ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Opponents of a measure that would bar wildlife management decisions from the ballot say the issue is not one of animal rights but of voters' rights.
Ballot measure No. 1 would amend the state constitution to add wildlife management to a short list of issues that could not be decided by voter initiatives.
''If we give up our rights to vote on wildlife management, what's next?'' asked Dune Lankard, manager of the campaign to defeat the ballot measure. Lankard and about three dozen opponents of the measure held a news conference outside the Nesbett Courthouse in Anchorage Thursday to announce the launch of their campaign.
Vic Fischer, a former legislator and a delegate to the Alaska Constitution, is chairing the group, called ''No on 1 -- Protect Our Constitutional Rights.''
''The constitution is a series of checks and balances and one of the checks on the legislature is the right to petition for an initiative,'' Fischer said.
The ballot measure was proposed by a group of trappers and hunters, called the Coalition for the Alaska Way of Life. Members said it was prompted by what they called ''ballot box biology.''
The group says animal rights groups from outside Alaska have funded efforts to erode hunting and trapping rights. An initiative to ban land-and-shoot hunting of wolves passed in 1996 while a measure to ban trapping of wolves with snares failed in 1998.
Instead of initiatives, community advisory committees would provide recommendations to the seven-member state Board of Game. The board is made up of Alaskans appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Legislature. Before making decisions, the board would hold open meetings to receive input from residents concerning wildlife issues. They would also look at recommendations from biologists and the Department of Fish and Game.
The state constitution currently bars the use of the initiative process to dedicate state revenue for a particular use; to make or repeal appropriations; to create courts or define the jurisdiction of courts or to enact local or special legislation.
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