Rule proposals for Chugach State Park draw objections

Posted: Monday, December 24, 2007

ANCHORAGE - Trappers and hikers are both finding parts they don't like in a proposal to tighten trapping rules within Chugach State Park.

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The proposed regulations would broaden the setback from trails and trail heads from which trappers may set traps within the park.

The changes mention nothing about wolverines, which the state Board of Game decided earlier this year could be trapped in portions of the park. That drew objections from people who hike, in part because they hope to see the animals and because many hike with dogs. Trappers seeking wolverines often use traps that can kill wolves or dogs.

Chris Degernes, chief of operations for the state Division of Parks and Recreation, said wolverines were purposely not mentioned in the proposal.

"We've really wrestled with this position," she said. "Ultimately, we've restricted our role, our regulations, to protecting public safety. We would try to protect the safety of the majority of users in these areas."

Tom Meacham, an attorney and former Chugach State Parks advisory board chairman, said he was disappointed by the proposed trapping restrictions. He said they are a weak attempt to appease those whose ultimate issue with trapping is the targeting of wolverines, whose populations in the park have been estimated as low as six and as high as 15.

Management of wolverines, Degernes said, is something she sees as a responsibility of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and the Board of Game.

Meacham testified at a meeting Wednesday that the Division of Parks has the primary responsibility to manage wildlife within the park.

"I'm a little baffled that parks has decided to roll over to (the Board of Game)," he said. "Their own statutes require them to have a more protective attitude to wolverines than the Board of Game does. As a rare species or a species that park visitors would like to see, frankly I don't understand why the division of parks has not decided to do more."

Degernes said that statute is open to interpretation.

"We try to figure out what we consider a reasonable balance of the public's right to public safety and a trapper's right to trap," she said.

Trappers at Wednesday's meeting defended their activity and said more restrictions within the park will make it difficult for them to continue any type of trapping.

"I believe this (proposed) regulation goes beyond what is necessary," said Scott Gellerman. "These (changes) eliminate a valuable opportunity in a close proximity of Anchorage for youngsters to trap before having to go home and put them to bed."

Tony DeGange, a wildlife biologist and researcher from Chugiak, testified that he had a dog caught in a trap while hiking several years ago. The dog survived but the trap was set too close to a trail used by people and their pets, he said. The proposed regulations would require traps be set more than 100 yards from trails and more than a half-mile from trail heads.

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