The Alaska Board of Game’s statewide annual meeting starts today in Anchorage, with many proposals on the docket, but none as controversial for the Kenai Peninsula than two pertaining to Intensive Management Plans.
The two proposals, 35 and 36, call for predator control in Game Management Units 15A and 15C respectively. During the Board of Game’s November meeting in Barrow, a decision for both proposals was tabled until the statewide meeting.
“We tabled it for two reasons,” Cliff Judkins, Board of Game chair said. “One is that in Barrow, the (Alaska Department of Fish and Game) really wasn’t ready to bring (a plan) to us by then. They hadn’t done all the field work they needed to do.
“And two — we wanted to bring it back down to this area where it was closer to the Peninsula, rather than make decisions up in Barrow.”
One of the reasons for the delays has been the fact that the department of Fish and Game is building intensive management plans using feasibility assessments, one for each subunit, in a new predator control area, Tony Kavalok, Fish and Game division of wildlife assistant director said.
“In the past, intensive management plans were put together by department staff using existing data on predator and prey populations, division of wildlife policy and directives from the Board of Game,” Kavalok said.
Now, three document templates are used to make up the Intensive Management Plans. They include a feasibility assessment, operational plan and a department report.
“Those three documents help guide the development of the Intensive Management Plan for each area, at least that’s the format we’re using now,” Kavalok said.
The Intensive Management Plans for Units 15A and 15C is what the Board needed to base their final decision on, Judkins said.
With the plans available, the Board will hear public comment today, hopefully around late afternoon or evening, Board vice-chair Ted Spraker said.
“We have about 10 reports from (Fish and Game) and other folks,” Spraker said. “We usually have staff reports to being with, so that usually takes most of the first day. So by (Friday) evening, we’ll probably start with public testimony. And that will go all day Saturday, and most of the day Sunday.”
Hearing from the public is a part of the meeting the Board looks forward to, Spraker said.
“There’s nothing better than an informed public,” Spraker said. “That’s who the Board really likes to hear from, is people that have researched and done their homework, they know the issue real well — and they’re trying to look out for the resource.”
After the Board hears from the public, it will be time to get down to business. Spraker said the Board will go through about 100 proposals, and he expects a decision for Proposals 35 and 36 to come on Monday, but it all depends on the workflow.
Game Management Unit 15A mostly resides within the Kenai Federal Wildlife Refuge, which presents its own set of challenges, Kavalok said.
“The predator control there will cover the federal land,” he said. “But the actual predator removal will not take place on federal land.”
The predator removal will not occur on the refuge’s land in order to adhere to Fish and Wildlife’s mandates and policies, Kavalok said.
“The wolves still belong to the people of the state of Alaska,” Kavalok said. “And we’re charged with managing that population.
“There’s a lot of real big challenges in trying to recover that moose population (within the refuge).”
The two proposals have sparked many debates on the Peninsula about what should be done. Kavalok acknowledges that having predator control in the area is different than elsewhere in the state.
“It’s not a black and white issue,” he said. “In other parts of Alaska it’s been a lot easier to say, ‘We clearly have a depressed moose population, significantly depressed, or we have a good habitat, good production, and we have large numbers of predators and we can go in there, remove predators and see corresponding balance in the prey population.’”
The Peninsula does not fall under that model, Kavalok said. Habitat is one of the biggest challenges with the Intensive Management Plan in unit 15A.
“We can do predator control to help resolve the issue, but its not going to solve the problem without significant habitat regeneration,” Kavalok said.
While in 15C, the pressing issue is the bull-to-cow ratio, he said.
In both units, Kavalok said the department’s goal is to have moose available for harvest.
“In other words, the moose that we save from reducing wolves, our intention is to make those available for harvest through hunting,” he said.
Judkins hopes the Board can reach a decision on the two proposals, no matter what the outcome.
“I’d like to see us move ahead with something,” he said. “I’m not really in the mood to table it any further.”
The meeting will start today at 8:30 a.m. at the Anchorage Hilton. A live stream of the meeting can be found on the Board of Game’s website at http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=gameboard.meetinginfo.