Category Archives: Board of Game

Alaska House Passes HB105 Denali Wolf Buffer Bill

From Alaska Dispatch, May 19th, 2017. Article by Nathaniel Hertz

“The state Legislature opened a new front this week in a long-running war between supporters and opponents of wolf trapping near Denali National Park and Preserve — with sportsman’s advocates on one side and proponents of tourism and conservation on the other.

In one of its last actions of the regular legislative session, the Alaska House voted 22-18 on Wednesday to pass a bill that protects wolves from trappers in two areas adjoining the park — a move aimed at giving visitors more chances to see the animals, though it’s opposed by the state Board of Game. It also faces long odds in the Senate…

…House Bill 105 would create a 530-square-mile buffer zone northeast of the park where wolf hunting and certain traps and snares are banned.”

Read the full article at Alaska Dispatch

Read the press release from the bill’s sponsor, Rep Andy Josephson, here.

 

Alert: Two extraordinarily important bills need your comments this week 3/20/17

URGENT! Please support pending legislation to 1) dedicate seats on the Board of Game for non-consumptive users, and 2) stop wolf hunting and trapping adjacent to Denali National Park

House Bill 134, which would require at least one non-consumptive user and one tourism representative to be seated on the seven-member Board of Game, will come up for its first public hearing in the House Resources Committee this week. HB 105 (Denali wolf buffer area) is scheduled for a continued public hearing at the same time.

The teleconferenced public hearings on both bills are scheduled for:

Monday, March 20 and

Wednesday, March 22

both begin at 1:00 pm.

 

There are several ways to give input on HB 134 and HB 105:

  • At your local Legislative Information Office you may testify via teleconference. Locations are listed here. http://akleg.gov/lios.php LIO staff will help with the process, and you can also submit a written copy of your comments.
  • Call in to the hearing directly: (844) 586-9085. The wait time to speak will depend on how many others are calling in.

 

HB 134, which would mandate two non-consumptive members on the Board of Game, is critical to nearly every wildlife issue we face in Alaska.

We cannot over-emphasize the importance of everyone speaking up in support of this bill! If we do not support it, we cannot complain when the Board of Game continues its “business as usual” managing wildlife for hunters and trappers.

Introduced by Anchorage Rep. Andy Josephson, HB 134 states in part:

“In making board member appointments, the governor is directed to consider a diversity of interests and points of view. Unfortunately, past and present board appointments have favored consumptive interests and failed to include sufficient representation for non-consumptive interests.

Alaska’s wildlife is more than a hunting opportunity for many Alaskans and visitors. Wildlife viewing, photography, and scientific research carry value such that it is worth having non-consumptive interests represented on the Board of Game.”

Read the full bill here. http://www.akleg.gov/basis/Bill/Text/30?Hsid=HB0134A

 

HB 105 would close an area on state land adjacent to the northeastern park boundary to hunting and trapping of wolves. (Read the full bill here:

http://www.akleg.gov/basis/Bill/Text/30?Hsid=HB0105A )

This area roughly overlaps the Wolf Townships/Stampede Corridor where we have been fighting for years to get a buffer approved by the Board of Game. (The most recent buffer proposal was unanimously defeated by the BOG in February.)

Note: The hearing times for HB 105 (Denali wolf buffer), are for those who have not previously testified on the bill. If you have already testified, it is not necessary to do so again.

Lawmakers need to hear loud and clear that we enthusiastically support these bills!

As co-chair of the House Resources Committee, Andy is in a position to (hopefully) champion these bills through that committee. If they advance to other committee(s) and the full House, their future is less certain. Nevertheless it is a great accomplishment and true progress that we can get these and other pending wildlife-related bills to public hearings. Please tell Andy that you support his efforts and his pending legislation. He is a dedicated supporter of wildlife and environmental issues – we owe him a huge “thank you”!

Again, it is imperative that we make our voices heard on these bills.

Thank you.

P.S. We apologize for the short notice; these hearings are scheduled by the legislature on short notice.

Board of Game bias isn’t based on science: ADN opinion, 3/13/17

Opinion from Alaska Dispatch News, by Bill Sherwonit

Read the original article here.

“Hiding behind science, the Alaska Board of Game continues to push an extreme agenda, one that is overwhelmingly biased toward hunters and trappers at the expense of our state’s wolves and bears, no matter the circumstances. And despite the fact that the board’s own “science” is sometimes suspect.

The most recent example of the Game Board’s narrow-minded — and, I would argue, regressive — approach to wildlife management came in Fairbanks, where in late February it unanimously rejected proposals to reinstate a no-kill wolf buffer on state lands that border Denali National Park…

…The Game Board repeatedly approved buffers of various sizes and shapes between 2000 and 2008, and some sort of zone providing additional protections to “Denali wolves” existed for a decade. And when the board voted to eliminate the buffer in 2010, it did so by the narrowest of margins, 4-3, a decision fueled not by science but anti-feds fervor.

Apparently, the reasoning and science that the board used in supporting a buffer the first decade of this century no longer applies.”

Read the rest of this article at Alaska Dispatch News

Alaska Dispatch: Alaska game board shoots down bid for Denali wolf buffer

ADN article by Zaz Hollander, February 24th, 2017.

Read the full article at Alaska Dispatch News

The Alaska Board of Game has summarily rejected a no-kill zone for wolves on state lands north and east of Denali National Park and Preserve during its first consideration of the contentious wolf buffer since 2010.

The unanimous and fairly quick vote of the seven-member board came Friday afternoon during a weeklong meeting in Fairbanks amid heavy pressure from the public, wolf advocacy groups and the National Park Service to ban hunting and trapping on state lands next to the park.

A Park Service study last year linked the presence of a buffer to more wolf sightings for Denali visitors, though dens near the park road were a bigger factor. Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologists say relatively low numbers of moose, caribou and sheep influence wolves more than any buffer.

The board’s decision marks the latest salvo in a long and recently inflamed war over predator-control policy between state and federal officials.

A Park Service proposal called on the board to close a 150-square-mile area, including the Stampede Corridor, to hunting and trapping during the spring breeding season and into the summer. Another proposal from the Denali Citizens Council and Alaska Wildlife Alliance also included Nenana Canyon and called for a year-round ban.

The board voted down the broader proposal, rendering the Park Service proposal moot. They did not vote on it.

Continue reading the full article at Alaska Dispatch News…

Citizens letter to Governor Walker on predator control

The following letter has been submitted to Governor Walker on August 15th, 2016.

The letter has 150 signatories (from 28 Alaska communities), including several former Alaska Board of Game members, a former ADFG commissioner, a former gubernatorial Chief of Staff, scientists, writers, photographers, doctors, lawyers, artists, musicians, teachers, hunters business owners, and so forth — all Alaskans, all with equal constitutional say re: Alaska wildlife.

If you wish to weigh in further in support of this ask, we would encourage you to email Governor Walker directly at:

governor@alaska.gov

—————————————–

IM2014

Click to enlarge

August 15, 2016
Honorable Bill Walker, Governor
State of Alaska
Office of the Governor
P.O. Box 110001
Juneau, AK 99811-0001
RE: Requested adjustments to State of Alaska predator control/Intensive
Management program
Dear Governor Walker,

Over the past 13 years, lethal predator control/Intensive Management (IM) in
Alaska has expanded dramatically. A graphic display of the increase in predator
control areas in Alaska from 2001 – 2014 can be found here:
http://unbearableterms.tumblr.com/post/72770119451/predator-controlareas#.V5U5kTV5-8A

The Alaska Department of Fish & Game (ADFG) reports that each year, Alaska
predator control programs directly kill approximately 200 wolves, 150 black bears,
and 10 brown bears. However, this total does not include the number of pups and
cubs that die after being orphaned by the program, nor does this total reflect the
increased predator harvest that has resulted from the liberalization of predator take
regulations, including liberalization/elimination of bag limits, significant extensions
of hunting/trapping seasons for predators, elimination of brown bear tag
requirements, baiting/snaring of bears, permitting the take of sows with cubs,
permitting use of helicopters to run IM trap lines and bear snare sets, and so on.
Clearly, the actual kill in Alaska’s predator control/IM program is significantly larger
than the total reported.

Alaska’s lethal predator control/IM program, as currently practiced, is unscientific,
unnecessary, ineffective, costly, unethical, inhumane, and controversial.

Accordingly, we the undersigned Alaska citizens, respectfully request that you make
three important and reasonable adjustments to Alaska’s predator control/IM
program, as currently conducted by ADFG:

1. Replace lethal predator control methods with non-lethal methods;
2. Terminate the “collaring for later control,” or “Judas wolf” program;
3. Prohibit all IM within 5 miles of federal conservation units.

As discussed below, you have the authority, indeed the responsibility, to order such
adjustments in this state program.

I. Replace lethal predator control methods with non-lethal methods.

We recognize that state statute provides authority for IM programs, but statute and regulation do not prescribe what techniques must be used for such.

State law and regulation (5 AAC 92.110 and 115) provide the following IM authority to the ADFG commissioner:

The commissioner or the commissioner’s designee, including contracted agents
of other governmental agencies, may reduce [wolf and bear] populations in an
efficient manner, by any means, but as safely and humanely as practical,
including the use of a helicopter.

While the state explicitly prohibits use of certain methods in its lethal predator
control program (e.g., machine guns, bombs, explosives, pits, fire, smoke, electronic
night vision scopes, expanding gas arrows, etc.); and generally authorizes use of all
other methods (lethal and non-lethal); it does not affirmatively require use of any
specific method. Notably, nowhere does statute or regulation require the use of
lethal vs. non-lethal methods for predator control/IM.

For instance, while 5 AAC 92.110 authorizes the department to lethally gas wolf
pups in dens using carbon monoxide, and to otherwise kill pups in dens (“denning”)
in predator control areas (with the approval of the commissioner), it does not
require such. And while poison is authorized to kill predatory animals
(AS.16.35.200), written permission is required from the Board of Game.
Similarly, while statute and regulation authorize the use of state employees,
helicopters, and other equipment in IM, AS 16.05.783 (e) prohibits such without
direct approval of the commissioner:

The use of state employees or state owned or chartered equipment, including
helicopters, in a predator control program is prohibited without the approval
of the commissioner.

We further note in 5 AAC 92.110 (control of predation by wolves) and 5 AAC 92.115
(control of predation by bears) the following:

After the board has adopted a predation control implementation plan, the
commissioner may, at any time during the period for which the plan is in
effect, determine whether to implement the plan and may, by regulation,
amend the plan to apply additional restrictions in light of circumstances
existing at the time of implementation.

Clearly, implementation and/or amendment of IM plans, including methods to be
used, remains within the discretionary authority of your administration.

On this point, we note that during the administration of former Governor Tony
Knowles, IM was successfully implemented using exclusively non-lethal methods
(e.g., translocation, sterilization, diversionary feeding, habitat enhancement through
wildfire policies, etc.). These non-lethal methods represent effective alternatives to
the lethal control methods.
There are numerous problems with Alaska’s current lethal predator control/IM
programs, including that they:
• Are based on poor science and inadequate predator/prey population
surveys;
• Are not scientifically peer reviewed;
• Do not recognize or protect natural variability of dynamic ecosystems;
• Do not account for the growing ecological impacts of climate change;
• Are designed for mostly urban, not rural subsistence, hunters;
• Are not supported by many Alaska citizens;
• Can result in prey populations exceeding habitat carrying capacity, thus
degrading habitat;
• Can lead to unintended consequences, including increasing predation due to
immigration of predators into control areas;
• Prioritize consumptive use of wildlife over non-consumptive use, contrary to
the Alaska constitution; and
• Produce little scientific evidence that the programs are effective.

It is time for reputable, professional wildlife scientists in ADFG to admit such, and
provide scientific leadership on this issue to the Board of Game and commissioner.
Further, it is clear that the state’s lethal predator control program is currently
financially supported in large part through the federal Pittman-Robertson “Federal
Aid in Wildlife Restoration” program. This federal program contributes the single
largest component of the annual budget of the ADFG Division of Wildlife
Conservation. Although the state maintains that its federal aid accounts do not
reflect direct support to actual IM operations, it is apparent that lethal control is
indeed being supported, inappropriately, with these federal funds (e.g. collaring for
later control, as discussed below). In addition, most of the state’s funding for survey
and inventory monitoring, and assessment of impacts of the lethal predator control
program, derives directly from these federal wildlife restoration funds.

As you know, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is now drafting a new proposed rule to
clarify whether such uses by states are permissible, and the U.S. Department of
Interior Inspector General is preparing to conduct an audit of the past use of these
federal funds by the State of Alaska, paying specific attention to this issue of funds
used for lethal predator control. The continuation of the lethal predator control
program, with support by these federal wildlife restoration funds, jeopardizes the
continuation of this substantial funding source to state wildlife management.

Finally, as aerial lethal control involves chasing and often wounding wolves and
bears from aircraft, this can cause significant suffering of animals. As such, this
practice violates the state legal requirement to conduct predator control “as
humanely as practical.” While “humane” is not defined in statute, it is generally
taken to require compassion, kindness, and sympathy for animals; and to require
that actions cause the least possible harm, pain, and suffering. The practice of
chasing, shooting and wounding wolves and bears from aircraft does not meet this
legal requirement of humane treatment.
In addition, bear baiting/snaring conducted in GMU 16 is exceptionally cruel and
inhumane, as snared bears can struggle and suffer painfully for days before
succumbing or being killed.
Governor, you and your ADFG commissioner clearly have the authority to substitute
exclusively non-lethal IM methods for the lethal methods now in use. The IM
surcharge you approved this year can be used to support the non-lethal IM effort.
Non-lethal IM will effectively sustain ungulate populations for human harvest, will
comply with statute, and will increase public acceptance of state wildlife
management.
For the above reasons, we request that you order the substitution of humane, nonlethal
predator control options for all lethal control options now in use.

II. Terminate the “collaring for later control,” or “Judas wolf,” program.
Secondly, we ask that you terminate the practice of “Judas wolf” collaring/killing.
As you know, this program places tracking collars on wolves, and then state gunners
track the collared wolves back to their family group/den, where as many as possible
are then killed by state biologists. The “Judas” animals are often spared in order to
lead state gunners to other wolves for elimination.
We note the following in July 7, 2016 correspondence from Bruce Dale, Director of
the ADFG Division of Wildlife Conservation:

A total of 28 wolves were fitted with radio collars since 2005 in the Upper
Yukon–Tanana wolf control area. This is the only area where radio-collared
wolves have been used to locate wolves during a wolf control program. These
wolves were all radio-collared between fall 2011 and spring 2016
(Regulatory years 2011 through 2015; RY11–RY15). A total of 179 wolves
were killed by ADF&G during RY11–RY15 in this wolf control program.
We estimate that approximately 30% of wolves killed by ADF&G in the Upper
Yukon–Tanana wolf control area in the last 5 years were associated with
collared wolves.

Wolves serve a critical role in terrestrial ecosystem stability, and are intelligent,
social animals, with strong family bonds. We find it reprehensible that this very
sociality and family bond is being lethally exploited in state predator control efforts.
This program adds another layer of concern regarding the inhumane killing of
wildlife from helicopters. The program also raises legal questions regarding
compliance with FCC licensing of airwaves used for tracking, as well as NEPA
compliance.
The “Judas wolf” collaring/killing program is unethical, inhumane, an
embarrassment to Alaska, and should be ended immediately.

III. Prohibit all IM within 5 miles of federal conservation units.

Finally, we ask that you prohibit all state predator control/IM programs (lethal or
non-lethal) within 5-miles of any federal conservation unit – National Parks,
National Preserves, National Wildlife Refuges – to minimize impact on wolves and
bears from these conservation units and the consequent erosion of ecological
integrity of these national interest lands.
On this point, we note that over the past decade, state IM programs have targeted
and eliminated most wolf family groups (packs) from Yukon-Charley Rivers
National Preserve, including most of those collared for federal research programs.
As a result, the Park Service now concludes that the Preserve is “no longer in a
natural state,” and there are not enough survivors in the Preserve to maintain a
“self-sustaining population.” In a 5-year period, state IM efforts have killed 90
Preserve wolves from nine packs, and terminated the 20-year federal wildlife
research program.

As example in 2013, all 24 members of Yukon Charley’s Seventymile Pack, including
two with radio collars, were shot by ADFG-authorized private airplane gunners,
eliminating the pack altogether. In 2012 and 2014, ADFG helicopter gunners shot
all 19 members of the Lost Creek Pack, including two collared animals, eliminating
that pack as well. And in March 2016, state helicopter gunners shot and wounded a
female Yukon Charley wolf along the boundary of the Preserve, and then pursued
the wounded animal into the Preserve, where they illegally killed her. Of the 18
other wolves killed by state predator control in this area this spring, half were
young of the year.
Yet despite the state IM program, calf survival in the Forty Mile Caribou herd has not
increased in the past 5 years.
State predator control on the boundaries of federal conservation units is causing
significant harm to the ecological integrity of these federal lands, it isn’t achieving
the stated goal, and it further erodes the state-federal relationship. This practice
needs to end.

In conclusion, the manner in which we conduct our activities, including how we
manage and treat our wildlife, is an important reflection of who we are as a society.
Throughout the Murkowski, Palin, and Parnell administrations, Alaska’s predator
control programs have grown more aggressive, inhumane, costly, unscientific,
ineffective, and unacceptable to most Alaskans. These lethal predator control
programs seriously tarnish the image and reputation of Alaska, which in turn poses
risk to our sustainable tourism industry.
As you are aware, the National Park Service and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service have
recently published rules restricting lethal predator control on these federal
conservation units in Alaska. This welcome federal action reflects a growing
national sentiment that such lethal IM programs are inappropriate, and should be
ended.
Unfortunately, your administration has, so far, continued aggressive, lethal predator
control/IM on other lands in Alaska.
Governor, we are better than this. We need new “rules of engagement” in Alaska’s
predator control program.
The reasonable adjustments we request here present an opportunity for you to
restore responsible wildlife management in Alaska, sustain ungulate populations for
human consumption, and honor your commitment to represent the interests of all
Alaskans.

As a way forward, we encourage you to convene an independent, science-based
Intensive Management Working Group to examine these, and other such proposals.
We look forward to your positive response.
Very Respectfully,

[150 signatories (from 28 Alaska communities), including several former Alaska Board of Game members, a former ADFG commissioner, a former gubernatorial Chief of Staff, scientists, writers, photographers, doctors, lawyers, artists, musicians, teachers, hunters business owners, and so forth — all Alaskans, all with equal constitutional say re: Alaska wildlife.]