Measure Would Grant Game Board
Authority Predator Control
PROPOSAL: Airborne efforts could be allowed without governor's nod

The Associated Press / Anchorage Daily News / April 20, 2003


JUNEAU -- A state senator is advocating a measure that would allow the state Board of Game to authorize airborne predator control programs without backing of the governor.

Freshman Sen. Ralph Seekins, R-Fairbanks, said last week before the Senate Judiciary Committee that he wants the Board of Game to allow private hunters to shoot predators with the help of aircraft if predator control is necessary.

Gov. Frank Murkowski's two predecessors both nixed control programs advocated by the board. Earlier this month, Murkowski announced that he also would not support predator control programs that use either state helicopters or personnel, saying he preferred to let local residents do the job.

His directives conflicted with recommendations of the Game Board, which called for helicopters and state employees to be central elements of a predator control plan for the McGrath area.

Under Seekins' proposal, offered through an amendment to Senate Bill 155, the Game Board could not order state helicopters or state personnel to enforce predator control. However, the measure would prevent the administration from stopping the board from instituting predator control on its own terms, as long as the program did not involve state aircraft or state personnel doing the flying or shooting.

That means the board could allow civilians to shoot wolves from the air or using land-and-shoot techniques. The department would have no authority to stop it and would be expected to provide support, Seekins said.

"If there's a separation of powers that exists in the administrative code, as I understand it, we don't want to cross that boundary," Seekins said. "But at the same time that we make that clear, then, I think the intent would be to try to make sure that the administration did not have the ability to negate the efforts of the Board of Game to carry out their program."

Seekins said the intent of the bill is not to force the department into anything. At the same time, Seekins said, he would expect the department to cooperate with the board.

"If the department doesn't do it, we'll talk about their budget and say 'Well, if you're not going to assist in these types of things, maybe you don't need a budget,' " Seekins said.

SB 155 in its original form clarified language to allow the Department of Fish and Game to use land-and-shoot tactics and civilian participants in predator control programs.

Though the amended bill would seem to take authority away from the governor, Seekins contends that it really goes along with the governor's wishes, since Murkowski has said he wants to see local hunters participate in predator control.

"We basically are allowing under statute for the Board of Game to make that decision in concert with the governor's stated methods of being able to do so," he said.

Some lawmakers contend that land-and-shoot hunting has been banned in Alaska after a pair of public votes in 1996 and 2000.

Sen. Hollis French, D-Anchorage, said his constituents are dead set against land-and-shoot hunting.

"They don't want it to move one inch in the direction of making it more easy to do predator control from the air or even on same-day landing and shooting," he said. "I think what I see coming is the least attractive alternative to my constituents, which is private individuals hunting wolves or doing predator control from the air, or doing predator control by landing and shooting."

The committee voted 3-2 along party lines to advance the bill. It is next scheduled for the Senate Resources Committee.

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