House OKs Latest Predator Control Bill

The Associated Press / Anchorage Daily News / May 21, 2003


FAIRBANKS -- A bill to increase the Board of Game's predator control powers passed the state House on Monday.

The bill has already passed the Senate, but it still faces an uncertain future. It has to clear a couple of procedural hurdles before the Legislature adjourns today. And Gov. Frank Murkowski, who has the power to veto the bill, has voiced opposition to it.

Murkowski spokesman John Manly told the Fairbanks News-Miner on Monday that the governor maintains his disapproval of the bill.

"He's said every time it's been brought up that it's not what he's looking for," Manly said. "He said, as it is, it's not acceptable."

But Manly would not say whether the governor will veto the bill.

Senate Bill 155 by Sen. Ralph Seekins, R-Fairbanks, would clarify that land-and-shoot predator control is legal and would allow predator control programs to be based not just on prey populations but also on harvest and predator numbers.

But the sticking point for the executive branch is a provision in the bill that lets the Board of Game enact predator control programs without having to get approval from the administration.

Currently, the Commissioner of Fish and Game has to give the final OK for airborne predator control.

Seekins' idea to change that won't quite work because only the administration can approve the use of state funds, personnel or aircraft for a predator control program. And the commissioner still has to issue federal permits to allow the program to go forward.

But Murkowski has still deemed the proposal unacceptable because it lessens the executive branch's role in predator control decisions.

The disagreement over that provision spilled over onto the House floor on Monday. Rep. Hugh Fate, R-Fairbanks, echoed Seekins' arguments that the bill would prevent the administration from nixing a predator control plan for political reasons.

But Rep. Beth Kerttula, D-Juneau, argued that it's important the administration be able to weigh in. She noted that wolf control is a touchy issue with political repercussions that need to be considered.

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