Wolf-hunting buffer must come from board or Legislature

Wolf-hunting buffer must come from board or Legislature

One of the core constitutional duties of the Alaska Legislature is to manage our fish and game resources among many competing uses — subsistence and non-subsistence hunting and trapping; subsistence, commercial, sport and personal use fishing; and recreational viewing. For the most part, the Alaska Legislature delegated these constitutional duties to the Board of Fisheries and the Board of Game. This includes the decision to allow wolf hunting and trapping along side Denali National Park.

It has come to our attention that some question whether a so called “wolf buffer zone” by Denali, where wolf hunting and trapping would be prohibited, can be created outside of the legislative or Board of Game process. The answer is no.

The simplest and most effective way to re-establish a wolf buffer zone is through regulatory action by the board. We understand this has been tried on numerous occasions ever since the board removed the wolf buffer zone in 2010. Although it may be frustrating, absent legislation, the authority to establish a permanent wolf buffer zone lies solely within the authority of the board and no other department.

Since the ultimate constitutional authority for fish and game management lies with the Alaska Legislature, the legislature could always enact a law re-establishing a wolf buffer zone. Legislation to do just that was introduced in 2017, and the Department of Law saw no legal issues with the last version of that bill.

Some other options we’ve heard about would involve the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) or some form of land exchange. Neither of these would really be able to create the buffer zone that’s desired. You have to remember that the State does not own all the land around Denali — some is owned by the Mental Health Trust Authority and some is owned by private individuals and municipalities. DNR only has authority over the state lands, which makes any sort of land exchange or creation of a new state park problematic. These options also fail to get over the main legal hurdle — the board, by delegation from the legislature, has management authority over wolves and all other wildlife across the entire state, with few exceptions. The most that could be accomplished through another method would be piecemeal, temporary, and legally suspect.

The purpose of this commentary is not to suggest which policy is better — buffer zone or no buffer zone. But we do think it’s important that the correct process is followed. We all live in Alaska in part because we love the outdoors and the abundant wildlife. Whether we hunt, fish, trap or just enjoy the scenery, we all want to make sure our fish and game management meets the constitutional requirements of sustained yield and maximum benefit for all. And there are plenty of opportunities before both the board and the legislature to have your voice heard and advocate for change in game management.


• Jahna Lindemuth is the Attorney General for the State of Alaska and Sam Cotten is Commissioner of the Department of Fish and Game. My Turns and Letters to the Editor represent the view of the author, not the view of the Juneau Empire.


More in Opinion

Web
Have something to say?

Here’s how to add your voice to the conversation.

U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan addresses a joint session of the Alaska State Legislature in the House chambers on Feb. 7, 2023. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)
Opinion: Sen. Sullivan sinks to a new low

Last week, Sen. Dan Sullivan mimicked Donald Trump’s endless stream of baseless… Continue reading

Members of local business organizations greet cruise passengers with maps and other handouts as they disembark from the Norwegian Bliss on April 25, 2022. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire file photo)
A call for collaboration, not restrictions on cruise ship tourism

Please don’t sign. I feel it is time to speak up about… Continue reading

Juneau School District Superintendent Frank Hauser provides an overview of restructuring options being considered during a Community Budget Input Session at Thunder Mountain High School on Jan. 31. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)
Opinion: Smearing school board members and the superintendent is vindictive and destructive

A school consolidation plan announced by the Juneau School District (JSD) has… Continue reading

(Juneau Empire file photo)
Letter: Gloomy predictions for ship-free days are a misleading scare tactic

“What? Only one day a week ship-free? Can’t we have Sundays too?”… Continue reading

(Juneau Empire file photo)
Letter: A day of rest from cruise ships is good for Juneau

A lot has been said about the Saturday free day from large… Continue reading

(City and Borough of Juneau photo)
My Turn: Property tax assessment and guardrails

The “money grab” by the CBJ Assessor’s Office is over with passage… Continue reading

Most Read