The state House of Representatives voted Wednesday to loosen restrictions on same-day airborne hunting of predators. (Dan Carpenter/KTUU-TV)
Rep. John Coghill, R-North Pole (Dan Carpenter/KTUU-TV)
Rep. Les Gara, D-Anchorage (Dan Carpenter/KTUU-TV)
Rep. Berta Gardner, D-Anchorage (Dan Carpenter/KTUU-TV)
Rep. Mike Kelly, R-Fairbanks (Dan Carpenter/KTUU-TV)
JUNEAU, Alaska -- The state House of Representatives voted Wednesday to loosen restrictions on same-day airborne hunting of predators.
Supporters say the bill focuses on human consumption of moose, deer and caribou. Detractors say it's designed for indiscriminate killing of wolves and brown bears.
Alaskans are scheduled to vote in August on whether to reinstitute a general ban on aerial-based hunting. But Gov. Sarah Palin and the House are saying it needs to be a part of active game management.
Supporters of Gov. Palin's bill for so-called active game management say they're striking a compromise between existing laws -- one requiring an aggressive role for the Board of Game in maintaining population targets for game and another limiting the role of same-day airborne hunting of predators such as wolves.
"The thing that they focus on is human consumption, which really brings us in line with the constitutional basis of sustained yield and for human uses," said Rep. John Coghill, R-North Pole.
The bill adds brown bears to the list of predators and removes the requirement that predator control be part of a game management plan.
It would authorize aerial-based hunting if the Board of Game determined it would be conducive to achieving harvest or population targets, eliminating the requirement that the board find that predation was an important reason that those objectives were not met.
"The way this is written, as long as you can increase the potential harvest numbers you can kill as many wolves and as many bears as you want. That's not responsible," said Rep. Les Gara, D-Anchorage. "That takes science out of the equation."
Some lawmakers objected to going against past public sentiment.
"I'm just struck by the fact that voters in Alaska have twice said they do not want this," said Rep. Berta Gardner, D-Anchorage. "I think that that in and of itself is the reason to vote no, and I'm a no vote."
Some characterized those initiatives as generated by outside groups and cautioned against exaggerations about how many wolves and bears would be killed.
"Those of us that are out there a lot see them often. I don't want anybody ever to take that away from me or from the future generations. That's not what this is about," said Rep. Mike Kelly, R-Fairbanks. "I think that's hyperbole that plays right into the hands of those in the Lower 48."
The bill was approved by a vote of 25-12, but it still needs to pass muster with the Senate and ultimately with the public.
The House on Thursday considers another bill that would describe game as a public asset.
Supporters of the initiative fear that's a maneuver to take the initiative off the ballot, because it's unconstitutional to appropriate state assets by initiative.
But a legal opinion released Tuesday says the courts are not obligated to honor the Legislature's interpretation.
Contact Bill McAllister at email@example.com