Leg with Louie: ACTION ALERT HB 130 April 24

Did you know that HB 130 – a simple bill amending clerical boundary errors in ADFG special use areas – has been amended so that the words “hunting preserve” are added to the title of our state game and waterfowl refuges. For instance – Creamers Field Migratory Waterfowl Refuge in downtown Fairbanks will be renamed “Creamers Field Migratory Waterfowl Refuge and Hunting Preserve”. Same with the Mendenhall Wetlands State Game Refuge, and the Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge etc.  It is rumored that the big game hunting group Safari Club International and a disgruntled former Parnell Administration bureaucrat are driving this effort.

While this change may seem innocuous – an affirmation of Alaska’s hunting heritage – there are troubling public process questions with this proposed name change. There is no legal definition of a “hunting preserve” in Alaska statutes and it was thrown into the bill without public input, and without agency input, and without municipal input, and without community input.

With no public testimony, Senate Resources, at the direction of Chair Cathy Giessel, recently moved the “hunting preserve” language in HB 130 from committee, giving ADFG staff, committee members, and the public about a half hour to review the bill.  

While the Walker Administration has now apparently determined, after a brief review, that this change is OK – common sense tells us to slow down a little.  ADFG staff has concluded that calling it a “hunting preserve” has no functional bearing on the management of our state game refuges. The department did caution that the label “Hunting Preserves” suggests something quite different than the legislative intent of state game refuges.  

A hunting preserve is a new term in Alaska – in the lower 48 a hunting preserve is generally a large tract of private land that is stocked with birds or wildlife hunted by rich old white guys who pay large sums of money for their “hunting” experience. A hunting preserve also implies an area utilized by royalty to hunt deer or fox from horseback. Perhaps this is the type of hunting experience that Safari Club International and other outside Big Game hunting groups have in mind for Alaska in the future? What is the point of the language? With no public testimony, no opportunity to hear from proponents of the change – who knows?

An additional change in the bill is the deletion of the word “protect” in the section of statute that describes the purpose of critical habitat areas and wildlife refuges. Instead of to “protect” and preserve the natural habitat and game population in special use areas, this version of HB 130 would change the purpose to “conserve” and preserve the natural habitat. What is the difference between protection and conservation? Not sure, though I am quite sure Safari Club International and the Alaska Outdoor Council have their reasons for this change. Too bad we don’t get to hear from them.  

Call it what you will – I call it an end of session rush job – a hatchet job done quickly, intentionally without review, discussion, testimony. This sloppy name change should not be accepted by the House. HB 130 is up on the Senate floor today at 11 a.m. and will likely pass. The House must approve the changes made by the Senate.  

Call or email your representative and ask them to vote NO on concurrence with the Senate version of HB 130.  

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