The state Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation wants to hear public comments on a controversial decision by the Alaska Board of Game to allow wolverine trapping in Chugach State Park, acting state parks director Chris Degernes said Monday.
The move came in response to a letter to the division Friday from a group of civic leaders who requested exactly that, Degernes said.
Signed by former Gov. Tony Knowles and former state parks director Jim Stratton, it claimed that the game board didn't sufficiently review the issue before dismissing the advice of state biologists last month and voting to open the park to wolverine trapping for the first time since 1973.
Most park users probably weren't aware of the proposal, and those who were probably thought it would never be adopted, considering the "strong negative recommendation" by the state Department of Fish and Game biologists who opposed it, the letter said.
Former Chugach State Parks advisory board chairman Tom Meacham, who also signed the letter, said the park users would have had a difficult time testifying before the board, which took action on more than 200 proposals.
"You have to plan on camping out there for two or three days," Meacham said. "The public may have been lulled into thinking this would not be adopted."
Degernes said the appropriate forum for further public discussion on the issue is the parks advisory board, which she expects to accept public testimony on the issue at a future session.
"They can either organize a special meeting or address it during an upcoming board meeting," she said. "We'll use the process that's already in place for having this discussion -- to really analyze the public safety concerns and evaluate what possible remedies there are that division of parks can pursue."
Alaska Department of Fish and Game wildlife biologists had recommended against the proposal on the grounds that there aren't many wolverines in the park to begin with -- perhaps as few as a dozen -- and also because wolverine traps might endanger visitors and their pets.
The state parks division doesn't have the legal authority to manage Alaska's fish and game, Degernes said. So questions about the appropriate levels of wolverine populations in the park aren't something they're likely to address.
But the division does have the authority -- and the responsibility -- to oversee public safety issues, she said.
Under the new regulation, trappers will be permitted to take up to two wolverines apiece in specific areas of the park between Dec. 15 and Jan. 31.
Those areas include the Bird Creek, Indian Creek and Peters Creek drainages, the upper reaches of Ship Creek above Fort Richardson and along the park's eastern boundary. Trapping would not be permitted in the front range closest to town, nor in the Eagle River or Eklutna Lake areas.
The wolverine season was initially proposed by the Southcentral Chapter of the Alaska Trappers Association.
Certain areas of the park are already open to trapping for coyote, lynx, marten, weasel and red fox during limited periods of winter.
But according to state biologist Rick Sinnott, there is very little coyote or marten trapping in the park, and people who pursue the other species typically use small traps.
"Lynx trappers tend to use visual baits, like a fluttering wing or feather," Sinnott said. "They tend to use leg-hold traps. They don't tend to use these large Conibear body-ripping killer traps (that wolverine trappers do)."
Daily News reporter George Bryson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.