Recently there has been discussion about city ordinance 42.20.050 and the exemption for shotgun discharge in the Mendenhall Wetlands State Game Refuge. The Juneau Assembly decision to preserve the privilege of waterfowl hunting in the wetlands by allowing shotguns to be discharged anywhere prompts me to write with a suggestion.
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To paraphrase Mr. Dunn of Ducks Unlimited, waterfowl hunting in the Mendenhall Wetlands is the only practical opportunity for our youth to hunt. This opportunity provides positive experiences for our youth including learned responsibility, respect for the outdoors, self-reliance and appreciation of wildlife.
There are many areas within Juneau that would provide wonderful waterfowl hunting opportunities and I recommend that the exemption for shotguns be broadened to cover all of these areas. This would not only reduce congestion in the wetlands, but also allow easier access for our youth in all areas of town. Twin Lakes immediately comes to mind - wonderful for hunting ducks. The wetland area between the Juneau Pioneers' Home and the old Kmart is also a prime location that has been overlooked. In the Mendenhall Valley, one can't drive by Rotary Park without seeing ducks. Rotary Park should be opened up for hunting, too. Many locations along the Mendenhall River could provide some wonderful opportunities for our youth back in the valley whom otherwise find it inconvenient to access the Mendenhall Wetlands. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game should open up Mendenhall and Auke lakes as well.
These are only the most obvious locations, and I am sure there are many more. It would probably be best to just allow shotguns to be discharged anywhere within Juneau. This seems to be in line with the Assembly's current mode of thinking and would be easier than trying to define specific areas.
Any resident that may be concerned with such an ordinance change are possibly just ignorant about guns and the dangers of being "sprinkled" or having shot "dropped" on them. Just because a few citizens may be concerned about safety shouldn't limit this precious sporting resource that waterfowl hunting provides. All waterfowl hunting is of course regulated by the Department of Fish and Game and any new areas would fall under its jurisdiction as well. The gun safety and duck hunting clinics that are put on, as well as the mandatory registration, radio announcements and safety reminders should educate hunters and mitigate any potential issues. Either way, it won't impact the Assembly because the hunting community has generously requested that the city allow them to work with Fish and Game to resolve conflicts that may arise with homeowners from time to time. This clearly relieves the Assembly of any responsibility or need for response.
Thanks as always to the Assembly for its prudent consideration.
Melissa Green is a Juneau resident who lives near the Mendenhall Wetlands State Game Refuge.