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FAIRBANKS - A bill that seeks to stop nonresidents from hunting big game in Alaska without a guide is headed to the governor's desk.
The bill, unanimously passed by the Senate and House, would remove a loophole in existing law that allows nonresidents who become certified as assistant guides to avoid hiring a guide.
Under state statute, nonresidents need the services of a guide who is registered in Alaska in order to hunt brown bear, grizzly bear, mountain goat or sheep.
"Qualifications for an assistant guide are fairly minimal," said Bill Stoltze, an aide to Chugiak Republican Sen. Rick Halford, who sponsored the bill approved by the House on Wednesday.
The bill closes the loophole, Stoltze said, and makes assistant guides follow the same rules as all the other nonresidents who want to hunt big game in Alaska, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported.
Catherine Reardon, director of the state Division of Occupational Licensing, told the House Resources Committee that nonresidents have been taking advantage of the loophole.
"People have been getting Alaska assistant guide licenses for the specific purpose of coming up here and hunting on their own or hunting with friends," she said. "People are getting the (assistant guide) licenses to avoid hiring a guide."
Fairbanks Republican Rep. Hugh Fate, who pushed the bill on the House floor Wednesday, said that about 70 examples were shown in which this has happened.
Alaska guides complained when they found out that a legal interpretation of the statute had created the loophole. Halford is a guide and the president of the state Senate. His bill was introduced Feb. 19.
Alaska residents do not need a guide to hunt big game, Reardon said. But they have to follow other regulations set by the state Department of Fish and Game.