The Board of Game today unanimously approved sweeping changes to the regulations governing control of predation by wolves (5 AAC 92.110) and control of predation by bears (5 AAC 92.115).
The new regulations remove the public hearing and comment requirement that must be met before undertaking a predator control implementation plan. They also eliminate the check list of other legal requirements that previously had be fulfilled, such as having to provide justifications for doing predator control, determining the level of human dependency on the wild prey population, assessing the size of the existing predator and prey population, establishing the limits the habitat can sustain in the way of prey numbers, identifying the methods and means that will be used to eliminate the predators, and so on.
In other words all of the legal safeguards that the public has to participate in the process and to challenge the validity of predator control programs that are not justified.
The new regulations grant the Commissioner of Fish and Game the right to carry out "any applicable predation control implementation plan adopted by the board".
Kevin Saxby, the state's attorney, pointed out that he has long felt major changes were needed, and that their passage would make it much more difficult for there to be legal challenges. Saxby strongly advised the Board of Game to request that the department expedite the changes, in order to give the department the authority it needs to do just that. Under the new regulations gunners could be back in the skies shooting wolves within 30 days no matter what the outcome of the pending injunction to stop the existing program under existing regulations.
The method used to get the new regulations approved was unethical and possibly illegal. The Board of Game is required by law to notify the public, hold public hearings and take public comment before passing new regulations. Since there was no proposal on the books dealing with this matter, the Board of Game incorporated the sweeping regulatory changes into a proposal from the Fairbanks Advisory Committee that asked for an amendment to the existing regulations to "Allow the pursuit of wolves and/or bears by snowmachine within intensive management predator control boundaries," and that had received public comment.
The action that the Board took and the way it went about it makes a mockery of the public process.