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Citizens group campaigns against wildlife initiative

Posted: Sunday, July 02, 2000

JUNEAU (AP) -- The Alaska Public Interest Research Group is starting a door-to-door campaign against a ballot measure that would prevent voters from deciding wildlife issues.

Britt Ehrhardt, an AkPIRG campaign coordinator, said workers will urge people to vote against Proposition 1 on the November election ballot. The group hopes to contact 30,000 homes in Anchorage, Fairbanks and Juneau.

Proposition 1 would change Alaska's constitution to ban initiatives deciding wildlife management issues.

Ehrhardt said AkPIRG also is concerned about what it calls a ''series of attacks against the initiative process.''

''Proposition 1 is directed specifically against fish and wildlife management, but really it sets a dangerous precedent,'' Ehrhardt told the Juneau Empire.

She said if the measure passes, the Legislature might next attempt to prevent citizens' initiatives on health care, schools or other issues.

Workers will ask people to join AkPIRG, thus providing funds to fight such attacks, Ehrhardt said.

Rep. Carl Morgan, R-Aniak, sponsored the ballot proposal. He said wildlife management should be removed from the initiative process so decisions will be based on facts, not emotion.

Proposition 1 was prompted by ballot initiatives to land-and-shoot hunting of wolves, which passed in 1996, and to ban trapping wolves with snares, which failed in 1998.

Morgan said a better way to make those decisions is through the Board of Game. The board, made up of Alaskans appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Legislature, considers comments from local advisory groups throughout the state as well as recommendations from Department of Fish and Game biologists before making decisions on seasons, bag limits and other management issues.

Ehrhardt said AkPIRG is concerned about other proposals that surfaced but did not win approval in the Legislature for the ballot. Among them was an attempt to increase the number of election districts in which signatures must be gathered to get an initiative on the ballot, and to increase the number of signatures that must be gathered in each of those districts.

Morgan said the changes were intended to protect the rights of rural Alaskans by requiring more support from those areas before initiatives could be placed on the ballot.



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