Legislature(2009 - 2010)BETHEL

10/12/2009 01:00 PM House RESOURCES

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Audio Topic
01:15:10 PM Start
01:15:10 PM Current State of the Arctic/yukon/kuskokwim (ayk) Salmon Fisheries
04:50:30 PM HB227
05:09:41 PM Current State of the Arctic/yukon/kuskokwim (ayk) Salmon Fisheries
05:35:40 PM Energy Issues Including Transportation Corridor To/from Paimuit/kalskag
05:55:17 PM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Location: Bethel City Council Chambers,
Bethel City Hall, 300 Chief Eddie Hoffman
Highway, Bethel, AK
+ Current state of the Arctic/Yukon/ TELECONFERENCED
Kuskokwim (AYK) Salmon Fisheries
Informational hearing on HB 227 HOLITNA
Energy issues including transportation
corridor to/from Paimuit/Kalskag
-- Testimony <Invitation Only> --
Informational hearing on HB 227 HOLITNA BASIN RESERVE                                                                         
4:50:30 PM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR NEUMAN announced  that the next order of  business is an                                                               
informational   hearing  on   HOUSE   BILL  NO.   227,  "An   Act                                                               
establishing state  fish and game reserves;  creating the Holitna                                                               
River  Basin   Hunting,  Fishing,   and  Trapping   Reserve;  and                                                               
providing for an effective date."                                                                                               
CO-CHAIR  NEUMAN  turned  over   the  hearing  to  Representative                                                               
4:51:07 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  HERRON   explained  that  establishment   of  the                                                               
Holitna River  Basin Hunting, Fishing,  and Trapping  Reserve has                                                               
been proposed  by the  people in this  region for  several years,                                                               
and the legislature is now moving forward with it.                                                                              
4:52:13 PM                                                                                                                    
GREG ROCZICKA, Director,  Natural Resource Program, Orutsararmuit                                                               
Native Council, first noted that  Orutsararmuit Native Council is                                                               
the tribal  governing body in  Bethel.   He further noted  he has                                                               
been involved  in the front  lines of resource  management issues                                                               
at regional,  state, and international  levels for over  20 years                                                               
and he served  two terms on the Board of  Game, including serving                                                               
as chairman.   He said  the Holitna drainage has  been recognized                                                               
for its productive  values and contributions to  the Kuskokwim as                                                               
a whole.   It was  initially considered for protection  under the                                                               
Alaska  National Interest  Lands Conservation  Act (ANILCA)  as a                                                               
National Wildlife  Refuge or  Wild and Scenic  River, but  it did                                                               
not get included.                                                                                                               
MR.  ROCZICKA related  that area  residents have  been requesting                                                               
the Holitna  drainage be established  as a refuge since  the mid-                                                               
1980s.   It  is an  extremely productive  area of  Western Alaska                                                               
that  has provided  a large  diversity of  subsistence and  other                                                               
harvest  opportunity ever  since statehood.   It  is the  largest                                                               
drainage  feeding the  Kuskokwim watershed  and is  prime habitat                                                               
for moose, bear, caribou, and furbearers.   In addition, it is an                                                               
important rearing  and staging  area for  all species  of salmon,                                                               
including a unique species of  river spawning and rearing sockeye                                                               
not  found  in  any  other  area of  the  state.    Recent  radio                                                               
telemetry studies funded  by AYKSSI monies - which  have now been                                                               
decreased by 400 percent -  and the federal Office of Subsistence                                                               
Management found that one-third  of the Chinook Salmon, one-third                                                               
of the  Chum, two-thirds  of the Sockeye,  and one-fourth  of the                                                               
Coho running  the Kuskokwim  spawn in the  Holitna drainage.   He                                                               
pointed out  that the Kuskokwim  drainage provides 50  percent of                                                               
the  total  Chinook Salmon  subsistence  harvest  for the  entire                                                               
state of Alaska.                                                                                                                
MR. ROCZICKA  specified that the  Holitna is also unique  in that                                                               
its productive habitat encompasses a  wide area rather than being                                                               
confined  to a  relatively narrow  river corridor.   He  said the                                                               
Holitna drainage is what can be  called a breadbasket area.  This                                                               
concept could  be transferred to  other sub-regions of  the state                                                               
that  have similar  high quality  habitat  and productivity  that                                                               
would  qualify   them  for  an   elevated  level   of  management                                                               
protection.    He  cited  Game  Management  Unit  (GMU)  20E  and                                                               
portions of GMU 13 as examples of other breadbasket subregions.                                                                 
4:58:13 PM                                                                                                                    
MR. ROCZICKA reviewed what HB 227 does  not do.  He said it would                                                               
not preclude or  prevent any of the  activities currently allowed                                                               
on  state-managed lands.    It would  not  override any  existing                                                               
management  authorities of  affected  state management  agencies.                                                               
It   would  not   prevent  or   preclude  any   existing  access,                                                               
conditions, or  requirements.  It  would not change  any existing                                                               
hunting, fishing, or trapping regulations.                                                                                      
MR. ROCZICKA  pointed out that what  HB 227 will do  is create an                                                               
elevated  oversight  and  implementation  of  Alaska's  Intensive                                                               
Management  Law to  ensure maintenance  of these  activities into                                                               
the future  and prevent policy  and administrative  reluctance to                                                               
conduct  active management  such  as  predator control  programs.                                                               
The  legislation would  close the  loopholes that  animal welfare                                                               
organizations have used to stop  [predator control] programs.  It                                                               
would do this  by requiring the use of biological  science as the                                                               
burden of proof  rather than political science.   For example, he                                                               
said the  Holitna River  used to  be one  of the  most productive                                                               
areas in  the region  for moose  hunting and  was utilized  by 23                                                               
villages.  However,  in 2006, ten years after  [Ballot Measure 3]                                                               
shut  down the  [predator  control] programs  in  that area,  the                                                               
Holitna River was entirely closed to hunting.                                                                                   
5:01:26 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE HERRON stated that in  a meeting he had with them,                                                               
both the Alaska  Department of Fish & Game and  the Department of                                                               
Natural Resources (DNR) supported HB 227.                                                                                       
MR. ROCZICKA added  that in 2006 or 2007 a  proposal was in front                                                               
of  the  Board of  Game  to  make  the  Holitna a  separate  game                                                               
management  unit.   At that  same time,  initial legislation  was                                                               
drafted,   but  due   to  political   complications  from   other                                                               
legislation and  ballot initiatives it  did not go forward.   The                                                               
record from that time includes  formal statements of support from                                                               
the  Lower   Kuskokwim  Advisory  Committee,   Central  Kuskokwim                                                               
Advisory Committee,  Stony-Holitna Advisory  Committee, Anchorage                                                               
Advisory  Committee, Board  of Game,  and Kuskokwim  River Salmon                                                               
Management Working  Group.  He said  "Sleetmute and Orutsararmuit                                                               
Native Councils"  sponsored resolutions  at that time  which were                                                               
unanimously  supported  by  the Association  of  Village  Council                                                               
Presidents and  there was also  a letter of support  from Calista                                                               
5:02:51 PM                                                                                                                    
MR.  ROCZICKA  pointed  out  that  this  proposal  has  undergone                                                               
extensive public  and administrative  review and that  that input                                                               
has  been incorporated.   So  far it  has received  very positive                                                               
response,  most of  which has  been primarily  from the  wildlife                                                               
conservation side,  but state agencies cannot  officially support                                                               
it until  the administration  does.  Right  now, there  is formal                                                               
support  from the  Board of  Game.   The Board  of Fisheries  has                                                               
referred the  issue to its  habitat committee until such  time as                                                               
legislation  is actually  on the  table.   He will  speak to  the                                                               
Board of Fisheries tomorrow during its work session, he noted.                                                                  
5:04:37 PM                                                                                                                    
GRANT FAIRBANKS stated he has lived  on and worked on the Holitna                                                               
River for  36 years.   He said he has  worked, as well,  with the                                                               
Sleetmute  Traditional Council  for 36  years trying  to get  the                                                               
Holitna River the recognition it deserves.                                                                                      
MR. FAIRBANKS, in response to  Co-Chair Neuman, said the mouth of                                                               
the Holitna River  is located 250 miles upriver from  Bethel.  He                                                               
recalled that in 1978 or  1979 the Alaska National Interest Lands                                                               
Conservation  Act   (ANILCA)  included  the  Holitna   River  for                                                               
designation as a Wild and  Scenic River because studies showed it                                                               
was a very  unique part of the  United States.  At  that time the                                                               
State of  Alaska and  the federal  government were  battling over                                                               
ownership of  the Holitna River.   The state took  over ownership                                                               
and since  then the  Village of Sleetmute  and other  people have                                                               
been trying  to get the state  to recognize the Holitna  for what                                                               
it is and give  it the protection it needs.   He related that the                                                               
Holitna River is  a spawning area for all species  of salmon, and                                                               
that  one-third  to one-half  of  all  the  salmon spawn  in  the                                                               
MR.  FAIRBANKS added  that he  has  attended 11  hearings and  30                                                               
meetings over the  last 30-some years trying to  garner some type                                                               
of protection for  the Holitna River.   He thanked Representative                                                               
Herron for  sponsoring HB  227 and Mr.  Roczicka for  writing the                                                               
bill.   This is  not just about  salmon, he pointed  out.   It is                                                               
about  moose.   Many years  ago when  the state  was writing  the                                                               
Kuskokwim  Area Plan,  a gigantic  overlay was  taken to  all the                                                               
villages  in  this area.    Twenty-five  villages indicated  that                                                               
their  residents  hunted  moose  up the  Holitna.    He  recalled                                                               
counting boats  and moose  hunters in the  early 1980s  and cited                                                               
one hunting season in which there  were 600 moose hunters and 300                                                               
boats, and the  hunter success rate was 60 percent.   There is no                                                               
hunting there now,  he continued, but the stocks  are being built                                                               
back up.   This legislation  is about salmon,  moose, furbearers,                                                               
and all the animals up there.   He concluded, "We are just trying                                                               
to get  a bill passed that  will give it some  protection so that                                                               
people in the state of Alaska  will see that the highest and best                                                               
use  of that  area is  a  ... breadbasket;  it is  a place  where                                                               
people  can hunt  and fish  and  trap and  we need  some type  of                                                               
protection  for that  so  that we  can quit  going  to all  these                                                               
5:08:38 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  HERRON described  the  Kuskokwim-Holitna area  as                                                               
being a piece of  heaven.  He said he will  be requesting that HB
227 be scheduled  as early as possible in January  [2010] and the                                                               
House Special Committee on Fisheries  will be the first committee                                                               
of hearing  and the  House Resources  Standing Committee  will be                                                               
the second.                                                                                                                     

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