To be clear: These wildlife refuges are for hunting, too - Must Read Alaska
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Wednesday, October 23, 2019
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To be clear: These wildlife refuges are for hunting, too

HB 130 – HUNTING LANGUAGE ADDED TO EDUCATE PUBLIC

The governor offered a bill this session to adjust survey definitions and correct old information about game refuges and critical habitat areas.

HB 130 did that housekeeping matter without fuss, something that the Department of Fish and Game had requested. When the bill arrived at the Senate, it accomplished a little bit more: In Senate Natural Resources, the bill received a slightly changed title, which added the word “hunting” to wildlife refuges around the state where hunting is permitted:

  • Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge “and Hunting Preserve”
  • Yakataga State Game Refuge “and Hunting Preserve”
  • Mendenhall Wetlands State Game Refuge “and Hunting Preserve”
  • Susitna Flats State Game Refuge “and Hunting Preserve”
  • Minto Flats State Game Refuge “and Hunting Preserve”
  • Trading Bay State Game Refuge “and Hunting Preserve”
  • Creamer’s Field Migratory Waterfowl Refuge “and Hunting Preserve” — allows moose hunting with archery and muzzle-loader firearms. Hunting with guns is disallowed in the part of the refuge and hunting preserve within Fairbanks city limits.

It was a small gesture, but in an era where environmentalists are increasingly aggressive about insisting humans not disturb nature, the Senate majority wanted to make it clear that hunting is an acceptable and traditional use of these areas. It’s a case of “just in case.”

The language was added by Sen. Cathy Giessel, who is an avid outdoorswoman, who also changed the word “protect” to “conserve,” so that anti-hunting groups cannot weaponize that part of the bill to hurt the access of hunters.

Sen. Cathy Giessel

“America’s hunting tradition is an important way of life that is quietly eroding,” Giessel said. “Recognizing areas that allow hunting, and were created with hunting support, and are financially backed and preserved by hunters — this is an essential recognition.” 

The bill is also important for public safety: To some non-hunters, a game refuge is synonymous with a hunting-free zone. Giessel’s revised terminology helps newcomers understand that hunting is allowed in parts of the state that are urban — Anchorage coastal Southcentral and Juneau’s Mendenhall wetlands, for instance. This reduces user conflicts while reminding people about the importance of hunting to Alaskans.

Sen. Bill Wielechowski was opposed to the Senate Natural Resources Committee substitute language, and was among the four Democrats who voted against it. He spoke against it on behalf of those who had contacted him and said they were opposed to the measure.

House Bill 130 goes back to the House for concurrence.

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Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

Latest comments

  • I hope the House gives this thing the speedy burial it deserves.
    If Cathy Giessel wants the names to reflect the intended purposes of the refuges, they should be titled “State Game Refuge, Hiking, Skiing, Biking, Photography, Bird Watching and Hunting Preserve.” That too long, too inclusive? Then don’t change the name to give one possible use preference over the others.

  • Fix the boundary problem – leave the names alone. Adding to them is stupid – just the signage costs alone to make the changes is a lot of $$ the state claims not to have!

  • 1. Hiking, Skiing, Biking, Photography, and Bird Watching don’t have avid anti fanatics trying to gut access to these outdoor activities at every turn.

    2. Hunters actually pay for much of the conservation (through funding of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game Wildlife Conservation) in these State Game Refuges through license and tag fees, and federal excise taxes on hunting equipment.

    3. Hikers, Skiers, Bikers, Photographers, and Bird Watchers pay no such license or tag fees, and there is no federal excise tax on any equipment used in these activities that are dedicated to underwriting conservation in Alaska or elsewhere in the United States.

    4. When said Hikers, Skiers, Bikers, Photographers and Bird Watchers muscle through Congress and 50 state legislatures the necessary license and tag fees and federal excise taxes on their equipment in the amount that can cover the costs of conserving these areas, then said activities can join “Hunting” as a recognized primary use in conservation of game refuges in Alaska and across the nation.

    5. Until said time, it is wise to recognize the conservation contributions that the hunting, trapping and fishing (anglers) make to underwrite the vast majority of conservation spending in North America.

    • What he/she said!

  • I agree with what Roldrik said, and I could not have said it as well. I shoot waterfowl in one of these named refuges, and the hunters have no problem with the dickie-birders but the dickie-birders have gone to the city assembly and the board of game, and written letters for the local newspaper to shut down the shooting. The dickie-birders want Alaska refuges to be like refuges were where they came from.

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