Bear committee chairman is stepping down

Posted: Wednesday, January 30, 2002

JUNEAU (AP) -- The chairman of the Mayor's Ad Hoc Urban Bear Committee is stepping down and plans to limit his involvement in Juneau's bear problem.

''Obviously, my influence is waning,'' Mark Farmer said. ''I've been shown my hat. I haven't been shown the door, but I've been shown my hat.''

Farmer, however, said he would seriously consider leading an effort to recall Mayor Sally Smith if Juneau's bears are killed unnecessarily.

''That's not a threat, it's a promise,'' he said.

Farmer is a frequent critic of city government. He pulled out of a 2000 race for mayor and a 2001 race for Assembly after calling on the city to deal with urban bears and garbage.

Smith appointed him as chairman of the bear committee after she was elected in 2000. Smith said Monday she had not received Farmer's officials resignation.

Smith credited Farmer with raising the public's awareness about problem bears.

''I think things are going a lot better for this summer than they were last summer,'' she said. ''I think that Mark deserves a lot of credit for that because he raised the stakes and helped get the public pressure on an issue that wasn't getting the attention that it needed.''

Farmer's resignation came as city officials outlined plans for dealing with bears this summer. The effort will include a public education campaign with ads and informational pamphlets, revised rules of engagement and a new community service officer in the Juneau Police Department to deal with bears and garbage.

Code revisions, an effort to replace plastic Dumpster lids and more bear traps also are on the radar, staff members said.

City Manager Dave Palmer told Assembly members to expect a funding request for bears in the weeks ahead. An ad campaign likely would cost $12,000 and bear traps could run $800 to $1,000 each, he said.

''We didn't have bears in the budget this year. We'll have bears in the budget next year,'' he said.

Assembly member Jim Powell said he wants to see prevention emphasized with a focus on metal Dumpster lids.

''The lids are a key thing,'' he said. ''Let's put a lid on this bear issue.''

Palmer said the city is ordering metal lids for its Dumpsters.

Assembly member Dale Anderson asked his colleagues to purchase two new traps to relocate bears. He said the Alaska Department of Fish and Game needs to have bear traps available in Juneau.

''This situation with bears is serious. I'm tired of these arguments over and over and over,'' he said. I want traps available for the first bears that come out.''

The Assembly last summer approved an ordinance that tightens restrictions on garbage in an effort to protect bears. Under the law, trash cannot be left outside overnight unless it is in a bear-resistant container.

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