There are a lot of moving pieces at the end of the second session of a Legislature – it is a time of suspense and surprise which can turn into an 11th hour frenzy of bill passage – like the champagne after the cork is blown off – legislation that has been bottled up in the respective Finance committees or in the Rules Committees can often come out and pass swiftly – propelled by unseen negotiations, horse-trading, compromises great and small. It is this precise time when a political operative worth their salt can get items added to bills that escape thorough public review. That is what happened with HB 130.
Gov. Walker introduced the simple bill – which made clerical boundary changes to critical habitat areas and wildlife refuges and it passed the House in 2017 on a near unanimous vote. In the Senate, the Resources Committee chair used the bill as a vehicle to revise the mission of Alaska wildlife refuges – from “protection” of wildlife to “conservation” of wildlife and to rename a number of wildlife refuges by adding the term “hunting preserve” to the title. The Walker Administration is actively supporting this change which occurred without any public process. While The Alaska Center fully supports and endorses the rights of Alaskans to hunt on public lands – we also support good government, and a strong public process.
The Walker Administration is assuring House members that the change in mission from “protecting” wildlife to “conserving” wildlife makes no material difference. They are incorrect and misleading. Words matter and intent matters.
There is a discussion to be had about the words “protect” and “conserve”, and a renaming of wildlife refuges and why people want to do this. The Walker Administration should file a separate bill on the matter if it actually agrees this is a worthwhile policy call. They should open public testimony on the bill, and invite Alaskans to share their opinion.
Absent a public process HB 130 should not pass out of the House. Contact House Leadership and ask them politely to please consider not moving this bill forward. In addition to your own representative, contact House Majority Leader, Representative Chris Tuck, and House Speaker, Representative Bryce Edgmon, and House Rules Committee Chair – Representative Gabrielle Ledoux. Do this today. Thank you.
-Louie Flora, Government Affairs Director
Capital Budget Update
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