Legislature(1999 - 2000)
03/29/2000 02:00 PM FIN
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HOUSE BILL NO. 349 "An Act relating to powers of the Board of Game, means of access for hunting, trapping, and fishing, the definition of 'means' and 'methods,' and hunting safety education and game conservation education programs; relating to the purposes of game refuges, fish and game critical habitat areas, and public use areas." EDDIE GRASSER, STAFF, REPRESENTATIVE MASEK spoke in support of HB 349. He observed that HB 349 was introduced as a result of Representative Masek's discussion with long time Alaskans who have witnessed the steady erosion of hunting and trapping opportunities throughout the state. He maintained that since statehood, millions of acres of land have been closed to hunting and trapping, and millions more restricted from being managed under the sustained yield principle due to federal management prerogatives. Mr. Grasser observed that HB 349 does not require any other uses to be restricted or in any way infringed upon. He asserted that the legislation would protect hunting, fishing and trapping on lands belonging to the state as a legitimate use of fish and wildlife. He observed that federal legislation clarifying hunting, fishing and trapping as legitimate uses on National Wildlife Refuge Lands was passed and explained that HB 349 would do the same thing on state refuges, state wildlife ranges, critical habitat areas and public use areas. Mr. Grasser reviewed the legislation by section: Section one and two amends AS 16.05.221 and 16.05.255 by adding the term enhancement to current statute. By doing so it is hoped past efforts of the Legislature to make clear the desire to manage for sustained yield is followed. Currently the Board of Game has attempted to follow the Legislature's policies on sustained yield only to be thwarted by administrative problems. By adding the term enhancement we hope to make Clear that wildlife populations should be managed for the benefit of all Alaskans, not just those who for personal reasons oppose legitimate human uses of those common property resources. Section three creates new language clarifying the Boards authority to close areas to access. (TAPE CHANGE, HFC 00 - 89, SIDE 1) Mr. Grasser continued with his sectional analysis of the legislation: The board may continue to close areas to certain methods and means for a variety of reasons without any legislative oversight. However, in cases where a biological concern is not addressed, the Board is required to adhere to advisory committee oversight in that an AC with jurisdiction in the affected GMU may object in writing. This language will protect fishers, hunters and trappers from unnecessary closures in their area by giving them more of a voice in the process through their local advisory committees. We would like to note that each GMU currently has a listing of AC's with jurisdiction under 5 AAC 97.005 For instance, GMU 13 includes the following AC's -Paxson, Copper Basin, Middle Nenana, Tok Cutoff/Nabesna, Denali, Anchorage, Mat Valley, Copper River/Prince William Sound. Section 4 - Defines means and methods. Example of need is meat on bone. Section 5 - Amends language relating to state refuges to ensure hunting, fishing and trapping are protected uses. Section 6 - page 4, line 6. Amends language relating to critical habitat areas to insure hunting, fishing and trapping are protected uses. Also the new language "and traditional uses of fish and wildlife" may have the desired effect of helping the Division of Habitat exclude troublesome new uses that may have a damaging affect on an area. Sections 7,8 & 9 - Pages 4 & 5. Section 7 has been amended to clarify that it is clear the Dept. may continue providing hunter education but also should cooperate with other groups who are interested to providing those services as long as they meet state standards. Section 8 was amended to clarify that the Dept. should assist nonprofits who are supportive of hunting, fishing and trapping in developing shooting ranges and associated educational programs. Section 9 was amended to delineate that nonprofits supportive of hunting, fishing and trapping may receive grants to provide for hunter safety training and wildlife conservation education training. Sections 10 - 15. These sections were amended to further protect hunting, fishing and trapping as legitimate uses on Public Use lands. With these changes, Representative Masek feels this legislation meets the needs of both those Alaskans whose cultural heritage is being jeopardized by an increasingly urbanized society. The reasons for this legislation should be apparent to most Alaskans supportive of traditional Alaskan values. As further evidence that traditional uses of wildlife to feed one's family need this extra consideration, we would like to point out a couple of items. First, there appears to be a growing sentiment in the environmental community that their views and their economic well being deserves the highest level of protection. Environmentalists and their supporters rarely acknowledge the lands that have already been set aside for their exclusive use; there are no lands set aside for hunting, fishing and trapping. It is not enough that viewing, photography and other non- consumptive uses have huge areas of Alaska already set aside; they would like more areas set aside. He noted that under the game regulations viewing is the first priority in almost every instance on every species, by virtue of limits on hunting, fishing bag limits and seasons. He noted that on unit 9, which is a prime bear hunting area, hunting is only allowed every other year. Mr. Grasser asked: "In short, where is the equity, or the balance in further attacks on legitimate human uses of wildlife when we have already done so much to give a priority to nonconsumptive uses?" Mr. Grasser conclude by stating that: HB 349 provides a solution to a flagging question. "Are we going to allow further attacks on the Alaskan Way of Life, the way of life that many of you in this room grew up with?" By providing protection for those cultural and spiritual values associated with ancient uses of wildlife by Native and non-natives alike we will insure that the diversity of Alaska's peoples continues. In response to a comment by Representative Foster, Mr. Grasser observed that he found numerous sites on the Internet that attack hunting, fishing and trapping. The concern is that there is a movement in society to move away from the traditional uses of wildlife. He noted that federal legislation was passed to protect hunting, fishing and trapping on federal land and added that the legislation would do the same on state lands. He acknowledged that there might be amendments but emphasized that the goal is to assure some protections for consumption uses. Representative Austerman referred to section 6. Mr. Grasser explained that the language on section 6, line 9 "and traditional uses of fish and wildlife in the critical habitat area" would provide statutory authority to regulate or restrict the use of jet skis in Katchemak Bay. Representative Austerman felt that the language "and to restrict all other uses not compatible with that primary purpose" would do the job. Mr. Grasser explained that newer uses like jet skis would not fall under the traditional use category. MATT ROBUS, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, WILDLIFE CONSERVATION, DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND GAME testified on HB 349. He expressed concerns by the department. He noted that several of the issues that were identified in testimony before other committees have been resolved. For example, reinsertion of the word "development" in Section 1 emphasizes the importance of human utilization as a resource use. Mr. Robus noted that there are still several areas of concern to the department. Section 3 of the bill would limit the Board of Game's authority to restrict the means of access for the purpose of taking fish or game. Access restrictions could be authorized only in the six specific ways outlined in this section. Management of access is and has been one of the most useful tools available to the Board of Game for reducing conflicts between user groups while still allowing maximum opportunity to harvest wildlife populations. Without the ability to craft appropriate mixtures of access methods and timing, the Board will be faced with the need to shorten hunts and reduce bag limits in order to scale back harvests that would climb in some areas due to unrestricted access. Changes made to the bill have done away with several of the problems that were originally identified in this section by simplifying the process by which advisory committees would be involved in access issues considered by the Board and grandfathering existing access rules where they are in effect. However, according to the department's interpretation, the current version would allow a single fish and game advisory committee to veto an access-related proposal. He acknowledged that there are few wildlife management measures that are universally beloved and stated that it is unwise to instill this degree of power in a single advisory committee. He maintained that one committee could prevent an access rule that had general support within the region and across the state. In response to a question by Representative J. Davies, Mr. Robus expressed concern is in regards to subsection 2, on page 3, lines 6 - 9. Mr. Robus continued review of the legislation. Section 4 of the bill would define "methods and means" in statute to mean "tools, implements, devices, or vehicles" used to take fish or game. Methods and means are not currently defined in either statute or regulation, but an entire section of the fish and game regulations deal with methods and means. This section addresses issues such as shooting off of highways, definition of bait, prohibiting the use of poison, wanton waste, same day airborne restrictions, and many other rules that are necessary for good wildlife management. The way the bill is structured it would limit the use of methods and means only to tools, implements, and vehicles. All other methods and means regulations would conflict with the statute and would probably go away. He emphasized that the section would need to be changed if it is not the intent to delete regulations that are currently being used. Co-Chair Mulder questioned if some of the examples given would be included as a tool or device. Mr. Robus observed that "tools, implements, devices, or vehicles" are concrete items and explained that the concern is that the definition could restrict the regulation of things that are not tools. He explained that if methods and means are defined in a narrow fashion that the ability to regulate other things could be lost. Items of concern include wanton waste, definition of bait, same day airborne restrictions, prohibiting the use of poison, or shooting off or across of highways. Mr. Robus noted that section 5 expands the purposes for state game refuges to include enhancement of fish and game, fish and game habitat, and traditional public uses of fish and game. The department's concern is that section 5 makes public recreational use coequal to protection of habitat and wildlife. He explained that there could be a situation such as in Potter's Marsh where the department might not be able to prohibit kayaking in the springtime when it would displace birds that are trying to establish nests. The value of the refuge as bird habitat would be effected by the prominence of protecting human use. He explained that the Department of Fish and Game has managed refuges and other special areas to primarily protect habitat and to promote use of the habitat by animals and to then manage it as a multiple use human area to the extent that human use fits with the original purpose of the refuge. He felt that conflict and degradation of the purpose of the refuge would result. Section 7 of the bill addresses the department's authority for hunter education and wildlife conservation education programs. The change made to subsection (2) in this version answered earlier concerns expressed by the department. Mr. Robus pointed out that the department would take a broad interpretation of the term "wildlife conservation education program." He noted that there are other areas such as Potter's Marsh where the department is working with private non-profits and other agencies to establish a visitor center. The department feels that this would be part of a wildlife conservation program and should be included. Co-Chair Mulder questioned if there have been objections. Mr. Robus stated that the motivation is to make sure that the understanding is clear. SUE SCHRADER, ALASKA CONSERVATION ALLIANCE, JUNEAU stated that the Alliance was pleased that the term "development" was added back into the bill. She noted that they continue to have problems with the inclusion of "enhancement" in sections 1 and 2. She estimated that the changes would increase conflict (between the user groups). Ms. Schrader stated that the Alliance has concern with language in section 3 that would make it more difficult to regulate access. She spoke in opposition to removing authority from the Board of Game and biologists of the Department of Fish and Game to deal with access issues, by allowing advisory committees veto power over regulations on access. Ms. Schrader noted that section 5 is a major area of concern. She maintained conflict will arise over placing hunting and trapping interests at the same level as protection of the habitat and wildlife in refuges such as: Creamers Field, McNeil River, Anchorage Coastal, and Mendenhall Wetlands. She stressed that the legislation is confusing and emphasized that it is not going to help with the debate over hunting and trapping. CAROL CARROLL, DIRECTOR, DIVISION OF SUPPORT SERVICES, DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES addressed sections 10 - 19. She noted that the Department of Natural Resources manages the public use areas. The Department of Natural Resources considers public use areas as multiple-use areas. She noted that public use areas are open to oil and gas leasing, mining, and other types of development. In the past the department has paid attention to the habitat, as required by statute. She expressed concerns that the bill would make public use areas more like refuges. The department would have additional authority to develop, preserve and protect fish and the wildlife that use the habitat. She emphasized that this would be outside of the normal purview of the Department of Fish and Game. She felt that the balance would be upset toward creating more of a refuge for fish and game within a habitat. DICK BISHOP, ALASKA OUTDOOR COUNCIL spoke in support of the legislation. He agreed with the emphasis on protecting the traditional means of access and traditional uses of fish and wildlife in state special use areas. He maintained that preserving fish and wildlife habitat in state public use areas institutionalizes a purpose that many thought was already there. He asserted that the bill does not reduce the multiple use opportunities in public use areas. He noted that they would still be open to development. He spoke in support of the broadening of the Department of Fish and Game's contact and support of private organizations dedicated to perpetuating traditional fishing, hunting and trapping uses of fish and wildlife. These pursuits are basic to the values of rural and urban Alaskans that rely on and enjoy participating in Alaska's ecosystems as consumptive users. Mr. Bishop stated that he had some concern with language on page 4, lines 2 and 3: general public recreation on refuges. He questioned the addition of the language as part of the purpose of the refuge. He recommended that the language be deleted and added that it goes beyond the recreational opportunities associated with fish and wildlife refuges. Representative J. Davies referenced section 5, which defines the purposes of the wildlife refuges. He asked for Mr. Bishop's understanding of the inclusion of "enhance". He noted that the general concept of wildlife refuge is a place that is a preserve, in as close a way as possible, as a natural habitat. He questioned what is meant by: "enhancing a natural habitat". Mr. Bishop responded that there is nothing in the national or state refuge system that suggests or implies that it needs to be maintained in the status quo. He asserted that there are active efforts to enhance habitat on many refuges. He noted that there have been controlled burns on Creamers Field refuge. An enhancement would be to improve the habitat conditions to the benefit of the fish and wildlife species that normally reside there. Representative J. Davies asked specifically about predator control. Mr. Bishop stated that predator control would not be included under sections 1 or 2. Predator control is a management technique that might apply under some circumstances, but would not be considered as a traditional use. Representative Phillips referred to section 4, page 3, line 23. She expressed concerns about the elimination of management tools by the Department of Fish and Game. Mr. Bishop acknowledged that it is a legitimate concern that those types of regulations not be lost. He felt that it was only a matter of labeling. Representative Phillips pointed out that the word "tools" could be interpreted to mean many different things. She maintained that it is a dangerous thing to use "tools" if other concepts are not included. Mr. Bishop maintained that the matter could be addressed by including the kinds of regulations that Mr. Robus discussed under a different label of methods and means. Co-Chair Mulder expressed concern if the statutory language would led disputes to court. Mr. Bishop stressed that the regulations should be sufficiently clear to avoid problems. Representative Austerman commented that true Alaskans, understand that the habitat must be protected or there is no resource. He referred to section 5. He expressed concern that the protection of traditional public use would be brought to the same plane as protection of habitat. He suggested that other traditional uses should be one step beneath the protection of the habitat. Mr. Bishop responded that there would be two ways to look at the issue. It could be looked at in relationship to the order of the purposes: the order in which the purposes are listed. The first listed purpose would be the most important. He maintained that logical administration of the law would follow that public uses could not be protected if the habitat and resource are not protected. Vice Chair Bunde noted that he shared the concern voiced by Ms. Schrader regarding increasing the volatility between hunter and non-hunter. Mr. Bishop acknowledged the concern. He stated that in most cases when hunters, trappers and fishermen have tried to reduce the level of controversy through compromising some of their interest that they have lost their interest and have been asked to give up more. He maintained that it is important for hunters, trappers and fishers to assert their rights, to assert the ecological correctness of their pursuits. In the context of other legislation it is important that the resources be managed on the sustained yield principle. He stressed that consumptive use is part of the sustained yield principle. He concluded that the pursuits of hunting, fishing, and trapping are protected and recognized as the foundation for the management of natural resources on the sustained yield principle. Resources can be conserved and used into perpetuity. It is essential for public officials to state that (hunting, fishing and trapping) are legitimate uses and should be accommodated and protected with other uses. Vice Chair Bunde stated that it comes down to issues of power and control. Mr. Bishop responded that it is implicit that "you can not have the use unless you have taken care of the resource". Representative Austerman referred to section 6, page 4. He asked why the language was not included and asked how its deletion would affect the bill. (TAPE CHANGE, HFC 00 - 89, SIDE 2) Mr. Bishop stated that the language institutionalizes the concept that critical habitat areas are important to traditional uses of fish and wildlife, which includes fishing, hunting, trapping and viewing. He stressed that if the language was deleted that the impact would be to identify by omission that compared to the others items identified, critical habitat areas are not considered as important for traditional uses. He felt that such an interpretation would be illogical and inconsistent with the direction and purpose of the legislation in regards to other areas such as refuges. He concluded that deletion of the language would detract from the effectiveness of the legislation in terms of institutionalizing and recognizing the importance of fishing, hunting, trapping uses and diminish it's effectiveness. HB 349 was heard and HELD in Committee for further consideration.