Supporters, opponents say other side misled on wildlife measure

Posted: Thursday, November 09, 2000

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Despite strong support by their legislators, Alaska voters soundly defeated a proposed constitutional amendment that would have taken away their opportunity to bring forward wildlife initiatives.

With 98 percent of the state's precincts reporting, just more than 64 percent of Alaska voters said ''no'' to Ballot Measure 1. It was defeated Tuesday in all but two of Alaska's 40 House districts, District 33, in rural, northeast parts of the Fairbanks North Star Borough, and District 36, the vast Interior region stretching from the Canadian border through the rural Interior to the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta.

Paul Joslin, executive director of the Alaska Wildlife Alliance, said Alaskans simply did not want to lose an important tool in a system of checks and balances, despite support from more than two-thirds of their legislators.

''We seem to be able to trust those people to vote those guys in,'' Joslin said. ''What makes wildlife different?''

Both sides framed the measure as a response to groups from outside of Alaska.

Sponsors said they pushed the ballot measure because of the expense of fending off attempts to erode trapping and hunting rights. Opponents attacked the measure for promoting nonresident sporthunting interests.

Both sides accused the other of misleading voters.

Pete Buist, a co-chairman of the Coalition for the Alaskan Way of Life, said the opposition implied that Alaskans would have given up all their rights to affect wildlife policy. While initiatives would have been banned, Alaskans could still have filed referendums in response to unpopular laws.

''We can undo what the Legislature does,'' Buist said. ''I think that's a critical difference. I think it's one that most folks missed in civics class.''

Buist said people tend to vote ''no'' on measures they don't understand. He said opponents' advertisements mirrored the coalition's and raised the threat from Outside groups.

But Joslin said Buist's coalition tried to create a bogeyman out of Outside animal activists when none participated in the campaign this year. Instead, the coalition itself relied on a national group -- the Ballot Issues Coalition -- for funding and strategy, he said.

Jim Sykes, executive director of the Alaska Public Interest Research Group, also perceived the issue as a measure cooked up by national hunting interests.

If Ballot Measure 1 had passed, sport hunters would have been free to lobby legislators for favorable laws without having to worry about challenges through the initiative process, Sykes said.

Buist took issue with the contention that Ballot Measure 1 sprung from Outside sport hunters. Animal rights groups were involved in initiatives the coalition fought in 1996 and 1998, Buist said, and trappers spent considerable sums to oppose them.

''Trapping actually was kind of the catalyst,'' Buist said. ''That's what brought some of the urban and rural interests together.''

Two years ago the coalition spent $300,000 to defeat an initiative that called for a ban on snaring wolves.

''We didn't gain anything,'' Buist said. ''All we did was maintain the status quo ... We're having to dig deep just to defend ourselves.''

Dick Bishop of the Alaska Outdoor Council said people who rejected the ballot measure don't appreciate what trappers and hunters could lose.

''The majority either don't have much sense of what's important to other parts of the state, or they couldn't care less,'' Bishop said.

He also took issue with characterization of the measure as a legislative power grab. The measure was passed without spirited objection, he said.

''There wasn't a whole lot of bitter debate,'' Bishop said.

Joslin said wildlife measures should be no different than any other subject.

''What is it going to be next? Education? Transportation?'' Joslin asked. ''What next piece of power would the Legislature take away from the people?''

11/9/0 7:12 AM Inches: 12.1 REGULAR BC-AK-AlaskaGrants 11-09 0507

BC-AK--Alaska Grants,0510

Alaska Congressional delegation announces grants and awards

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Dozens of state agencies, nonprofit groups and businesses have received federal grants and contracts totaling more than $100 million in the past month, Alaska's congressional delegation says.

The contracts included $58 million to Petro Star of Alaska's Valdez refinery to supply the Defense Logistics Agency with fuels.

Grants included $14 million to the state Department of Fish and Game for restoring salmon habitat and enhancing stocks, and $3.35 million went to the Alaska Housing Finance Corp. to improve public housing and reduce drug-related crime in them.

Another $146,000 will go to the Seldovia Village Tribe for a national berry growth enhancement project; $135,000 is headed to the Gulf of Alaska Coastal Communities Coalition of Anchorage to stabilize and restore Gulf fisheries, and another $450,000 will be shifted to the Yukon River Drainage Fisheries Association for forecasting and restoring salmon runs.

The delegation said $1.2 million will be assigned to the Bristol Bay Housing Authority to develop the Southwest Alaska Vocational Education Center, and $12.2 million is headed to Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport for runway, airfield lighting and flight tracking improvements, and a noise monitoring system.

Among the other grants and awards:

-- The University of Alaska Fairbanks will gain $113,353 to measure otolith growth increments in flatfish, $31,667 to support a graduate student in the field of population dynamics and $51,000 to increase development and rapid response programs.

--The Alaska Department of Community and Regional Affairs gets $151,176 to conduct and research and collect landing statistics from state groundfish fisheries.

-- The Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission will get $304,800 for operations.

--The Alaska Native Harbor Seal Commission gained a $138,700 grant to conduct harvest data and assessment programs on harbor seals.

--The Northwest Arctic Borough School District will receive $303,751 to provide services on academic enhancement, counseling and financial aid for post secondary students.

-- The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services in Juneau received three grants -- the first for $1.837 million for the National Breast and Cervical Cancer early detection program; $1.84 million for a better beginnings young childrens project and $780,443 for a public health preparedness program and to set up a program to respond to bioterrorism events.

-- The City and Borough of Juneau for its International Airport has gained a $700,000 grant to complete a phase 1 of runway safety improvements.

--The North Slope Borough at Nuiqsut gets a $920,000 grant to build safety areas at the ends of the village's runway, and

--The U.S. Department of the Interior has awarded a $2.37 million contract to Hamilton Construction of Skagway to upgrade utilities at the Glacier Bay Park headquarters at Bartlett Cove.

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