Legislature(2003 - 2004)

03/17/2004 03:42 PM RES

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
           SB 297-BEAR HUNTING/DISPOSAL OF HIDE/SKULL                                                                       
CHAIR SCOTT OGAN announced SB 297 to be up for consideration.                                                                   
MR. BRIAN HOVE, staff to Senator Ralph Seekins, sponsor of SB
297, explained the bill.                                                                                                        
     There  is  no  shortage  of black  or  brown  bears  in                                                                    
     Alaska. Here  they are  not threatened  nor endangered.                                                                    
     In  some game  management units,  the bear  populations                                                                    
     are  many  multiples   of  the  established  population                                                                    
     objectives.  The Alaska  Department  of  Fish and  Game                                                                    
     estimates statewide  black bear populations as  high as                                                                    
     200,000 and  brown bear populations as  high as 35,000.                                                                    
     In certain game management  units, estimates range from                                                                    
     70  to 90  percent of  all  the moose  calves are  dead                                                                    
     before  they reach  two  months of  age  due, in  large                                                                    
     part,  to   bear  overpopulation.  As  a   result,  all                                                                    
     recruitment  is  virtually  zero and  the  reproductive                                                                    
     base populations are crashing.                                                                                             
     The well-publicized 2003  McGrath relocation experiment                                                                    
     clearly   demonstrated  that   a   reduction  in   bear                                                                    
     populations has a direct  positive effect on increasing                                                                    
     calf  survivability and  thus the  long-term health  of                                                                    
     the resource.  But relocation efforts do  not solve the                                                                    
     underlying problem.                                                                                                        
     SB 297  addressed Alaska's bear  overpopulation problem                                                                    
     in  those  places  called  intensive  management  areas                                                                    
     where the  Board of  Game has  one: first  - determined                                                                    
     that consumptive  use of the  big game population  is a                                                                    
     preferred  use;  two  -  depletion   of  the  big  game                                                                    
     population   has  occurred   and   may   result  in   a                                                                    
     significant  reduction in  the allowable  human harvest                                                                    
     population;  and three  - enhancement  of abundance  or                                                                    
     productivity  of  the  big   game  prey  population  is                                                                    
     feasibly  achievable utilizing  recognized and  prudent                                                                    
     active management techniques.                                                                                              
     It  is important  to understand  that provisions  in SB
     297 only come  into play if the Board  of Game, advised                                                                    
     by  the Department  of Fish  and Game  biologists, find                                                                    
     that bears  are a cause  of the depletion  or reduction                                                                    
     of  the big  game productivity.  If the  above findings                                                                    
     have been  made, SB 297 allows  for remediation efforts                                                                    
     on  two  fronts.  First,  registered  guides  would  be                                                                    
     allowed  to select  and  add a  fourth  guide use  area                                                                    
     within  the intensive  management  area  for black  and                                                                    
     brown bears.  Then, methods and means  would be relaxed                                                                    
     and seasons  extended for the  taking of  bears through                                                                    
     the  private  sector  by  Alaska  residents  and  their                                                                    
     family and friends.                                                                                                        
     A strong point of emphasis  is that this program in all                                                                    
     reality is  a predator control program.  The provisions                                                                    
     of this  act do not  apply to game management  units in                                                                    
     which intensive management is not necessary....                                                                            
SENATOR  THOMAS WAGONER  asked what  the bear  relocation program                                                               
cost in McGrath.                                                                                                                
MR.  MATT ROBUS,  Director,  Division  of Wildlife  Conservation,                                                               
said  it  was  a  very   expensive  experimental  effort  and  he                                                               
remembered it being  around $50,000. There was a  lot of aircraft                                                               
time and it  was a capture and relocate operation,  which is high                                                               
intensity and  not something that could  be done on a  large area                                                               
SENATOR SEEKINS expanded  that he remembered it  as an experiment                                                               
to  see if  the  reduction  in bears,  especially  in the  spring                                                               
calving season, could show a  larger recruitment of moose calves,                                                               
which  it did.  However, it  irritated  a few  people around  the                                                               
Interior who had the bears imported  into their area to eat their                                                               
MR. ROBUS  urged a bit  of caution  saying that calf  survival in                                                               
the experimental  area was better  when the department  flew over                                                               
it in the fall than in surrounding areas or in previous years.                                                                  
     So,  the tentative  conclusion is  that removal  of the                                                                    
     bears  did help  calf survival.  As with  most wildlife                                                                    
     experiments,  it's not  without  some fuzziness  around                                                                    
     the results.                                                                                                               
SENATOR WAGONER asked  if any of the bears had  radio collars and                                                               
if any of them migrated back to their original area.                                                                            
MR. ROBUS  replied that radio  collars were  put on a  portion of                                                               
the bears that were moved.                                                                                                      
     Collars  are  expensive  enough that  we  thought  that                                                                    
     putting collars on some of  the bears was about what we                                                                    
     could afford to do. Looking  at those collars, a few of                                                                    
     those  bears tried  to move  back to  that area  fairly                                                                    
     quickly, but only  a few. Most of the bears,  as of the                                                                    
     last time I heard, had  still not returned to the area.                                                                    
     I need  to say that I  need to check with  staff to get                                                                    
     the latest detailed  results, but there did  seem to be                                                                    
     some movement of a small number back into the area.                                                                        
CHAIR  OGAN added  anecdotally  that he  had  spent thousands  of                                                               
hours in the field hunting moose  and caribou. He quit hunting in                                                               
area 13, because he took one of  three bulls in a herd of 30 cows                                                               
that  didn't have  a  single  calf. The  cows  are becoming  very                                                               
mature and  probably incapable of having  calves. He, personally,                                                               
has seen  a phenomenal  increase in bears  behind his  house that                                                               
are jumping  bull moose on  the trail. He  has found a  number of                                                               
calf kills. There is a  huge predation problem with animals other                                                               
than just the weak and sick.                                                                                                    
SENATOR  SEEKINS  repeated that  he  considers  SB  297 to  be  a                                                               
predator control program. A year  ago, some critics said that the                                                               
department  wasn't  relaxing  methods,  means,  seasons  and  bag                                                               
limits in order to reduce wolf  predation in certain parts of the                                                               
state. After  talking with  the department  and hunters  from all                                                               
over the  state, he came to  the conclusion that some  areas have                                                               
bear overpopulation  problems. He looked at  relaxing methods and                                                               
means and putting  more hunters in the field who  wanted to bag a                                                               
bear as the approach to solve this very isolated bear problem.                                                                  
     There is no intent for  this to be used anywhere except                                                                    
     in those  intensive management unit  areas where  it is                                                                    
     documentable from  evidence provided by  the Department                                                                    
     of Fish  and Game to  the Board of Game  that intensive                                                                    
     management is  necessary and that  bears are  causing a                                                                    
     significant portion of that problem.  In areas like 13,                                                                    
     that  you  mentioned,  for  an  example,  grizzly  bear                                                                    
     population  estimates  are  as high  as  1,600  grizzly                                                                    
     bears  in that  area.  The population  objective is,  I                                                                    
     don't  know, less  than a  third of  that. So,  they're                                                                    
     eating their way out  of groceries, themselves.... It's                                                                    
     not prudent  management in  an area  that is  so relied                                                                    
     upon by  humans to  provide protein for  their families                                                                    
     to just let that go without  managing it. So, I hope as                                                                    
     we  go  forward  through  this discussion  that  it  is                                                                    
     viewed  as a  predator control  program and  it is  not                                                                    
     meant to  apply to  other areas  where that  concern is                                                                    
     not manifested.                                                                                                            
MS. JAMIE PERCELL, Juneau resident, strongly opposed SB 297.                                                                    
     The  leverage this  bill gives  guides  and hunters  to                                                                    
     kill  bears  when  the state  Board  of  Game  declares                                                                    
     intensive    game   management    is   egregious    and                                                                    
     unacceptable.  It  is  unacceptable  because  it  would                                                                    
     sanction  a knee-jerk  response  to  the management  of                                                                    
     game versus scientific  research directly pertaining to                                                                    
     the intensive game management areas.                                                                                       
     SB 297 targets and  scapegoats black, brown and grizzly                                                                    
     bears for the decreases  in ungulate populations. It is                                                                    
     well-known  that  other  significant  variables  affect                                                                    
     decreased   ungulate   populations.   Those   variables                                                                    
     include  harsh   winters,  disease,   over-hunting  and                                                                    
     destruction and  pollution of wildlife  habitat. Global                                                                    
     warming  is also  becoming a  factor in  its impact  on                                                                    
     wildlife populations.  An example of this  is the Perry                                                                    
     caribou herd  of the Arctic.  This herd which  lives on                                                                    
     an island,  Perry Island, off  of the Arctic  Coast has                                                                    
     incurred  a  decrease  in   population  due  to  global                                                                    
     warming.  The  reason  for   this  is  because  warming                                                                    
     temperatures have  caused snow  to melt  on top  of the                                                                    
     permafrost  even  during  the winter.  After  the  snow                                                                    
     melts,  it  freezes  creating ice.  The  Perry  caribou                                                                    
     cannot  put their  hooves  through the  ice  to get  to                                                                    
     their  food  sources.  This  phenomenon  has  decreased                                                                    
     their population through starvation.                                                                                       
     It  is  clear  that  management of  predator  and  prey                                                                    
     populations  cannot be  determined by  short-sighted or                                                                    
     politically spurred methods.  Management must always be                                                                    
     comprised    of     scientifically-based    information                                                                    
     pertaining to  specific management areas. SB  297 would                                                                    
     not facilitate  that kind of  management. It is  not in                                                                    
     the best  interest of this state  to jeopardize healthy                                                                    
     bear populations  with one day  land and  shoots, black                                                                    
     and brown  bear baiting,  culling of sows  and year-old                                                                    
     cubs and  deliberate hunting forays whose  sole purpose                                                                    
     is to decrease bear populations.                                                                                           
     Yukon   Territory,  Canada,   implemented  a   predator                                                                    
     control program  from 1992 to 1997,  which included the                                                                    
     use  of the  surgical sterilization  of wolves  to help                                                                    
     bolster  caribou  and   moose  populations  within  the                                                                    
     territory.  This  sterilization  along  with  temporary                                                                    
     closure of moose and  caribou hunting areas, relocation                                                                    
     of wolves,  wolf trapping and  hunting and  the killing                                                                    
     of  wolves   proved  to  be  effective   in  bolstering                                                                    
     ungulate  populations.  I use  this  as  an example  to                                                                    
     emphasize the  point that there are  other viable means                                                                    
     to increase game populations.                                                                                              
     In addition  to the aforementioned negative  aspects of                                                                    
     SB 297, let's not forget  the bad public relations that                                                                    
     such archaic  methods promote  for many  and especially                                                                    
     for those people who have plans to vacation in Alaska.                                                                     
     The  Alaska Constitution  proclaims  that the  priority                                                                    
     use of  game is for  human consumption. There  will not                                                                    
     be  sustainable  populations  of   game  unless  it  is                                                                    
     managed   scientifically.  SB   297  does   not  manage                                                                    
     predator  and prey  populations for  sustainability. In                                                                    
     the long  run, Senator  Seekins' bill will  not provide                                                                    
     Alaskans with moose, caribou and  deer on their tables.                                                                    
     Thank you.                                                                                                                 
MR. KEN DAY, Emerald Air  Service, Homer, said in 1996 outfitters                                                               
and air  taxis from McGrath were  calling all over the  state for                                                               
air taxis  to haul  hunters into the  McGrath area,  because they                                                               
couldn't get  enough airplanes to  take hunters in.  Hunters were                                                               
being taken in in DC3s and four-wheelers.                                                                                       
     They decimated  the moose population over  in that area                                                                    
     and then  they started screaming that  wolves and bears                                                                    
     are the  ones that did it.  It's just not so.  With the                                                                    
     advent   of  the   airplane,  four-wheelers   and  snow                                                                    
     machines  and motorboats  and high  powered rifles  and                                                                    
     all the  pressure from the  hunters, the moose  and the                                                                    
     caribou have  declined because of  that not  because of                                                                    
     bears. Sure they take moose  calves, but that's the way                                                                    
     they make their living. Now  the Board of Game has seen                                                                    
     fit to allow  taking of moose calves  because the moose                                                                    
     population  is too  high. So,  you know,  this is  just                                                                    
     flying in the face of  this whole bill. It's because of                                                                    
     the  bears   that  the  moose  population   is  higher,                                                                    
     according  to the  Fish and  Game.  Bears shouldn't  be                                                                    
     taken in  the first year  they are alive; they  need to                                                                    
     reach  their  age of  maturity  so  they can  keep  the                                                                    
     population going.                                                                                                          
MR. DAY pointed out also that counting bears by flying over an                                                                  
area and estimating isn't a very accurate way of determining                                                                    
CHAIR OGAN  reflected that  one of the  most interesting  days at                                                               
work he had was  one he spent in the field  with a bear biologist                                                               
in Fairbanks  who personally knew every  bear in the area  he was                                                               
studying and had tagged well over 1,000 bears in his career.                                                                    
MR. JOHN SCHOEN said he is a senior scientist for Audubon                                                                       
Alaska. He offered the following comments on SB 297.                                                                            
     Allowing  the   methods  and  means  in   SB  297  will                                                                    
     jeopardize responsible  bear conservation, particularly                                                                    
     brown  and grizzly  bears  in  significant portions  of                                                                    
     Alaska.   Some   of   these   methods   may   in   fact                                                                    
     significantly reduce populations  in the long-term, far                                                                    
     from  what  may  be  desired, because  bears  have  low                                                                    
     reproductive rates and populations  are slow to rebound                                                                    
     after significant  declines. I might also  mention that                                                                    
     monitoring   populations,  especially   in  the   lower                                                                    
     densities, is very, very costly.                                                                                           
     Relative  to the  comment  about  GMU [game  management                                                                    
     unit]  13 having  a very  high  grizzly population,  in                                                                    
     fact, the Department  of Fish and Game  began a grizzly                                                                    
     density estimate last spring and  found it in the early                                                                    
     part of that study to be  very, very low and it appears                                                                    
     to  be  declining. It  would  be  preferable to  simply                                                                    
     liberalize   seasons  and   bag   limits  rather   than                                                                    
     legalizing methods and means  that are risky and highly                                                                    
     controversial. Not  only will these  proposals increase                                                                    
     conservation  risks,   they  will   also  significantly                                                                    
     increase public animosity toward hunting.                                                                                  
     Prior to my  work with Audubon, I served  as a wildlife                                                                    
     biologist with  the Alaska Department of  Fish and Game                                                                    
     for  more than  20  years, including  many  years as  a                                                                    
     brown bear researcher.  I have also been  a hunter most                                                                    
     of  my  life.  The   legislation  proposed  in  SB  297                                                                    
     significantly  liberalizes  the  taking  of  black  and                                                                    
     brown bears  in intensive  management areas  of Alaska.                                                                    
     It  also allows  extraordinary  methods  and means  far                                                                    
     beyond  the concept  of  fair  chase. This  legislation                                                                    
     applies to sport hunting and  will trivialize the value                                                                    
     of  bears   and  big  game  and   may  jeopardize  bear                                                                    
     conservation in  some areas of the  state. Taking brown                                                                    
     bears over bait  is not done anywhere  in North America                                                                    
     and   runs   counter   to  all   recommendations   that                                                                    
     management agencies have  provided the public regarding                                                                    
     bear safety.                                                                                                               
     Taking bears  the same day  airborne for  sport hunting                                                                    
     is far  beyond the  bounds of  fair chase.  Few hunters                                                                    
     and none  of the big  game guides I know  would approve                                                                    
     of using  aircraft for hunting bears  in Alaska. Taking                                                                    
     of  female  brown  bears  with  yearling  cubs  is  not                                                                    
     responsible  management.  In  most cases,  survival  of                                                                    
     yearling  cubs will  be  significantly reduced  without                                                                    
     the  mother's protection.  No closed  seasons on  bears                                                                    
     relegates them to the status of vermin.                                                                                    
CHAIR OGAN noted  that telephonic transmission had  failed and he                                                               
would come back to Anchorage.                                                                                                   
MR. NEIL WEBSTER, Eagle River Guide,  said he has lived in Alaska                                                               
for  most of  42 years.  He applauded  Senator Seekins'  bill for                                                               
controlling the ungulate  population. One concern he  had is that                                                               
several guides are displaced because  of the loss of non-resident                                                               
hunting  opportunity for  moose  due to  low  populations in  the                                                               
areas with closed seasons. The  only thing those guides have left                                                               
is bears in  units 13 and 16.  A fourth guide use  area, which is                                                               
now under consideration in the  Legislature, would further impact                                                               
their operations.                                                                                                               
MR.  WEBSTER said  he  has  testified at  the  Board  of Game  to                                                               
liberalize  the season  and increase  the bag  limit and  perhaps                                                               
even waive the non-resident tag fee.                                                                                            
MR.  JOE  CLUTCH,  Alaska   Professional  Hunters,  King  Salmon,                                                               
thanked Senator Seekins  for his efforts to  ensure that Alaskans                                                               
have sufficient ungulate species of game available for human use                                                                
on a sustained yield basis.                                                                                                     
     We've come through  a decade with a  virtual absence of                                                                    
     any  meaningful predator  management and  it's apparent                                                                    
     without including  predators in a  management equation,                                                                    
     availability for human harvest  can be quickly reduced,                                                                    
     if  not  eliminated.   That  being  said,  representing                                                                    
     Alaska  Professional Hunters  Association, the  members                                                                    
     of  our  association  are  reluctant  to  support  this                                                                    
     legislation  as  it  is  currently  crafted.  It's  the                                                                    
     consensus of  our members  and most  of the  guys we've                                                                    
     talked to around  the state in the last  month that the                                                                    
     process of  setting seasons and bag  limits and methods                                                                    
     and means is  best left to the Board of  Game. Let them                                                                    
     make  determinations  on  a  case-by-case  basis.  It's                                                                    
     going  to  take a  measured  approach  in dealing  with                                                                    
     predators, whether  it's wolves  or it's bears.  I know                                                                    
     Senator Seekins  and I  believe that  is his  intent in                                                                    
     this legislation.                                                                                                          
MR. CLUTCH  agreed with Senator  Seekins' point about  bag limits                                                               
and limiting methods and means not  working as well as hoped. The                                                               
last  meeting of  the board  illustrated the  problems that  come                                                               
with intensive  management and  one of them  is the  threshold of                                                               
what triggers it.                                                                                                               
     Basically, what  it comes down to  is allowable harvest                                                                    
     level,  harvest  guidelines  that  are  based  on  what                                                                    
     current harvest  records indicate people are  using and                                                                    
     what they  say they need.  One of the  loose components                                                                    
     of  that   equation  has  emerged  as   being  that  of                                                                    
     unreported harvests.  In unit  19A and unit  19B, we've                                                                    
     seen  unreported  harvest  data  garnered  by  whatever                                                                    
     means  by the  State Subsistence  Division, go  from 11                                                                    
     percent in 2000 to 34 percent  in 2002. At the last day                                                                    
     of the Board of Game meeting,  all of a sudden there is                                                                    
     74 percent  of unreported harvest. Factoring  that into                                                                    
     the harvest guidelines doesn't  leave anything for non-                                                                    
     resident  or   general  resident  allocation   with  or                                                                    
     without bears.                                                                                                             
CHAIR OGAN asked what was the source of the unreported harvest.                                                                 
MR. CLUTCH replied that people are just not complying with                                                                      
harvest reporting.                                                                                                              
     I'm a member  of an advisory committee  here in Naknek-                                                                    
     Quijak,  have been  for 22  years. It's  common in  the                                                                    
     villages now - they are  almost flaunting the fact that                                                                    
     unreported harvest is  acceptable behavior. They'll say                                                                    
     it right  in front  of the  public safety  people. Then                                                                    
     they go  out and  get a household  survey to  boost the                                                                    
     level of animals necessary to  eliminate other users to                                                                    
     push you into  tier 1 or tier 2. This  is a major issue                                                                    
     and one that, as it relates  to this bill, I'm not sure                                                                    
     the   prescription   you've  outlined   here,   Senator                                                                    
     Seekins, will help solve that problem.                                                                                     
     Another dimension  of the bill that  is of considerable                                                                    
     concern to us is our  counsel in Washington, D.C., Bill                                                                    
     Horn, advised  that by  eliminating the  guide required                                                                    
     provision  even on  a provisional  basis  unit by  unit                                                                    
     would undermine the defensibility  of that provision in                                                                    
     its entirety  and he's prepared  to provide a  memo and                                                                    
     documents   to  you   to  elaborate   on  that   point.                                                                    
     Naturally,  that's  a  major  concern  for  us  in  the                                                                    
     guiding industry.                                                                                                          
     Additionally,  as  it relates  to  bears,  we've got  a                                                                    
     brown  bear management  plan that's  been crafted  over                                                                    
     many  years  of  really  hard  work.  Kodiak  has  just                                                                    
     completed one - Southeast Alaska  several years ago - a                                                                    
     long-standing  brown  bear   management  plan  in  game                                                                    
     management  unit  9  on   the  Alaska  Peninsula.  Bear                                                                    
     predation has always been a  major factor as [has] wolf                                                                    
     predation. We  still somehow manage to  get recruitment                                                                    
     of  animals.  I  think  personally  from  my  field  of                                                                    
     observation,  wolves are  probably accounting  for more                                                                    
     calf predation  here than are  the bears....  But, this                                                                    
     is unit-specific  and should be discussed  at the Board                                                                    
     of Game and probably not before your committee.                                                                            
MR. CLUTCH agreed  with Mr. Schoen's comment  that inflicting the                                                               
provisions   in    SB   297   could   cause    increased   public                                                               
disillusionment and  resentment for hunting in  general. However,                                                               
he  thought  it  was  important  to continue  to  look  for  good                                                               
management  practices  and  even  suggested  considering  habitat                                                               
enhancement. "To my  knowledge, we haven't had  any major habitat                                                               
enhancement programs  in this  state for  15 years,  whether it's                                                               
controlled burns,  whether it's creating corridors.  [END OF SIDE                                                               
TAPE 04-23, SIDE B                                                                                                            
MR. CLUTCH said he is definitely  a proponent of ethical and fair                                                               
chase hunting and  supports wide use of the  resource and offered                                                               
to  work  with the  committee  on  developing language  on  those                                                               
SENATOR SEEKINS  asked if he  would ask  Mr. Horn to  analyze how                                                               
his ability as a resident to take  all 20 of his cousins into the                                                               
field to  hunt for  a bear  is different than  his being  able to                                                               
take his daughter's father-in-law.  "Basically, what I'm doing is                                                               
extending the privilege that we give  to a resident in the second                                                               
degree of kindred to include other family friends."                                                                             
CHAIR OGAN  said that was  a good point.  He went back  to taking                                                               
testimony  from  Mr.  Schoen  from  Anchorage  who  was  cut  off                                                               
MR. SCHOEN said  in his 28 years of wildlife  work in Alaska, the                                                               
state has always  enjoyed the respect and  confidence of wildlife                                                               
professionals,  hunters and  the  general  public regarding  bear                                                               
management.  "With  this  bill,   that  well-earned  respect  and                                                               
confidence  will evaporate  over night.  Clearly stated,  this is                                                               
bad wildlife legislation...."                                                                                                   
MS. CHRIS  DAY, Emerald air  Service, Homer, strongly  opposed SB
297  for   biological  reasons.  "This  whole   predator  control                                                               
incident has  been blown way out  of proportion. I think  we need                                                               
to figure the human predator into this equation...."                                                                            
MS. DAY said  that biologists tell her they really  don't know if                                                               
there are too many bears or too few caribou.                                                                                    
     There are simply no  good numbers available, especially                                                                    
     for  bears. Census  numbers are  a calculated  guess at                                                                    
     best.  Bear populations  are  easily  knocked back  and                                                                    
     they recover  slowly, if we  do make mistakes  in these                                                                    
     rash proposals that we are talking about here.                                                                             
     I oppose this bill  for ethical reasons. The techniques                                                                    
     to hunt  in these so-called intensive  management areas                                                                    
     fly in the face of ethical hunting technique....                                                                           
     But  my  biggest  opposition  is  based  on  economics.                                                                    
     Senator  Seekins  finds  that the  bill  addresses  the                                                                    
     Alaska bear overpopulation  problem. Who has determined                                                                    
     that we  have a  bear overpopulation problem?  Also, in                                                                    
     the third  paragraph -  item 1  - first  determine that                                                                    
     consumptive use of bears of  the big game population is                                                                    
     a  preferred use.  The Board  of Game  doesn't ask  the                                                                    
     general population  what their  preference is.  I don't                                                                    
     believe necessarily that consumption  is the number one                                                                    
     People come to Alaska to  see wildlife and bears are on                                                                    
     the  top of  their list.  These people  come and  spend                                                                    
     millions of  dollars in the  state during the  quest to                                                                    
     see these animals. I don't  deny that hunting moose and                                                                    
     caribou brings  revenue into the  state, but  the money                                                                    
     brought in by hunting pales  in the face of tourism. As                                                                    
     our legislators, you  have to wake up  to reality. This                                                                    
     is the year 2004; don't  make huge strides backwards by                                                                    
     passing SB  297. If for  only purely  monetary reasons,                                                                    
     it makes  no sense. Alaska's future  depends on tourism                                                                    
     and tourism  depends to a  great extent on  the animals                                                                    
     that exist here in abundance.  If all folks want to see                                                                    
     is  pretty scenery,  they can  stop  in Montana  where,                                                                    
     because of  intensive management, that's  basically all                                                                    
     there is left - pretty scenery.                                                                                            
MR. HENRY  TIFFANY, licensed master  guide for 15 years,  said he                                                               
supported parts  of SB  297, but supported  letting the  Board of                                                               
Game  handle methods  and means.  He  was specifically  concerned                                                               
with subsection  (2)(h), which allows non-resident  hunters to be                                                               
guided by residents over 19 years of age.                                                                                       
     This  would  have  a very  detrimental  impact  on  the                                                                    
     guiding industry and many of  the guides within Alaska.                                                                    
     The  Legislature found  it necessary  many, many  years                                                                    
     ago  to require  guides for  brown bear  and grizzlies,                                                                    
     the reasons being - one,  a matter of safety. Bears are                                                                    
     not  like hunting  squirrels; they  can be  a dangerous                                                                    
     animal. It  takes time  and experience  to know  how to                                                                    
     hunt   them  properly   and  judge   them   and  do   a                                                                    
     professional and safe job of it.                                                                                           
     Allowing a resident hunter with  maybe one or two years                                                                    
     in the state  to then guide anyone he  would like would                                                                    
     not only  hurt the  economics of the  guiding industry,                                                                    
     but also could be a  safety issue. There are people who                                                                    
     are simply  not qualified  to be  in the  field hunting                                                                    
     for bears.                                                                                                                 
     Section  1  of this  could  help  relieve some  of  the                                                                    
     problems  if  an  area  is found  to  have  a  predator                                                                    
     problem.  Allowing  guides  a fourth  unit  would  help                                                                    
     alleviate some  of that pressure.... If  that situation                                                                    
     were  to occur  I  imagine it  would  become much  more                                                                    
     affordable.... I thank you for your time.                                                                                  
MR.  PAUL JOSLIN,  Wildlife Director,  Alaska Wildlife  Alliance,                                                               
strongly opposed SB 297.                                                                                                        
     We regard  this as an  attack on bears using  a variety                                                                    
     of techniques all  of which would have  a strong public                                                                    
     backlash  from unfair  chase to  unqualified means  for                                                                    
     attacking   them.  Many   recognized  authorities   are                                                                    
     speaking   out   against  such   liberalizations.   The                                                                    
     response  to similar  proposals recently  considered by                                                                    
     the Board of Game  by the International Association for                                                                    
     Bear  Research and  Management said,  'We believe  that                                                                    
     the  potential detrimental  effects of  such regulation                                                                    
     changes have  not been  adequately addressed  and their                                                                    
     implementation   could   jeopardize   sustained   yield                                                                    
     management...of Alaska bear populations.'                                                                                  
     The National Park  Service in its review  of brown bear                                                                    
     management   in   the   western  Arctic   said,   'Both                                                                    
     subsistence and  sport hunting opportunities  for brown                                                                    
     bears  have  been and  continue  to  be liberalized  in                                                                    
     northwest   Alaska   without  recent   and   rigorously                                                                    
     reviewed  scientific information  about  the status  of                                                                    
     the hunted populations.'                                                                                                   
MR.  JOSLIN said  that bears  have  a low  reproductive rate.  It                                                               
doesn't take much  to over-harvest them. The  National Academy of                                                               
Sciences in  its two-year review  of wolf and bear  management in                                                               
Alaska recommended against the  manipulation of bear populations.                                                               
Bears are  difficult to count  and there is no  concrete evidence                                                               
when over  harvesting has occurred.  Shaun Farley, the  top brown                                                               
bear  biologist in  the state,  said  counting bears  is a  tough                                                               
order and one of the reasons  is that they hibernate and can't be                                                               
counted against the snow - like, wolf, caribou and moose.                                                                       
     Bears,  finally,   are  not  vermin.  While   they  may                                                                    
     sometimes kill moose and caribou,  it doesn't mean that                                                                    
     the net effect is detrimental  to the moose and caribou                                                                    
     populations.  Just because  bears  kill calves  doesn't                                                                    
     mean that  the net effects  of the moose  population is                                                                    
     bad.  I   think  the  evidence   is  that   bears  have                                                                    
     successfully co-existed with these  species for tens of                                                                    
     thousands  of years.  That ought  to be  a pretty  good                                                                    
     measure. The fact  that we have over  one million moose                                                                    
     and  caribou  in  this state  ought  to  indicate  that                                                                    
     things can't be too bad with respect to the bears.                                                                         
MR. JOSLIN strongly urged the committee to reject SB 297.                                                                       
MR. JOEL  BENNETT said he  was representing himself as  a 36-year                                                               
state resident  and active  hunter for each  of those  years. For                                                               
his  allotted   time,  he  wanted   to  comment  on   ethics  and                                                               
     I  think most  hunters that  I know  of, a  majority of                                                                    
     hunters  pride  themselves  on adhering  to  a  certain                                                                    
     commonly  accepted code  of  sportsmanship and  ethics.                                                                    
     That's  been a  hallmark  of hunting  for  a long  time                                                                    
     going  back  to Teddy  Roosevelt.  It's  embraced by  a                                                                    
     number of organizations who  strive to articulate those                                                                    
     principles  in their  by-laws  and  formative rules.  I                                                                    
     think there is a  commonly understood consensus in this                                                                    
     state about  where the limits  are. That's why  we have                                                                    
     certain  rules  that  have   not  been  modified  since                                                                    
     statehood.  It's  interesting   that  this  legislation                                                                    
     seems to take  each one of those rules  that relates to                                                                    
     bears and change the  goalposts. This is unprecedented;                                                                    
     it  hasn't been  done since  statehood. It  hasn't been                                                                    
     done in  almost every other  state in this  country; it                                                                    
     hasn't been done in Canadian  provinces that have large                                                                    
     populations of brown bears, just  like Alaska, like the                                                                    
     Yukon  and British  Columbia. In  fact,  some of  those                                                                    
     jurisdictions  are  tightening   their  rules  on  bear                                                                    
     management because  of their vulnerability -  the Yukon                                                                    
     Territory being  first and  foremost. They  define cubs                                                                    
     for instance, as  an animal that is three  years of age                                                                    
     or  less,   no  motorized  vehicles,  no   baiting,  no                                                                    
     trapping, no sale of parts.  These are the very aspects                                                                    
     of SB 297 that you see before you.                                                                                         
He used  the analogy  of a  car sales business.  Would it  have a                                                               
commonly  accepted   code  of  ethics  and   business  practices?                                                               
Probably it would.  What if sales were lagging  in certain areas?                                                               
Would the code  of ethics be changed? Would a  breach in business                                                               
practices be allowed?  He didn't think so, but that  is what this                                                               
bill does  to hunting with regard  to bears in certain  large and                                                               
growing  areas  of   the  state.  "I  think  [SB   297]  is  very                                                               
unacceptable to the general public,  I think it's unacceptable to                                                               
a  majority of  the  hunting public.  I urge  you  to reject  the                                                               
CHAIR  OGAN explained  that this  is not  about sport  hunting or                                                               
fair chase. "This is obviously an intensive management tool...."                                                                
MR.  BENNETT  responded  that predator  control  is  accepted  by                                                               
Alaskans  if it  involves state  personnel in  a very  controlled                                                               
limited way, whether it's wolves or bears.                                                                                      
     This  allows  the  general public,  under  the  general                                                                    
     hunting regulations, to adopt  these methods and means.                                                                    
     So, therefore, I  think it is a hunting  measure in the                                                                    
     guise of a predator control bill.                                                                                          
CHAIR OGAN  said that comment  led him to  ask Mr. Bennett  if he                                                               
would support the helicopter hunting  of wolves or bears by state                                                               
MR. BENNETT replied, "No! Not unless it was an emergency...."                                                                   
MR.  GEORGE SIAVELIS  said  he is  a master  guide  in Aniak  and                                                               
serves  on the  Board of  Directors for  the Alaska  Professional                                                               
Hunters  Association   and  on   the  Western   Interior  Federal                                                               
Subsistence  Regional  Advisory  Council.   He  opposed  SB  297,                                                               
although for  different reasons  than they  have heard  today. He                                                               
strongly   supported   Senator   Seekins'  concern   about   past                                                               
administrations letting  predator/prey ratios get  completely out                                                               
of  balance.  He generally  supported  measures  to correct  that                                                               
problem  in parts  of  SB  297. However,  he  didn't support  any                                                               
changes to Alaska's guide requirement  laws. It was only a matter                                                               
of  time  before  some  group  would sue  the  State  of  Alaska,                                                               
claiming  if  you don't  need  a  guide in  intensive  management                                                               
areas,  you don't  need  a guide  anywhere.  Required guides  for                                                               
brown bear hunting was enacted  originally because of real public                                                               
safety concerns. Adding additional  guide use areas for intensive                                                               
management areas will not help, either.  He is in full support of                                                               
adjusting bag limits,  methods and means to  address the specific                                                               
unit  13  problems.  He  felt   that  the  Board  of  Game  could                                                               
adequately address the situation.                                                                                               
MS. ROBERTA HIGHLAND, Homer, said:                                                                                              
     I'm  feeling defeated  by my  government. I've  already                                                                    
     been brought to  my knees by the CBM  shallow gas lease                                                                    
     fiasco,  then they  started  shooting  wolves from  the                                                                    
     planes. Now  there is  this bill  that I  personally do                                                                    
     not believe  should see the  light of day.  Hunters are                                                                    
     the successful predators. They  have been so successful                                                                    
     they have eaten themselves right  out of moose close by                                                                    
     their  homes.  Never  mind that  they  moved  into  the                                                                    
     moose', wolves',  bears' backyard. Now, they  must kill                                                                    
     these predators to  put food on their  tables. I wonder                                                                    
     how long  before it is  shown that hunters were  by far                                                                    
     the   strongest   predators    and   the   moose   just                                                                    
     miraculously appear for the highest  and best user, the                                                                    
     Here  are  some ideas:  Do  away  with the  politically                                                                    
     appointed  Board of  Game and  let  the biologists  and                                                                    
     scientists  do their  jobs. Stop  hunting in  the over-                                                                    
     hunted areas....                                                                                                           
     Move the  capital to Anchorage where  it belongs. There                                                                    
     is a  nice empty state-owned $50  million building that                                                                    
     would  be a  good  start  for a  new  capitol site.  My                                                                    
     government  should   not  be   causing  me   this  much                                                                    
     heartache and stress....                                                                                                   
MR. TOM KIRSTEIN,  Fairbanks, said he has been  a licensed master                                                               
guide for  30 years.  His real concern  is section  (2)(h), which                                                               
allows resident hunters to guide  for bears. "What we're creating                                                               
here  is something  that  is not  a good  healthy  thing for  the                                                               
industry  for a  lot  of  the reasons  that  have been  mentioned                                                               
MR. KIRSTEIN said he could  appreciate the desire to do something                                                               
that is very intense in certain small areas of Alaska.                                                                          
     We're  not dealing  with a  normal  situation here.  If                                                                    
     it's   found  to   be  deemed   necessary  to   control                                                                    
     predators, you're  going to have to  take extraordinary                                                                    
     measures  to  deal  with them.  I  don't  believe  that                                                                    
     dealing with it legislatively  is necessarily the right                                                                    
     way to do that. The Board  of Game is really where this                                                                    
     should be settled.                                                                                                         
MS.  KAREN  DEATHERAGE, Defenders  of  Wildlife,  said it  has  a                                                               
neutral  position  with  respect  to  hunting  and  trapping  and                                                               
strongly opposed SB 297.                                                                                                        
     There is  not one component  that is acceptable  in any                                                                    
     way to sane or ethical  wildlife management. This bill,                                                                    
     once  again,  takes  the  liberty  to  override  public                                                                    
     process  and the  will  of Alaskans  when  it comes  to                                                                    
     managing  our state's  wildlife  - as  we've done  with                                                                    
     aerial  wolf killing,  which was  banned  twice by  the                                                                    
     Alaska public. Even the Board  of Game has rejected the                                                                    
     means  and  methods  outlined in  this  bill  at  their                                                                    
     recent meeting in Fairbanks.                                                                                               
     The concept of bear  control is scientifically unsound.                                                                    
     The   1997  National   Academy  of   Science's  Report,                                                                    
     entitled Wolf,  Bear and Their  Prey in  Alaska, states                                                                  
     if given the opportunity, most  or all bears would kill                                                                    
     and  eat an  ungulate calf,  but individual  bears vary                                                                    
     widely  in  predation  success.  Given  this  variation                                                                    
     among bears,  the outcome of  bear control  programs is                                                                    
     highly  unpredictable. It  will depend  on which  bears                                                                    
     are  removed  and the  feeding  habits  of the  removed                                                                    
MR. DEREK  STONOROV said he is  a hunter in game  management unit                                                               
15C,  probably one  of the  fastest growing  areas in  Alaska. He                                                               
ardently opposed  SB 297. His  area has good  wildlife management                                                               
with  bears and  wolves and  still has  cow moose  hunts. "Things                                                               
seem to be  in balance without having predator  control." He said                                                               
that  SB  297 goes  against  fair  chase  and as  a  professional                                                               
wildlife biologist, he  can say it also goes  contrary to current                                                               
biologically determined  practices for keeping  sustainable brown                                                               
bear populations.                                                                                                               
     This  bill  is  a  giant step  backwards  in  time  for                                                                    
     successful  wildlife conservation....  Predator control                                                                    
     for  bears could...economically  impact my  livelihood,                                                                    
     which is a professional bear viewing guide....                                                                             
     The last point  I'd like to make very  quickly, I don't                                                                    
     think the  conclusions drawn by the  McGrath relocation                                                                    
     are necessarily scientifically  valid. There's too many                                                                    
     variables that  come into  play right  here and  it's a                                                                    
     very  short-term study....  I  hope  you will  withdraw                                                                    
     this bill.                                                                                                                 
MR.  MYRL THOMPSON,  Wasilla, and  MR.  ROBERT ARCHIBALD,  Homer,                                                               
submitted written testimony.                                                                                                    
MS.  BOBBIE  JO  SKIBO,  Anchorage, said  her  family  hunts  and                                                               
fishes,  but  SB  297  is  extremely  poor  management.  "We  are                                                               
adamantly opposed to this form of management of our resource."                                                                  
She noted  that the  Kenai Peninsula has  many problems  that are                                                               
adding  to  the decline  of  the  population  of the  brown  bear                                                               
species, like the increase of  defense of life or property kills.                                                               
In 1980  there were zero and  today there are 18.  There has been                                                               
no hunting season  in over five years on the  Kenai Peninsula. SB
297  is  bad management,  but  she  also  felt that  the  animals                                                               
deserved to be taken respectfully.                                                                                              
MS. NINA  FAUST, Homer,  stated that  she and  her family  are in                                                               
favor of  fair chase.  She is  not a hunter,  but is  not against                                                               
     I think  SB 297 is  one of the most  backward proposals                                                                    
     for managing brown  bear that I've ever  seen in recent                                                                    
     times. It  recalls to me  the years of our  early state                                                                    
     history when  some people called for  the extermination                                                                    
     of bears on  Admiralty Island in the name  of making it                                                                    
     safe for logging.... Now the  bears of Admiralty Island                                                                    
     are one of  Alaska's treasures and we  are fortunate to                                                                    
     have an  incredible wildlife population in  Alaska that                                                                    
     still includes the major predators....                                                                                     
     The   state  should   be   concentrating  on   balanced                                                                    
     scientific  management   of  all  species.   We  should                                                                    
     remember  the  example  of Yellowstone  where  all  the                                                                    
     large   predators  were   extirpated.  Now,   with  the                                                                    
     introductions   of  large   predators,  we're   finally                                                                    
     learning how  important they are  to a  healthy natural                                                                    
     system. Let's  not make the  same mistake in  Alaska by                                                                    
     trying to exterminate bears. Please don't pass SB 297.                                                                     
MS. DOROTHY  KEELER, professional wildlife photographer,  said in                                                               
the  early  1900s  over-hunting and  predator  control  were  big                                                               
issues.  Denali  National  Park  was  created  primarily  because                                                               
hunters were decimating the sheep.                                                                                              
     Aerial hunting and poisoning began  in the 40s and 50s.                                                                    
     Poisoning ended with statehood in  '59, but aerial wolf                                                                    
     control,  including  land  and shoot,  continued  until                                                                    
     1994. This  widespread effort essentially  turned parts                                                                    
     of  Alaska  into  moose  and  caribou  feed  lots,  the                                                                    
     temporary  explosion  of  game packs  beyond  what  the                                                                    
     habitat could handle. Populations  of moose and caribou                                                                    
     peaked  and crashed.  Predators were  blamed and  cries                                                                    
     for control increased.                                                                                                     
     When  poisoning ended  with  statehood  and the  aerial                                                                    
     wolf  control   was  banned  in  1994,   predator  prey                                                                    
     populations  began  to  return to  the  balance  nature                                                                    
     intended. Then the Board of  Game in cahoots with ADF&G                                                                    
     took  the historic  artificially  high peak  population                                                                    
     numbers created  after decades  of aerial  wolf control                                                                    
     and  poisoning   and  used   these  estimates   to  set                                                                    
     population   and   harvest   targets  for   each   game                                                                    
     management unit. Protests to the  Board of Game made up                                                                    
     of only  hunters and trappers were  ignored. Meanwhile,                                                                    
     proof  of  over-hunting  abounds.  ADF&G  studies  show                                                                    
     portions of 19D east have  a bull/cow ratio of 6/100. A                                                                    
     2001   trend  count   conducted   along  the   Kulitna,                                                                    
     Hoholitna  Rivers in  19A and  B, also  verify bull/cow                                                                    
     ratios  of  6/100.  In unit  21D,  bull/cow  ratios  in                                                                    
     Three-Day  Slough  were  15/100; at  the  Nuitna  mouth                                                                    
     bull/cow  ratios were  12/100 with  2/3 of  those bulls                                                                    
     being yearlings. ADF&G's goal is  30 bulls per 100 cows                                                                    
     in  a  hunted  population.  Neither  wolves  nor  bears                                                                    
     target adult bull moose, only  man. Why haven't hunters                                                                    
     been managed?                                                                                                              
     The  areas  eligible  for  predator  control  based  on                                                                    
     artificially  high  moose  harvest objectives  and  the                                                                    
     intensive  game management  law includes  more than  40                                                                    
     percent of the State of  Alaska and there are cries for                                                                    
     more.  To meet  hunters' goals,  predator control  will                                                                    
     continue  forever. You  want proof?  In unit  28, after                                                                    
     decimating predators, the  moose population now exceeds                                                                    
     the  carrying capacity  of the  habitat. Does  the Game                                                                    
     Board  limit  the taking  of  predators  so nature  can                                                                    
     return balance?  No. Now  ADF&G and  the Board  of Game                                                                    
     are actively promoting killing cows  and calves in unit                                                                    
     28 and removed the  statewide moose hunting prohibition                                                                    
     during  the  last  meeting. Destroying  predators,  and                                                                    
     bears  in  particular,  will  not  solve  the  problem.                                                                    
     Please oppose SB 297.                                                                                                      
MS. KEELER offered to fax the committee a map showing the 40                                                                    
percent of the state that is eligible for predator control.                                                                     
CHAIR OGAN thanked her for her testimony and stated for the                                                                     
record that he had personally seen an adult bull moose that had                                                                 
been ambushed and killed on the trail by a bear.                                                                                
MR. DAVID BACHRACH, Homer, said he has a wildlife viewing and                                                                   
photography business. He opposed SB 297; the methods are                                                                        
controversial  and  scientifically  and ethically  unsound.  They                                                               
also override the public process.                                                                                               
CAPTAIN  HOWARD STARBARD,  Commander, Alaska  Bear Wolf  Wildlife                                                               
Enforcement, Alaska  State Troopers, Department of  Public Safety                                                               
(DPS),  said the  department does  not oppose  the intent  of the                                                               
bill, but  has concerns from  an enforcement  standpoint relevant                                                               
to a lot  of issues brought up by previous  speakers. One concern                                                               
is  in an  intensive management  area there  would presumably  be                                                               
more bear bait stations including  brown bear without any kind of                                                               
registration requirement.  From a  public safety  and enforcement                                                               
standpoint, personnel  wouldn't be able to  identify the operator                                                               
of a  bait station that had  been abandoned and was  littering or                                                               
otherwise  out  of  compliance with  location  restrictions.  The                                                               
posting  of a  bear bait  station for  public notice  is so  that                                                               
whoever sees  the sign would  know there is potential  danger and                                                               
that would be non-existent under SB 297.                                                                                        
The department is  also concerned with the same  day airborne for                                                               
two reasons.  One is that  historically it has been  frowned upon                                                               
and the public has historically  been educated against it from an                                                               
ethical standpoint. Another concern  is that under the provisions                                                               
of SB  297, participants in  the bear predator control  could not                                                               
be  differentiated  from  people  participating  other  types  of                                                               
activity.  He had  another concern  with  allowing the  use of  a                                                               
motorized  vehicle  to  herd  and   shoot  an  animal,  which  is                                                               
currently  restricted. He  has concerns  with electronic  devices                                                               
being allowed  and those  are currently  restricted. It  would be                                                               
difficult  to distinguish  who was  participating in  the program                                                               
without a  registration process.  Relaxing guide  requirements to                                                               
second-degree  kindred  is a  potential  concern  because from  a                                                               
historical standpoint it has been  argued that public safety is a                                                               
big enough concern  to require guides for hunting  bears. [END OF                                                               
TAPE 04-23, SIDE B]                                                                                                             
TAPE 04-24, SIDE A                                                                                                            
CHAIR OGAN thanked everyone for  their comments and closed public                                                               
testimony, stating that he didn't intend to move the bill today.                                                                
SENATOR SEEKINS reiterated  that his intent is,  after seeing how                                                               
the Board of  Game addressed some of these concerns  in their new                                                               
bear control  policy, to work  with its  members to see  what the                                                               
Legislature needs  to do  to allow  them to  have some  leeway in                                                               
terms of methods and means.                                                                                                     
     I want  to make it  very clear  that as I  went through                                                                    
     the  testimony today,  it appeared  to  me that  people                                                                    
     thought this was applied everywhere  and that's not the                                                                    
     case.  This has  to be  something where  the department                                                                    
     and the Board  of Game have to be  satisfied that bears                                                                    
     are causing the problem....                                                                                                
He  said  that  humans  are  willing  to  curtail  their  hunting                                                               
activities  when   they  see  a  precipitous   decline.  Alaska's                                                               
constitution is clear.                                                                                                          
     We are  to provide  sustained yield  and that  yield is                                                                    
     for human  harvest first. There's  no way that  I would                                                                    
     ever envision that anyone would  allow anybody to go in                                                                    
     and thin  out the  bears at  the McNeill  River Viewing                                                                    
     Sanctuary....  There are  millions of  acres in  Alaska                                                                    
     where virtually  no bear control  will ever  be allowed                                                                    
     to take place.  All we're trying to do is  find some of                                                                    
     those areas  that are  important for  human consumption                                                                    
     where  we  can  find  a  solution  to  get  those  bear                                                                    
     populations back into control....                                                                                          
SENATOR SEEKINS  said he would  work on  a CS that  would address                                                               
some of  the concerns.  He said  the board  has to  make specific                                                               
findings in writing  as trigger points to get to  where this bill                                                               
even starts.                                                                                                                    
CHAIR OGAN said he wanted to  address the issue of whether or not                                                               
SB 297 would compromise guiding.  There being no further business                                                               
to come  before the committee,  he adjourned the meeting  at 5:30                                                               

Document Name Date/Time Subjects