Bill to Ease Bear Hunting Rules Stalls in Committee

WORRIES: Hunting guides testify measure would hurt businesses

Legislature / Associated Press / Anchorage Daily News / May 12, 2004

JUNEAU -- A controversial bear-hunting bill appeared stuck in committee as the Legislature wound to a close Tuesday. The measure would allow more non-Alaska residents to hunt bears without guides, and make it easier to hunt bears thought to be causing a decline in moose and caribou.

Resources Committee Co-chair Beverly Masek, R-Willow, said there was little support in the committee for the bill and not enough time to move it forward.

Senate Bill 297, written by Sen. Ralph Seekins, R-Fairbanks, has already passed the Senate.

It would allow people issued a state "bear control permit" to take a nonresident hunting for bears, as long as the permit holder is 21 and has hunted big game for at least two years. Current law only allows nonresidents to go along if they are a close relative or spouse.

Several big-game guides testified Sunday that the bill could jeopardize Alaska's entire big-game guide system and open it to legal challenges.

"It would take down sheep hunting, goat hunting and brown bear hunting," said registered guide William Fitzgerald.

Wayne Regelin, deputy of commissioner of the Department of Fish and Game, told the panel Sunday it would be "very difficult" to defend the guide laws if the bill passed.

"This whole issue is a policy call for the Legislature," he said. "It'll be an increased risk for the guiding industry."

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