Legislature(2009 - 2010)BUTROVICH 205
03/08/2010 03:30 PM Senate RESOURCES
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SB 144-MUSK OXEN PERMITS 4:15:24 PM CO-CHAIR MCGUIRE announced SB 144 to be up for consideration. 4:16:01 PM TIM BENINTENDI, staff to Senator Olson, sponsor of SB 144, explained that the primary objective of SB 144 is to authorize a second permit hunt for residents and subsistence hunters for the taking of musk oxen in Alaska. It would double the chances of taking an animal but it would not change the bag limit, which is currently one animal per year, either a bull or cow. Nonresident hunters would not qualify. If a hunter did not harvest a musk ox under their first permit, a second permit could be issued upon application for another chance in a different hunting area or a different game unit. Musk oxen are the only game animals in Alaska to which the one permit restriction still applies. There are four game management units where these animals are found in Alaska: Unit 18 on both Nunivak and Nelson Islands, Units 22 and 23 on the Seward Peninsula and Northwest Alaska, and Unit 26 in the northeast. The wild musk oxen population in Alaska is currently estimated to be about 4400 and annually 325- 350 are available for harvest. Wildlife biologists and regulators within the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) have determined that the health of the herd and the size of the state's herd is well passed the threshold for expanding opportunities for Alaskan hunters. State biologists estimate that a nominal number of additional permits would be issued under this bill and perhaps 25 more animals might be harvested annually. Under SB 144 the Board of Game would have the authority to reduce or eliminate subsistence tag and fee requirements, and the department could issue subsistence permits beyond the current calendar year basis to accommodate seasons which straddle two calendar years. For example, there is a season that runs from August 1 to March 15. A year would change from a calendar year to a regulatory year, which is July 1 - June 30. If passed this legislative session, the new provisions would be in place for the season beginning August of this year. SB 144 has a zero fiscal note and has the support of the department and the hunting community in Northwest Alaska. It includes the Northern and Southern Norton Sound Advisory Committees and the Seward Peninsula Musk Ox Cooperators Group. They have found no opposition to the bill. 4:18:42 PM CO-CHAIR WIELECHOWSKI asked the rationale behind the prohibition of going out more than once. MR. BENINTENDI answered that it's due to game population size. All other species are under a multiple permit basis and now that the department is comfortable with the herd's numbers, musk ox can be brought into that dynamic. 4:19:23 PM SENATOR HUGGINS asked if there is a priority between resident and subsistence hunters. MR. BENINTENDI said that getting a permit depends on the date of application. SENATOR HUGGINS said some states have incentives whereby the governor would have a musk ox tag that he could use as a funding raising mechanism to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars. Had he had any discussions along that line? MR. BENINTENDI answered no. 4:20:44 PM SENATOR OLSON, sponsor of SB 144, said the bill was brought to him by the local fish and game personnel who noticed confusion amongst the harvesters. There is no difference between residents and subsistence users. It's whoever comes first. Once the quota is filled they would close the season. Because of that confusion people are worried about getting their guns confiscated, going to jail and having those kinds of penalties. This would make the law a lot clearer. He said that one of the reasons there is a difference between other big game animals and musk ox is that musk ox, like reindeer, were imported. The ones on the Seward Peninsula came from Nunivak and the ones in Nunivak originally came from Canada and Greenland. The government has an interest in maintaining those populations because they invested money to get them into different areas. Right now the stocks on the Seward Peninsula, especially, have gotten to the level where they could sustain a harvest. 4:22:05 PM SENATOR STEDMAN joined the committee. CO-CHAIR WIELECHOWSKI moved to report SB 144 from committee with individual recommendations and attached fiscal note(s). There were no objections and it was so ordered. 4:23:30 PM CO-CHAIR MCGUIRE found no further business to come before the committee and adjourned the meeting at 4:23 p.m.