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Help the McNeil Bear Sanctuary off linmits to hunting


The View from Kwethluk: Time to Hunt

Alaska Politics / Anchorage Daily News / February 27, 2009

From Kyle Hopkins in Anchorage --

Hunters from a Western Alaska village you rarely hear about asking for permission to hunt moose while applauding predator control. A new law that would force the state to open an area to hunting for every area they close. Plus: Dogs snatched out of dog houses in Seward?

And there you have a taste of the Board of Game testimony from this afternoon.

Here's John W. Andrew, of Kwethluk, talking about why hunters in his Yup'ik village are asking the state to re-open moose hunting in the region.

And what about one of the biggest debates of meeting: Predator control?

The board heard today from both sides of that argument, which in this case means shooting wolves or bears to boost caribou and moose numbers.

Bill Sherwonit asked the state to reject any proposals that would expand brown bear hunting in Chugach State Park. While Fish and Game cites bear encounters in nearby Anchorage as cause for adding new hunts, there's no clear evidence the area's grizzly population is growing and no assurance the hunts will curb attacks, he said.

"Bear hunting in Chugach's wilderness will not resolve conflicts in Anchorage and public safety issues in town should not be used as an excuse to enact bear hunts in the park," he said.

Ray Collins is chairman of the McGrath Fish and Game advisory committee. He said the area wolf control program is working but needs more time.

"With the air removal and the wolf control, we were able to increase calf survival dramatically," Collins said. He warned moose numbers still aren't were they need to be and that if the state axes the predator control program it would be tough to re-start.

Eddie Grasser, a former Game Board member and former NRA field rep, talked to the board on behalf a the "Outdoor Heritage Caucus" of state legislators. He said the group includes 35 Alaska lawmakers, and is thinking of proposing a law that would require the state to open up hunting area every time it shuts down a new one.

By the way, it was Ezra Campbell, of the Seward advisory committee, who mentioned dog-snatching predators. I was reading Game Board paperwork at the time and just caught that line of testimony, as Campbell generally talked about a lack of moose and abundance of wolves and bears in the committee's backyard.

Note: You can live-stream the game board meetings here. Background on the meeting was in an earlier post here.

ORIGINAL POST:

I just walked out of the Dena'ina Center, where people will be telling the state Board of Game how it ought to change hunting rules all weekend long. In the hallways, a woman was asking someone why he hates black bears while the board chairman left for lunch with a former NRA field rep.

If there's a common theme in the early testimony, it's Katmai bears.

Dave Lyon, a water taxi owner out of Homer, told the board that the Homer advisory council supports a plan that would push back the brown bear hunting season in the Katmai Perserve, so it won't overlap as much with the fishing and bear-viewing seasons. (Some of his clients are photographers who regularly visit the preserve -- some before heading to Homer to photograph eagles or to Japan to take pictures of hot springs monkeys -- and tell him they see less big brown bears in the region.)

Someone should have prevented the Katmai bears from getting so accustomed to people, he said, and now something has to be done. "You have a bunch of bears who are not threatened by people, and it's an easy hunt. It's like shooting a goose over by Campbell Strip."

Another topic to watch: Urban-versus-rural subsistence hunting preference in Southcentral.

Ken Johns, president of the Glennallen-based Ahtna Corp., told the board that subsistence hunters in the region are being attacked with "meaningless restrictions" that make it harder for them to get meat and that he's seen evidence of discrimination.

"It really came to head this year when we were told to cut the horns in half, which we did, but then the 40-mile caribou hunters coming through Glennallen with these big tracks... they didn't have any restrictions," he said.

And later: "It's been tiring. People keep coming every year and pouring out there hearts, and things just seem to be getting worse and worse and worse," Johns said.

Ahtna board member Nick Jackson plans to speak today too, supporting a plan that would give Ahtna a set amount of hunting permits that the corporation would distribute throughout villages in the region.

Ahtna and the Game Board plan to talk about the idea at a special meeting Monday night, said Game Board Chairman Cliff Judkins.

"My biggest issue is the Nelchina caribou and the Ahtna proposals. We need to solve this Ahtna situation up there, so they know what they're going to be able to hunt and get some traditional hunting activities allowed up there," he said.

But there are legal obstacles he said, that prevent the state from giving permits to a single group of people. "We're going to try to work around that, but it's something we've been battling for at least 10 years.

Meantime, Palin's not here but her critics are. Watch for calls for more rural represenatives on the game board.

Defenders of Wildlife spokesman Wade Willis, for example, is telling reporters the board is stacked with pro-commercial hunting members with ties to the Alaska Outdoor Council.

There's plenty more testimony to come. Better get back over to the convention center.

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