JUNEAU - The Alaska House has approved a measure to streamline state game laws over the objections of some lawmakers who say it would allow for the state-sanctioned aerial shooting of wolves without proper scientific justification.
Lawmakers introduced the bill at the request of Gov. Sarah Palin. Officials at the Department of Fish and Game said the aim is to mesh and simplify two confusing, often conflicting, laws aimed at boosting moose, deer and caribou populations.
They say it would allow the Board of Game to respond quickly to declines in prey populations while continuing to base its decisions on state biologists' research and advice.
But critics said the bill would free the state from having to prove that a predator control program is necessary. Rep. Paul Seaton, R-Homer, said the bill sets up a much looser standard.
"I'm a hunter and I'm not opposed to predator control. I am opposed to what we're doing here, which is taking out a scientific requirement to have a game management plan and to have a nexus between predation and the decline in population," he said.
Rep. John Coghill, R-North Pole, defended the bill saying the board would continue to consult with fish and game officials while actively managing wolf and bear populations.
"We are trying to get predator control out of the emergency mode and into the mode of human harvest, whether subsistence or other game hunting," said Coghill.
The bill passed 25-12 and goes to the Senate next. The bill is House Bill 256.