Murkowski pans latest predator control legislation

Posted: Sunday, May 11, 2003

JUNEAU (AP) Gov. Frank Murkowski may support predator control, but he said Friday that he doesn't support governor control.

The Murkowski administration has deemed the current draft of Sen. Ralph Seekins' predator control bill unacceptable'' because the bill would largely cut the governor and administration out of designing and implementing a predator control program.

My opinion ... is that still leaves any action by the board, in the sense of responsibility, the responsibility of the state, and the state is represented by the branches of government,'' Murkowski told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. So you can't duck the responsibility just because the board may be given an authority. The whole image rests within the state.''

Senate Bill 155, which passed the Senate last weekend, would make statute changes to allow the Board of Game to implement predator control programs, such as the one the board proposed for the McGrath area. The bill would change language to allow land-and-shoot predator control by civilians.

The bill would make further changes that would minimize the participation of the commissioner of Fish and Game and the governor from the process.

Under the proposal, Fish and Game would supply data about predators and prey. The Game Board could use that data to enact a predator-control program without approval from the commissioner, which it must have now.

The board could not appropriate funds for a program but could enact one using authorized private citizens and aircraft.

Seekins, R-Fairbanks, said the change would take politics out of the predator control process. He said governors and game boards have differed on the issue for a decade.

Murkowski last month announced he would not support using state personnel or helicopters for wolf control, a decision that ran contrary to the board's recommendations for the McGrath program. Board members say predator control at McGrath would be impossible without helicopters or land-and-shoot methods.

What we said was, these decisions should be made on the best available science, not on politics,'' Seekins said Friday before the House Resources Committee, which was hearing the bill. This decision now is as apolitical as it comes.''

The attempt by the law to cut the governor out of the process was not successful, according to Matt Robus of Fish and Game. An airborne wolf control program would violate federal law without certain permits issued by the administration.

The state still will have a significant role, no matter what is done with this statute,'' he said.

Robus also said the governor finds the bill unacceptable because of the significant reduction of the commissioner's power.

Robus offered a compromise: Amended language that would give the commissioner one week to nix a board-approved wolf-control plan. Robus said that would give the administration veto power, but prohibit it from sitting on a proposal, as it has in the past.

We think this addresses the 'pocket veto' issue that Senator Seekins has raised,'' Robus said.

The committee voted to move the bill with the same language passed by the Senate.

Murkowski would not say whether he would veto the bill if the House passed it as is.

We'll take a look at it when it comes to us,'' he said.



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