Legislature mulls bid to reinstitute game board

Posted: Monday, April 19, 2004

FAIRBANKS - A big-game guide regulatory board would be resurrected, under a bill making its way through the Legislature.

Senate Bill 303 would reinstitute the Big Game Commercial Services Board, which oversaw hunting guides until the Legislature allowed it to dissolve almost a decade ago.

Committee chair Rep. Ralph Samuels, R-Anchorage, introduced the bill based on a state audit showing that oversight of the industry has slackened since the board was dissolved.

"We are a world-class hunting destination. People spend a lifetime of savings to come up here to go hunting," he told the Senate Resources Committee in a February hearing. "We should protect both our reputation and the resource."

From 1973 to 1995, the Guide Licensing and Control Board - later renamed the Big Game Commercial Services Board - was in charge of regulating the activities of guides and transporters, who are responsible for getting hunters to hunt sites.

When the Legislature declined to renew the board, the regulation of the state's roughly 550 guides and 230 transporters fell under the jurisdiction of the state Division of Occupational Licensing and various federal agencies.

That system hasn't worked well, according to Joe Clutch, president of the Alaska Professional Hunters Association. Under the present system, Clutch said, there is a "huge communication disconnect" between all the parties involved that could be alleviated through board oversight.

"We see the board, and the board process, as a great forum for interaction between the members of the industry, both guiding and transporting, and the various agencies, state and federal," he said.

Supporters of the bill point to other problems with the current setup. When the board was dissolved, a number of guiding standards were lessened. Under current law, no written contracts are required for guides or transporters, and the state has no power to punish a guide who misleads a client or breaches a contract. Clients who feel cheated have no recourse but legal action.

The bill would create a seven-member big game board, with two members employed as guides, one who is a licensed transporter, one Board of Game member, two members who represent private landholders affected by guiding and one public member.

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