Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Brown Shirts Coming Back

Alaska Governor Sarah Palin has fulfilled a campaign pledge to restore the Alaska Division of Fish and Wildlife Protection, according to the Anchorage Daily News. Her predecessor in the Governor's mansion, Frank Murkowski, had merged the fish and wildlife law enforcement function of the Department of Public Safety into the Division of State Troopers and tasked troopers with enforcing all laws. The move was widely criticized in the outdoors community where a substantial reduction in fish and wildlife enforcement efforts was predicted and observed.

The paper reported Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan as saying that "part of the problem with the merged departments was that officers who were supposed to be focused on wildlife were not able to devote enough attention to that aspect of their jobs because of their law enforcement obligations. The separation should help resolve that, he said.

"They'll still be doing some blue shirt work, but their primary focus is now back to wildlife enforcement, which is what they need to be (doing)," he said."

Read the entire story in the Anchorage Daily News >>>

Fish and Game Proposes Moving Forward With Wood Bison Restoration

From an ADFG News Release:

ADF&G has completed an Environmental Review of the possibility of restoring wood bison in Alaska and is seeking public comment on a proposal to more forward with the project.

The Environmental Review concludes that wood bison restoration can be accomplished with minimal or no negative environmental impacts, and would enhance the diversity of Alaska’s wildlife resources and provide significant benefits to people.

A newsletter and comment forms are available on the ADF&G website or at ADF&G offices. Comments are welcome through June 30, 2007. This is an important time for interested people to let the department know their thoughts on whether the project should move forward, and, if so, which area or areas should be considered first,” said ADF&G wildlife planner Randy Rogers.

The report evaluates possible wood bison restoration on Yukon Flats, Minto Flats and in the lower Innoko/Yukon River area, all of which have been identified as having suitable habitat. It is possible that wood bison could eventually be restored in one, two or all three areas.

The Environmental Review also identifies several major issues that must be adequately addressed in order for the project to succeed. These include concerns about the status of wood bison under the Endangered Species Act, disease testing and health certification requirements for wood bison stock and future allocation of hunting opportunities.

The Minto-Nenana, Tanana-Manley-Rampart, and Grayling-Anvik-Shageluk-Holy Cross Advisory Committees have unanimously endorsed wood bison restoration in their areas. The Fairbanks Advisory Committee is currently working on detailed comments and recommendations on the Environmental Review

According to Bob Stephenson, Wood Bison Project Biologist and member of Canada’s Wood Bison Recovery Team, “wood bison restoration in Alaska would make a significant contribution to international wood bison conservation efforts.”

If public support for the project continues as it has in the past, ADF&G hopes to import 40-50 wood bison calves from Elk Island National Park in Canada next winter and could begin releasing wood bison into the wild in 2010 or 2011.

A small herd of wood bison has been held at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center in Portage, and includes five calves that have been born so far this spring. ADF&G is working in partnership with AWCC to develop additional holding facilities.

The concept of wood bison restoration originated in the early 1990’s on the Yukon Flats, where Athabascan elders provide historic accounts about bison and numerous wood bison bones have been found. Wood bison remains have been found in other parts of the interior, and one specimen was found in the Anchorage area. The most recent reported sightings of wood bison occurred around 1900. ADF&G has worked with local villages, the Council of Athabascan Tribal Governments and others for over 10 years to consider wood bison restoration on the Yukon Flats, which offers extensive high quality habitat. In 2002 the project was expanded to consider other areas in interior Alaska.

The complete report and a newsletter that summarizes key points can be found on the internet. Copies of the newsletter can be obtained from the Fairbanks office of ADF&G (459-7313).

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Kodiak Deer Hard Hit by Winter

Up to 10,000 deer may have perished during the 2006/2007 winter according to Kodiak Area Biologist Larry VanDaele, as reported by KTVA in Anchorage.

Winter mortality was worst on the north end of the island where perhaps 80% of the deer died. Winter kill is not infrequent among Alaska deer, and in the winter of 1998/1999 as many as 75,000 deer may have died.

The hunting season will likely not be changed, but deer may be harder to locate on the north end of the island.

Read the story on >>>

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Governor Palin Introduces Bill to Streamline Predator Management Laws

From an ADFG News Release dated 11 May 2007:

Governor Sarah Palin has introduced a bill in the State House and Senate that will simplify and clarify Alaska’s intensive management law for big game and the state's "same day airborne hunting" law. “I have said many times that my administration is committed to management of game for abundance, and to a proactive, science-based predator management program where appropriate,” said the Governor. “The bill I am introducing will give the Board of Game and state wildlife managers the tools they need to actively manage important game herds and help thousands of Alaskan families put food on their tables.”

The bill, House Bill 256 and Senate Bill 176, clarifies and simplifies the language of what is known as the “intensive management” law (AS 16.05.255 (e-g)), which requires the Alaska Board of Game to adopt regulations to restore populations of moose, caribou and deer in parts of the state where they have been depleted over time. During the last four winters, the state has been conducting predator control programs in some areas to build up moose and caribou herds.

“We have had good success in achieving lower wolf densities in the predator control areas during the first few years of the programs,” said Matt Robus, Director of the Division of Wildlife Conservation in the Department of Fish and Game. “There are now indications in our longest-established programs that moose populations are responding well to reduced levels of predation, and this will directly affect the harvestable surplus so that people will be able to harvest these animals for subsistence and personal use.”

The Governor’s bill clarifies state law that requires the Board of Game to implement regulations to help manage important game herds for both abundant numbers and abundant opportunities for Alaskans to harvest game. In addition, the bill uses the new term "active management,” which is broader and is used in place of "intensive management." The bill also would eliminate several current requirements that have proven to be problematic for both the Board and the courts, and definitions that vary from existing usage within the wildlife management profession.

HB256/SB176 takes two laws that were written to achieve almost exactly opposite purposes and harmonizes them so that the state's game managers, the courts, and the public will have less trouble understanding how they work together and the legal requirements that apply in each situation. The important principle of limiting use of airborne and same day airborne shooting of large predators is retained, while the process for conducting game management programs critical to meeting the state's constitutional mandates is made simpler, more workable, and more legally defensible.

Governor Palin said she is introducing the bill at this time because she wants to generate discussion on the important issues related to predator reduction as a component of abundance-based management. “I understand that the legislature doesn’t have time to give this bill a committee hearing before the end of this session,” she said. “I want Alaskans to look at this new language over the summer and fall, debate the issues and urge their legislators to pass the bill into law early next year.”

ATVs to be Restricted in Wrangell St. Elias Preserve

A court settlement is restricting ATV use on three trails in the north part of the Wrangell St Elias National Park and Preserve except when the ground is frozen, according to the Anchorage Daily News. The Park Service must review ATV use for compatibility with purposes of the Park unit by 2010.

Mostly sport hunters will be affected by the settlement. Local hunters able to hunt under federal subsistence rules will continue to be able to use the trails, the paper reported.

"The three trails are the Copper Lake, Tanada Lake and Suslota Lake trails. Those are in boggy areas, according to the Park Service, and NCPA (National Parks Conservation Association) contends that those were the most damaged by ATVs."

Read the entire article in the Anchorage Daily News >>>

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Federal Subsistence Board Approves Changes to Hunting Regulations

From a USFWS News Release:

The Federal Subsistence Board approved changes to Federal subsistence hunting and trapping regulations at its April 30-May 2 meeting in Anchorage. The new regulations are effective July 1, 2007 through June 30, 2008. Among the changes:
  • The Board lifted closures to hunting by non-federally qualified hunters for moose in the Yukon River drainage portion of Unit 18; for moose on federal public lands in the Brevig Mission/Teller area of Unit 22D; for moose in most of Unit 26B in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge; and for sheep on federal public lands in a portion of the Arctic Village Management Area of Unit 25A. These closures are being lifted because these populations have improved.
  • The Board adopted proposals to extend the moose hunting season for federally qualified hunters in the Yukon River drainage portion of Unit 18 and increased the harvest limit for moose in most of Unit 26B in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, due to improved moose populations in these areas. The Board also approved regulatory changes to provide additional opportunities to hunt moose in part of Unit 21B in the Western Interior; in part of Unit 12 in the Eastern Interior; in Unit 9E on the Alaska Peninsula; and in Unit 26A on the North Slope.
  • The Board recognized the customary and traditional use by Ninilchik residents of black bear on federal public lands in Unit 15 on the Kenai Peninsula and brown bear for Ninilchik residents on federal public lands in Unit 15C and established federal seasons and harvest limits for these hunts.
  • The Board reduced the harvest limit for the Mulchatna Caribou Herd in Unit 9 and Unit 17, from five caribou to three, due to a steep decline in the population of the herd.
These regulations apply only on Federal public lands. Only rural Alaska residents may harvest wildlife under Federal subsistence regulations. For further information on Federal subsistence hunting and trapping, please consult the Federal subsistence wildlife harvest regulations book, which will be available at vendors, Federal field offices, the Office of Subsistence Management, and on the Web in late June. For additional information, contact Dan LaPlant at (907) 786-3871 or (800) 478-1456.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

650 Alaska Moose Killed in Vehicle Collisions Since July

At least 650 moose have died in vehicle collisions around Alaska, the Anchorage Daily News reports. Most died in southcentral Alaska in automobile accidents, but others were killed along the Alaska Railroad and along Interior Alaska roads.

Winter is the worst time, according to the article, but another spike in deaths occurs as summer traffic increases in late May and June. Calves often follow their mothers across a road, and unwary travelers may strike them.

Road kills are up in the Mat/Su area, and down on the Kenai. Nearly 100 moose have died along Anchorage area roads, and two more months remain in the regulatory year, which is the basis for comparison of counts.

Read the entire article in the Anchorage Daily News >>>

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Wood Bison Restoration Project Gathers Momentum

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game on April 17 announced completion of "Wood Bison Restoration in Alaska: A Review of Environmental and Regulatory Issues and Proposed Decisions for Project Implementation". This step clears the way for expected importation of wood bison stock from Canada in the winter of 2007-2008, with a view to releasing animals into the wild by spring 2010 or 2011.

According to a letter from Interior Region Supervisor David James, "this Environmental Review represents a significant milestone in the department's efforts to evaluate wood bison restoration in Alaska. Public comment on this report will have a major influence in determining whether the department continues to pursue wood bison restoration in Alaska and, if so, where we attempt to restore this historically important species."

The Department issued both a complete environmental review and a less detailed summary of that review. All the documents can be accessed on the wood bison restoration page on the ADFG website.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Caribou Return to the Seward Peninsula: An Alaska Native Elder's Perspective

For almost the entire 20th century, caribou were largely absent from the Seward Peninsula, changing the way of life of Alaska Natives living in the area.

In 2000, the Western Arctic Herd came onto the peninsula, again changing the way of life of people there; this time sweeping away domestic reindeer herds which wandered away with the caribou.

Alaska Native Elder Jacob Ahwinona tells the story in the Alaska Wildlife News.