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Senator wants board to have more authority on wolf control

Bill would stop governor from halting airborne shooting of wolves

Posted: Tuesday, April 22, 2003

A state senator is advocating a measure that would allow the state Board of Game to authorize airborne predator-control programs without backing of the governor.

Freshman Sen. Ralph Seekins, a Fairbanks Republican, told the Senate Judiciary Committee he wants the Board of Game to allow private hunters to shoot predators with the help of aircraft if predator control is necessary.

Gov. Frank Murkowski's two predecessors nixed control programs advocated by the board. Earlier this month, Murkowski announced he also would not support predator control programs that use either state helicopters or personnel, saying he preferred to let residents do the job.

His directives conflicted with recommendations of the Game Board, which called for helicopters and state employees to be central elements of a wolf-control plan for the McGrath area.

Under Seekins' proposal, offered through an amendment to Senate Bill 155, the Game Board could not order state helicopters or state personnel to enforce predator control. However, the measure would prevent the administration from stopping the board from instituting predator control on its own terms, as long as the program did not involve state aircraft or state personnel doing the flying or shooting.

That means the board could allow citizens to shoot wolves from the air or using land-and-shoot techniques. The Fish and Game Department would have no authority to stop it, and would be expected to provide support, Seekins said last week.

"... I think the intent would be to try to make sure that the administration did not have the ability to negate the efforts of the Board of Game to carry out their program," he said.

Seekins said he would expect Fish and Game to cooperate with the board.

"If the department doesn't do it, we'll talk about their budget and say 'Well, if you're not going to assist in these types of things, maybe you don't need a budget,' " he said.

SB 155 in its original form clarified language to allow the Department of Fish and Game to use land-and-shoot tactics and civilian participants in predator control programs.

Some lawmakers contend land-and-shoot hunting has been banned in Alaska thanks to a pair of public votes in 1996 and 2000.

Sen. Hollis French, an Anchorage Democrat, said his constituents are dead-set against land-and-shoot hunting.

"They don't want it to move one inch in the direction of making it more easy to do predator control from the air or even on same-day landing and shooting," he said. "I think what I see coming is the least attractive alternative to my constituents, which is private individuals hunting wolves or doing predator control from the air, or doing predator control by landing and shooting."

The committee voted 3-2 along party lines to advance the bill to the Senate Resources Committee.



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