Court rejects suit challenging Game Board moose quota along Koyukuk

Posted: Friday, October 05, 2001

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Superior Court Judge Mary Greene has rejected a civil case charging that the Board of Game did not impose strict enough limits on the number of nonsubsistence hunters along the Koyukuk River.

The Board of Game adopted new moose-hunting limits in the area in March 2000. They were proposed by an independent group consisting of hunters from the region as well as representatives of Fish and Game advisory committees from around the state.

The Koyukuk River Basin Moose Co-Management Team, a coalition of the councils of seven Koyukuk River villages, filed suit in April 2000. The suit claimed the Game Board's regulations would not ensure a sustainable moose population.

The lawsuit applied to the Koyukuk Controlled Use Area, a region stretching along the Koyukuk River roughly between the villages of Koyukuk and Hughes.

Subsistence hunting remained open and the Game Board limited sport hunters to a number based on the moose population -- a maximum of 400 such permits per hunting season. Permits were distributed by lottery.

Coalition attorney Mike Walleri contended that the 400-permit allowance violated the sustainable-yield portion of the Alaska Constitution because it allowed the Board of Game to issue more permits than was warranted by the moose population.

He noted that at 2000 levels, 400 hunting permits would result in the harvest of more than 9 percent of the moose population in a portion of the Controlled Use Area where the maximum recommended harvest is only 7 percent.

Walleri said a 2000 decision by Board of Game members to allow 7.5 percent hunting in that area showed they had bent to the will of hunters.

Board of Game attorney Kevin Saxby said that 400 was the maximum allowed, not a suggested number. He said the board had issued 258 permits in 2000 and had voted in December to issue the same number in 2001.

''It is a misunderstanding to assume, as the team implies, that the department will issue permits willy-nilly, thoughtlessly permitting over-harvests, unless specifically directed not to do so by the Board of Game,'' wrote Saxby in a court motion. ''The department is well aware of its sustainable-yield obligations.''

Saxby also argued that if all hunting laws had to comply with the team's recommendations, most would be untenable.

In her Sept. 28 ruling, Greene concluded there was no evidence that the Board of Game had acted improperly or rashly.

''The record shows that the board gave careful and lengthy consideration to the complicated issues involved in determining the maximum level of hunting the moose population could sustain,'' she wrote.

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