMERVILLE, representative, Territorial Sportsmen, Juneau, Alaska, testified in support of SB 22. He noted Senator Kiehl asked him to present the organization's commentson SB 150 [from the previous legislative session]which mirrors SB 22. He said Territorial Sportsmen supports SB 22 for a variety of reasons. One reasonillustrated by the commissioneris the program requires funding to keep meeting the responsibility dictated in the IM law. He detailed his background as follows: • 24 years with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game o Deputy Commissioner o Director of Wildlife • Served on the Board of Game for six years MR. SOMERVILLE noted the new IM program started while he served on the Board of Game, the program that is still in effect today. The board stressed the need for funds continually through the process to determine if predator control or predator management is necessary, to look at other alternatives, and to determine whether they were successful. He addressed the question posed earlier in the committee meeting on what happens if the program needs money if everything is okay. He explained constant populations monitoringespecially extreme deer and moose drops due to weather conditionsrequires constant funding to provideif neededa recovery process and plan. 4:04:14 PM JOHN STURGEON, advocate, Safari Club International-Alaska Chapter, Anchorage, Alaska, testified in support of SB 22. He stated wild food sources such as moose and caribou are extremely important for Alaskans40 percent for rural Alaska and is becoming an important organic and heathy protein source for urban Alaskans. He said, "You cannot beat the wild game for being healthy and organic." He noted the IM program has proven to be a very good way to increase game numbers for use as food sources for both urban and rural Alaskans. Also, with the fiscal short falls facing Alaskans, whenever possible, user groups should pay their own way; the funds generated from hunting license surcharges does exactly that and is a small price to pay for proper management of Alaska's wildlife. 4:06:00 PM SAM ROHRER, President, Alaska Professional Hunters Association, Kodiak, Alaska, testified in support of SB 22. He said IM is a critical management tool for putting food on the table of Alaskans and designed to prevent ungulate populations from decliningsuch as a disequilibrium with predator populationsand cannot provide a harvestable surplus. He stated the Alaska Professional Hunters Association (APHA) believes that wildlife managers need the tools that IM provides to monitor and potentially adjust the ratios of predator to prey. Meeting human needsmost critically subsistence needswill not occur without those tools. IM programs require extensive and exhaustive population assessments as well as analysis of the factors leading up to the severe ungulate population declines efforts that cost money. MR. ROHRER noted APHA was part of the 2015 collation that rallied behind State Representative Dave Talerico's legislation that raised hunting licenses and tag fees; that legislation, in addition to doubling non-resident fees, created a revenue stream to fund IM. The IM surcharge started out as an experiment but now it has become a critical revenue stream to support healthy and productive ungulate populations statewide. He said APHA supports the current IM surcharge of $10 for residents and $30 for nonresidents, and the removal of the sunset clause offered in SB 22. 4:08:15 PM MARK RICHARDS, Executive Director, Resident Hunters of Alaska, Fairbanks, Alaska, testified in support of SB 22. He said he agrees with the commissioner that if the IM statute is still law, the law requires the Board of Game to implement IM programs under certain conditions. He said Resident Hunters of Alaska (RHAK) understands that some may not agree with predator control programs overall, but the design of the programs help put food on the tables of Alaskans and RHAK certainly supports that. He addressed not having a termination date and noted the legislature has given the Board of Game authority to exempt such things as brown bear tags to residents. He suggested if the termination date came up later, the legislature may consider providing the board with the authority to exempt the surcharge if the department no longer needs it. He agreed with Senator Kiehl on limited ammunition supplies. He said the State needs to use the additional PR funds and the IM program is a prime way to use those funds. 4:10:18 PM ROD ARNO, Policy Director, Alaska Outdoor Council, Palmer, Alaska, testified in support of SB 22, and to move the bill through the legislature so there is no lapse in funding. The council worked on the IM statute in the 1990swhen food security was not a buzz wordand SB 22 tries to make sure that the people who benefit from it continue to help putting into it. MR. ARNO thanked Senator Micciche for addressing a safeguard for the surcharge to prove itself out. He added the surcharge has received the support of the people who are paying the surcharge money. He said a good thing to think aboutas Senator Micciche saidis taking care of rural subsistence needs. He added low-income licenses have increased in rural and urban Alaska, they do not pay the surcharge, but they benefit from it. He noted low-income urban hunters can only hunt in areas close to town that are road connected, that is where the conflicts are, but those areas need harvestable surpluses to take care of all Alaskans equally. He commended the committee members for their knowledge about what the IM statute was supposed to be and for asking the department to speak to the fire. CHAIR REVAK thanked the testifiers, noting several of the organizations have been instrumental to the State of Alaska through their hard work. 4:14:21 PM CHAIR REVAK closed public testimony. He noted last year the legislation in its current form made it through the Senate unanimously. 4:14:45 PM SENATOR MICCICHE moved to report SB 22, version 32-LS0208\A out of committee with the accompanying fiscal note and committee recommendations. 4:14:59 PM CHAIR REVAK announced seeing no objection, SB 22, version 32- LS0208\A, moves from the committee. 4:15:17 PM At ease 4:17:45 PM CHAIR REVAK called the committee back to order. 4:18:15 PM There being no further business to come before the committee, Chair Revak adjourned the Senate Resources Standing Committee meeting at 4:18 p.m.

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
SB 22 Sponsor Statement 2-12-21.pdf HRES 3/24/2021 1:00:00 PM
HRES 3/26/2021 1:00:00 PM
SFIN 3/2/2021 9:00:00 AM
SRES 2/15/2021 3:30:00 PM
SB 22
SB 22 ADFG Letter of Support 2.9.21.pdf SRES 2/15/2021 3:30:00 PM
SB 22
SB 22 APHA Letter of Support 2.4.21.pdf SFIN 3/2/2021 9:00:00 AM
SRES 2/15/2021 3:30:00 PM
SB 22
SB 22 DWC IM Activities and Spending FY18-FY20 Support 2.10.21.pdf HRES 3/24/2021 1:00:00 PM
HRES 3/26/2021 1:00:00 PM
SFIN 3/2/2021 9:00:00 AM
SRES 2/15/2021 3:30:00 PM
SB 22
SB 22 RHAK Letter of Support 1.27.21.pdf SFIN 3/2/2021 9:00:00 AM
SRES 2/15/2021 3:30:00 PM
SB 22
SB 22 Fiscal Note DF&G WLC.pdf SRES 2/15/2021 3:30:00 PM
SB 22
SB22 DF&G IM Info Sheet Support 2.5.21.pdf HRES 3/24/2021 1:00:00 PM
HRES 3/26/2021 1:00:00 PM
SFIN 3/2/2021 9:00:00 AM
SRES 2/15/2021 3:30:00 PM
SB 22
SB 22 DF&G Hunting License Surcharge Revenue 1.21.21.pdf HRES 3/26/2021 1:00:00 PM
SRES 2/15/2021 3:30:00 PM
SB 22
SB 22 FAC Support letter 2.12.21.pdf SRES 2/15/2021 3:30:00 PM
SB 22
SB22 SCI Support Letter 2.15.21.pdf SRES 2/15/2021 3:30:00 PM
SB 22