Game board to take up proposals to change Tier II system

Posted: Thursday, January 17, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Tier 2 hunting regulations are getting a closer look from the Alaska Board of Game, which opens its weeklong winter meeting Friday in Anchorage.

The Tier 2 system determines which Alaskans can hunt when game is limited. Hunters must apply for a Tier 2 permit and the Department of Fish and Game scores the applications based on the hunter's previous use of game meat and whether that person has other means of obtaining meat. Permits are awarded based on those scores.

The guidelines have long spurred controversy and have come under particular attack in recent years by those excluded from hunting caribou in the Nelchina basin.

Located northeast of Anchorage, the basin is popular with urban and local hunters because it's easy to reach from the road system and hunting is easy in the basin's open tundra.

Because of declines in the Nelchina caribou herd, the state issued 2,000 subsistence caribou permits for the area last year, turning away 9,000 state residents who applied.

Some hunters claim the system is unfair and possibly illegal. The board will consider nine proposals from citizens who have suggested ways to fix the system.

Among the complaints is that the department takes into consideration where a person lives in deciding whether to award a Tier II permit. They argue that favoring some communities over others is unconstitutional because the state constitution guarantees all Alaskans equal access to fish and game.

Michael Cluff, a property manager in Anchorage, is one hunter who submitted a proposal to fix the system. Cluff has not been able to hunt caribou in the Nelchina basin for two years now, despite having family ties to the area and having hunted there since age 12.

Cluff said it isn't fair that the state now draws a limited number of permits from hundreds of Anchorage residents who score the same on the questionnaire.

''That's illegal,'' Cluff said. ''They need to eliminate any reference to where you live.''

Other hunters said the state should give more preference to people who live in rural communities close to the caribou herd. In 2000, for example, the majority of the permits went to people from Anchorage, Wasilla, Palmer, Eagle River and Chugiak, in that order.

Ron Robbins, a retiree who lives in Trapper Creek, said no one from his area was allowed to hunt Nelchina caribou last year, and he has not been able to hunt there in three years. He thinks the state system rewards those who lie.

''It's a disaster,'' said Tim Smith, a hunter and pilot from Nome. ''No one likes the system, but I don't pretend to have the answers. When you start saying some people can't hunt or fish, it cuts to the core of being an Alaskan.''

Smith has also proposed changes to the system for hunts in his area. The Department Fish and Game currently manages 23 Tier II hunts across the state for game species ranging from caribou and musk ox to mountain goat and moose.

Kevin Saxby, a state assistant attorney general, said the board has tried in the past to correct flaws in the system. But it still has critics.

''It's always controversial,'' he said.

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