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.
“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.