ANCHORAGE - The Department of Fish and Game is asking for a delay in a proposal that would legalize bear trapping for the first time in Alaska since statehood.
The request by Deputy Commissioner Pat Valkenburg came three days after an Associated Press story raised concerns about whether the public was being fairly heard on the proposal to set trapping seasons for black bears.
The Fish and Game proposal, if approved, would legalize trapping and snaring black bears in half a dozen areas of Alaska, mostly in the Interior. The proposal was to be taken up in Anchorage at a game board meeting beginning Friday.
Valkenburg's memo, sent Monday to Kristy Tibbles, executive director of the Alaska Board of Game, asks that final consideration of the issue be deferred until a November meeting in Ketchikan in southeast Alaska.
The memo says the request was being made because of "the public concern about lack of adequate time to provide input to the Board of Game" about the bear trapping proposal.
Valkenburg said delaying final action until next month will provide more opportunity for public comment at both the Anchorage and Ketchikan game board meetings.
The decision on whether to defer will be made at the October meeting, Valkenburg said.
Valkenburg's memo also points out that the agency initially asked in March that the proposal to set trapping seasons be heard at the Ketchikan meeting.
Fish and Game later suggested to the board that the issue be added to the special meeting to discuss problems with the Nelchina caribou herd community hunt. Tibbles said it made more sense to move the issue to the special meeting because it was more of a concern to people in Southcentral than Southeast.
Wade Willis, a Fish and Game watchdog and former employee, said Valkenburg's request "does absolutely nothing."
The board won't be taking bear trapping proposals from the public at either meeting, Valkenburg said.
The issue should be included in the regularly scheduled meeting next March in Anchorage to deal with Southcentral issues, Willis said. The public would be allowed to submit their own proposals at that meeting. The deadline is Oct. 29.
"They want to ramrod their version down everybody's throat. Let everyone say a few words of protest and say 'OK, you had your chance to protest and that's it,"' Willis said.
"What are they afraid of? Why don't they want the public to submit proposals?"
The board quietly took the first step toward legalization - reclassifying bears as furbearers - in January. The setting of trapping seasons would make the activity legal in areas where such seasons are set.
Valkenburg's memo says that if the board grants the request, the proposals to set trapping seasons will be added to the legal notice for the November meeting.