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Thread: Antlerless hunt opionion piece (Frbnks newsminer)

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    Member homerdave's Avatar
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    Thumbs up Antlerless hunt opionion piece (Frbnks newsminer)

    i was gonna post a link to the story, but for some reason it was still not online last i looked.
    anyhow, here is a thought provoking read on the 20a conflict.



    Antlerless Hunts Shed Light on Management Strategies



    For many years now ADFG biologists have been concerned with an escalating population of moose in Unit 20A in the Tanana Flats region. Prior wolf-reduction efforts, mild winters with modest snowfall, high calf survival rates, and subsequent steady harvests of wolves by trappers allowed the moose population to grow until it greatly exceeded the population objectives.

    The state had created the highest density of moose in all of North America, but along with that came severe overbrowsing of habitat, the lowest twinning rates and nutritional status, and much more prevalent herd disease. This led to the conclusion among biologists that liberal antlerless hunts were “justified to halt population growth, lessen cumulative effects of high browsing rates, and maximize yield [by hunters].”

    The antlerless hunts ADFG advocated for were indeed necessary, but combined with such overall high moose densities and the ensuing influx of so many hunters they did not come without a heavy cost. From Delta Junction to Nenana hunters were complaining about the sheer numbers of mostly motorized hunters from near and far tearing up trails and going off trail, the increasing amount of boat traffic, and the prevalence of more riverboat hunters bringing ATVs across the Tanana and spider-webbing out across the tundra toward the foothills of the Alaska Range.

    Recently the Newsminer published an editorial about the antlerless hunts and said that the access abuse problems in places like the Rex Trail “might be eased—or erased—if more areas of Alaska were managed the way Interior’s Unit 20 has been managed.”

    As a longtime hunter, the last thing I would hope to see is for more areas of the state to be managed as we have managed Unit 20A.

    The Newsminer also stated that the problems along the Rex Trail stemming from so many motorized hunters seemed to be “land management issues rather than game population issues.”

    But these two “issues” are inextricably tied and the problems associated with higher densities of game and evermore motorized hunters to harvest all those animals are also happening in other road-accessible areas of the state.

    The general notion from the Newsminer and many hunters is that if we “spread out the pressure” to other areas of the state by “growing more moose and caribou” and expanding motorized access that we can avoid the problems we are seeing now with access abuse, habitat damage, and hunter crowding in Unit 20. And while that may seem to make some superficial sense, down the line that reasoning will likely produce a whole lot of road-accessible areas with the same problems as Unit 20.

    The irony of advocating for more game, fewer predators, and more motorized access is that it can backfire on those who want to continue using ATVs and ORVs for hunting in certain areas. As the Newsminer editorial proclaimed about the Rex Trail: “Perish the thought, but perhaps it’s time access to these areas is regulated in some way.”

    ADFG too often takes the blame for management strategies the Department did not endorse, and management decisions they did not support. ADFG biologists and managers provide the objective biological data and wildlife science to our Board of Game and legislature, but this information is often overridden by political, economic, and cultural values choices within our public system of wildlife management. ADFG is then given a directive on “how” to manage that at times goes against all notions of prudent wildlife science.

    We need more moderation in wildlife management across the board. This will only happen if hunters and hunting orgs return to their real conservation roots and look to the long-term future and what kind of Alaska and what hunting opportunities we want to leave our kids and grandkids.

    The antlerless hunts highlight intensive management strategies that can backfire. They are a solution to a problem we didn’t need to create in the first place.

    Bio: Mark Richards is co-chair of Alaska Backcountry Hunters and Anglers. Their website is http://www.alaskabackcountryhunters.org
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    I was at the recent Moose Management seminar put on by F&G bios a few weeks ago. Very informative, but they should have done it 3 or 4 years ago, recorded it and made it available to the public and updated it as time went by. I think F&G is lacking on it's social skills but they are mostly scientist types so thats not surprising, and it's not meant to be a put down either. I don't have any heartburn over the science or the antlerless hunt. I do however think that the way it was implemented has caused problems. But, 20A is divided in to 7 zones and they are now controlling which zones get hunted. Also, the areas that have been hit the hardest by hunters were also areas that were identified as high density moose areas. There are a few more high density areas further back that are harder to get too. In a nutshell the hope is that as the browse comes back in the high density areas that have now had a reduction in moose population, the moose in the adjacent high density areas will move in as they travel their normal migratory routes.

    Most of the public that I have heard who are against the antlerless hunt always seem to bring it back to the issue of too many hunters coming up from matsu/anch area into "their" backyard. That's why they want the hunt stopped. In the midst of this sometimes frenzied opinion they totally disregard the biology because "by golly I've lived here since Alaska was a territory, and these young college type can't tell me they know what they are doing." and they think all our moose are going to be killed. F&G is looking at 250 reported cow harvest for 2008. Which mean probably 300 killed. 2 percent.

    Anyway, ya, Intensive Management is a tricky situation and I think F&G has learned a bunch from this situation and it seems that they want to be m ore careful when it comes to implementing these things. We'll see. They also stressed the importance of AC, DNR and the public coming together on this kind of thing. Like AC boards in Nenana/Healy talking with Fairbanks AC board and also encouraging the public to show up at meetings and give input.
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    The A/C put it in the paper that they were having meetings. No one showed up. When I got involved with the A/C and started going having seen it in the paper, I was often the only person there from the public. I even called in to local radio talk shows and mentioned the meetings so others could get out and see what was going on, no one showed up. Then I got elected to the A/C and for one year I did the minutes. I would put the names of all public guest that attended in the minutes, usually only two or three people showed up. Never the same people twice, except Byron Stokes. Byron is always at the meetings.

    Suddenly when the social issues get so bad the public can no longer tolerate it, they blame the A/C and start coming to the meetings bent on making changes. Where was the public two years ago? Where were they last year?

    Fish and Game did what they were mandated to do. Too bad other departments (DNR) did not do what they should have done to assure the proper access, and that damage was prevented to the trails. DNR needs to take a more proactive position, and work closer with the F&G on these types of issues. Unless these two agencies start working closer togeather problems will continue to come up reguarding access and trail distruction.

    But still the main question.

    WHERE HAS THE PUBLIC BEEN FOR THE LAST THREE YEARS?
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    Maybe I am naive but it would seem that building a hard bottom trail through the worst areas would fix this problem. When I am hunting I don't want to spend hours digging my machine out of the swamp! Local hunters don't want a better trail because then non-locals wouldn't get stuck and would be able to make it in to "their" spot. There are numerous good trails that go for many miles with only 2 grooves many of these trails get braided in the swamps then go back to a nice single file trail immediately after. The trails north of eureka is a prime example.

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    Talking gee maybe you are naive....

    so who exactly is gonna pay for trail work?
    will you donate part of your $1000 "surplus" dividend?
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    Default Maybe some are missing the point...

    The whole point of the opinion piece was for hunters to consider this question: If IM law mandates that we create irruption densities of game, how are we going to harvest all that game and what will the repercussions be? We can't even harvest as many cows/calves as we "need" to in 20A and adjacent areas to effectively bring the moose population down, yet access abuse is way out of hand already. Hunting orgs and politicians and former Board of Game never really stopped to think when they created IM law and the population and harvest objectives just how hunters would be able to harvest so many animals over such large areas without a lot of access abuse and other problems.

    Roggie, word I am getting is that the hope is that the four regional ACs there will work cooperatively and consider proposing to the BOG that they lower the population and harvest objectives that are now in IM law for that region. Is there any chance of that happening, of all the ACs in that region working together on that? I had mentioned the Delta Jct proposals in another thread...they are really ticked at the atv abuse they are seeing. I doubt their proposals will pass, but I think they highlight what may be to come elsewhere too when things get that bad, like off the Taylor Hwy. It's a catch-22 trying to create a lot of ungulates for road hunters who want to drive off-road where access isn't regulated somehow. Once DNR jumps in, it likely isn't going to be pretty. Hunters (and IM mandates) are basically forcing them to do something, and for a couple years now I've been saying the same thing about the Taylor Hwy "hunts."

    As far as "hardening" trails, Lujon, there are several aspects of that which are problematic. One is that many atv riders/hunters don't want hardened trails; they consider them to be more "roads" and much of the enjoyment they get out of riding in the backcountry stems from mud-bogging and especially going off-trail over hill and dale and swamp. Another is that we don't have the funding to "fix" all the trails. And yet another is the ridiculous regs we have that don't allow common-sense cheaper methods of "fixing" trails, like putting in logs or corrugation etc.

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    I do know it has been proposed that we work closer with the other A/Cs, and that we meet together. I believe there is a plan to get us all together, just don't know how far it's gone yet. As for lowering the population objective, I have not heard anything about that.

    Our hunting sub-committee got together and worked up some plans that we are bringing to the A/C at our next meeting Feb 13th, then to F&G, and the Game Board. One is to make it a drawing permit instead of a registration permit. Several of the A/C members wanted this all along but Don Young insisted on a registration hunt. Shorten the season, end it before the Bulls start to drop their antlers, I've always said that Feb was too late, again Don disagreed. Lower the number of permits given out. Instead of Antlerless make it Cow. No cows accompanied by calves. Realign the zones so more of the migratory moose can be reached. Adjust the season to catch the migration.

    I also talked to DNR, as have several people that I know. I'm hoping they addopt a footprint restriction on the Rex Trail. Meaning vehicles 1500 lbs or less, or vehicles only producing X lbs per sq inch. X to be determined by DNR. Many people feel that if they would stop the big tired rigs, that after a few years the trail would return to it's former condition. At that point the brading would stop. DNR is going to have to do something, but with them it is a wait and see.
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    Quote Originally Posted by bushrat View Post
    The whole point of the opinion piece was for hunters to consider this question: If IM law mandates that we create irruption densities of game, how are we going to harvest all that game and what will the repercussions be? We can't even harvest as many cows/calves as we "need" to in 20A and adjacent areas to effectively bring the moose population down, yet access abuse is way out of hand already. Hunting orgs and politicians and former Board of Game never really stopped to think when they created IM law and the population and harvest objectives just how hunters would be able to harvest so many animals over such large areas without a lot of access abuse and other problems.
    Based on the data presented by Mr. Young and the bios at the recent Moose Management meeting F&G feels confident that the anterless hunt has been successfull in bringing the population down. They were not able to fly and count this november because of lack of snow but based on past data and the current years harvest the figure that by the end of the hunts this winter the population will be about 15000. Don said the are going to recommend cutting back the number of antlerless harvest. the goal for 2008 is about 6 % total harvest. 700 moose. 250 of which would be reported cow harvest meaning that probably 300 cows would be taken.

    "Access abuse" as you call it. Has been an issue and some of the zones that were hit hardes first have been closed. The main problem is there is really only one trail at this point that gets back into a few other high density areas.

    Basically, F&G is saying that it's working and they now need to trim back the antlerless harvest some starting this season.

    If any others were at the meeting and I don't have my facts straight feel free to correct me.
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    That's the understanding I got as well. That is why the drawing permit is being put forth along with the others issues.
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    Default some facts that may shed light on what's going on

    Guys, wanted to clarify some history so you may have a better understanding of what is going on and how we got to this point. This was all mentioned at the moose mgmt workshop (I was not there but have the data that was presented and have talked with one of the bios who was there) but some may have missed this part.

    When IM law came about in 1993, the Board of Game was tasked with setting population and harvest objectives for areas they deemed were "positive" under IM findings. Various ACs were asked for input and in Region III (interior) the Fbks AC recommended population objectives that reflected what they thought was the biological potential for several GMUs. Overall, what the Fbks AC recommended was not endorsed by ADFG (they felt the objectives were too high), but the Board of Game went with the higher objectives. One exception was Unit 20A; the Fbks AC wanted a pop. objective of 15,000-20,000. The BOG eventually went with a pop. objective of 10,000-12,000 moose for 20A, with a harvest objective of 1,400-1,600.

    You can read all the IM pop. and harvest objectives here: http://www.touchngo.com/lglcntr/akst...section108.htm

    Keep in mind that 15,000 moose in 20A is still substantially over the population objective. Also keep in mind that even though we are well over the population objective, we still can't meet the harvest objectives. Anyone see anything awry with this whole scenario?

    Biologists feel they now have a handle on bringing the population down in 20A, but only if the antlerless hunts continue. They fear that if the antlerless hunts are stopped that the population will not come down and we will have increased range/habitat damage and longer recovery period. It is unlikely that planned controlled burns will take place so close to Fbks, as the recent wildfires in the interior and related smoke conditions have turned the public against setting fires to improve habitat.

    Something else of interest: the Fbks AC has a proposal before the BOG for the interior meeting next month asking for a reinstatement of wolf control in unit 20A to increase calf survival. It's # 108 in the proposal book. I don't know what to make of this proposal. Not knocking individual Fbks AC members, but man this just seems to show a complete lack of understanding about what is going on, how we got to where we are now, and what we need to do to fix it. It also is another one of those proposals that just seem to waste the time of the Board. Why would the Board of Game institute a wolf control plan when the moose population is so far over the population objective? The reasoning of this proposal seems to be that the Fbks AC fears that while we try to bring the moose population in 20A down that wolves will take more moose and it will drop too low...and that we thus need to increase calf survival by taking more wolves. Go figure.

    Roggie, I think the wisest course of action all of the ACs could take is to revisit all the IM pop. and harvest objectives for Region III, discuss with ADFG bios their thoughts on what the objectives should be, and then propose to bring them more in line with what is sustainable, achievable, and is more of a win-win for all rather than a win-lose scenario.
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    Mark,
    I got the feeling that Young and the other bios are frustrated regarding this thing and that they feel we need to continue to cull the herd but that this years recommendation is largely influenced by the social/political issues rather than the biology. It's a compromise from their perspective. I know Roy Nowlin the Management Coordinator and talked with him about this issue quite a bit and he (and the bios) fear a huge crash of the herd if they aren't allowed to get it down. He would shake his head in sadness and disbelief at those who basically yelled about how they (F&G) are decimating the herd by allowing the cow harvest when the data indicates the exact opposite. They want to get the herd back down to the objective but are getting lots of opposition.

    I really think that people are going to have to put up with the access and trail issues for a time until more moose can be harvested out in 20a. If the antlerless hunt gets stopped because of a few irate folks who don't like hunters from the matsu coming into their backyard, in a few years there may not be any moose in their backyard.

    Not sure what to make of the wolf control proposal. People are at such extreme opposites on this 20A deal. One ol timer that was there who lives out there said that all... as in ALL the moose are "shot of there" because he's not seeing many tracks on the trail. Others say the don't believe the young college kids and "they know better." One guy said he used to see a lot of moose in one specific area (very small portion of 20A) he used to fly in the 80's but now he doesn't see them anymore. He and the others base their conclusions on very small limited observations. This whole thing is very interesting to say the least.

    Were you able to get the Power Point presentations of the meeting? I requested them while I was there but the lady who sort of mc'd the meeting (forgot her name) said she was going to try and figure out how to make that happen.
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    Kathy Harms MCd the meeting.

    Proposal #108 is to reactivate the Preditor Control in the area to increase the calf survival rate to 45 or 50 calves per100 cows. Thereby maintaining the annual harvest as the moose population is reduced to the objective. In other words if we don't have any calves survive there won't be any moose to harvest in future years.

    Proposal #110 is the one I am backing 100%. I've had a lot of interest from people I meet concerning this Caribou herd. I for one am concerned,and I'm not behind it because of the Moose, I'm behind it due to the Delta Caribou. That Caribou herd is currently 50% or more below the population objective. If something is not done soon there will be no Caribou left in that area. If you go in at Ferry now you will not see any Caribou at all. Traveling the Rex Trail area I don't see any till after I cross the Wood. Don Young is against the Preditor Control because he says we need those wolves to keep the Moose herd in check. The problem as I see it is that they are wiping out the Caribou, and no one at F&G seems to care. They are totally focused on Moose, and ignoring the population objective for the Delta Caribou herd. I remember back in the 80s when we always got a Caribou or two when hunting along the Rex. We would see several herds of Caribou running up and down the river beds. Then in the early 90s they went into a steep decline and have been going down ever since.
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    Default Graybeard...

    Roggie, not sure what to make of your comments. Multi-species management is complicated. Certainly the Dept. and the bios "care" about the Delta caribou herd; that's obvious from reading the mgmt reports. Thing of it is that by creating such high densities of moose and all that biomass, it allowed wolves to increase as well, even though trappers take a substantial amount of the wolf population each winter. Now we're in a catch-22 in that we need the wolves to curb the moose population growth. Everything has cascading trophic effects, and by messing with one thing we affect another. So in the face of moderately high wolf densities, and needing to keep those densities up in order to prey on an overpopulation of moose...if you now attempt to curb the wolves moreso than is being done by trapping alone, you are likely not going to take care of the moose "problem."

    I think that is what the bios are trying to point out. Apparently you aren't buying their take on things. I confess I don't understand why the AC would propose such things in the face of overwhelming evidence given by area bios on your moose overpopulation problem. Essentially if these proposals were to go into effect (I highly doubt they will) they would undermine the whole benefits of the antlerless hunts in bringing the moose herd down. The bottom line I think bios are trying to get across is that if you don't bring the moose herd down and allow the habitat to recover, you are looking at some long-term problems down the line inre sustainability.

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    It's time for us to put pressure on the legislature to amend the rules regarding trails in 20A. The sub-units within 20A that get hunted the hardest are the ones with the best access i.e. the river corridors and the Rex Trail.

    The solution to evening out the hunting pressure and achieving management goals is access. I'm not an "ATV guy" and have stated my position to that effect on this forum, as well as I'm able. However (big fat comma) the public wants accessible, reasonably successful moose hunting opportunities. GMU 20A is in prime position to meet that demand. I for one believe that if the State is going to impose Intensive Management to meet public demand for more moose then the State needs to provide proportional access so that those moose can be harvested within the financial means of the average Alaskan hunter.

    I suggest we lobby for some of that surplus to go to trails in 20A. Not roads....common sense trails that provide access to each of the 7 antlerless moose sub-units. Log corduroys over the muskeg sections, and a few simple, sturdy bridges where needed. I also suggest we offer to pay an access fee to recreate in 20A as a means paying for long term trail upkeep.

    JM2C

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    I would gladly pay a reasonable trail usage fee for upkeep. I won't pay a huge fee to support over engineered trails like we tend to provide to our tourist friends from around the world. Rugged, simple, effective, inexpensive!

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    Default Erik, I don't think that is feasible

    Erik,

    Hey, how goes? A couple proposals coming up seek to rescind the Wood River Controlled-Use Area or shorten the time controlled-use is in effect. Every time the BOG has met in the last six years for interior issues these proposals are on the docket, and each time since the WRCUA was formed they have failed. So on one hand the public is demanding access, yet on the other the public is saying there is too much access going on that is harming habitat and causing other problems. Like I said in the op-ed, more motorized access often leads to restricting access down the line, simply because we can't stop the abuse that goes on. That's how most CUAs came about.

    It is true that we can't harvest all the moose in 20A under IM harvest objectives in that region because hunters simply can't get to them all. But I don't know that we really want to see hunters able to get to them all via motorized access during summer/fall when the ground is thawed. Not there, not in such swampy areas like 20A. What you are advocating is just not realistically feasible unless new trails would be put in (or airstrips). And even if that were both economically and physically possible, we don't have the enforcement to adequately keep users on just those trails and stop the rampant abuse that would surely come.

    Maybe...just maybe...we need to revisit the population and harvest objectives and bring them in line with what would satisfy most of the public, a compromise between x amount of harvested moose and a region that isn't overtly and overly damaged by excessive access. I am with you on fixing/maintaining existing trails. Certainly nothing wrong with responsible motorized access. But as far as putting in new trails and/or covering the entire unit(s) so that the harvest objectives can be met...I think that is a poor solution to a problem that we didn't need to create in the first place.
    Cheers,

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    I just wish there were a few more bridges to help get across the rivers.
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    Mark: I understand what the Biologist are saying about the Moose overpopulation, and how easily it would be to have it get out of control and overpopulate the area to the point of a crash. Yes we need to do something about it. An awful lot of people want the cow hunt stopped completely, now. That's not the way, I understand that, we need the cow hunts to continue to bring the Moose population down. And I understand that the wolves help keep the Moose herd in check.

    But I am also looking at the Caribou herd that has been decimated by the wolf population. If nothing is done about the Caribou soon there will be no Caribou to worry about. I would hate to see this entire herd lost to future generations, just to keep the wolf numbers up, to keep the Moose numbers down.

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    The take that I got from the management meeting is that we really don't need massive access to ALL the zones in 20A. They have done enough studies to have a pretty good idea of the migration routes, high and low density areas, etc. The hope and the approach (at least at this point) is to cull the herd where we can and as the browse comes back that the moose will naturally begin to move in to those areas from adjacent high density areas. Ideally it would be great if there was access to all the high density areas but, it's just not feasible to make that happen. By the time you get DNR and several other organizations to agree on how to do it we will have probably already harvested the number of cows they want anyway. Then it's a matter of giving it a few years for the browse to come back and for the other moose to spread back into those areas when they realize there's not as much competition there as there used to be.

    I think this thing is going to take patience by us hunters. We need to be careful about massive access thinking that it will solve all the problems. What effect will that have on the area 10-15 years from now? I like to have access to good hunting spots too but we need to be careful about this I would say. I don't have all the answers, I'm just holding up a caution sign.

    Those of you who were at the meeting can probably chime in here to correct me if I missed some stuff.
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    Default Chicken Little

    The remote rat wants everyone to "wring their hands" harder over population and harvest objectives, AS 16.05.255(g), being the cause of the antlerless debacle. The debacle is more of a problem of too many Nimbys (Not in My Back Yard!)
    Around one out of every four moose harvested in the State comes out of GMU 20. It's understandable that longtime GMU 20A-20B hunters have noticed an increase in nonlocal hunters and that moose aren't where they use to be during hunting season.

    No one I know who was involved in the series of Intensive Management bills ever expected to achieve high levels of human harvest by just taking bulls.
    Lets call it for what it is; an allocation issue. Can local Alaskan hunters share public resources found on public lands with non-locals (ie. all sport hunters)? we'll see at the Spring 2008 BOG meeting.

    ADF&G staff, Tom Paragi, Kalin Kellie, Don Young, and Rod Boertje did a great job dispelling rumors about the kill-off of the local cow moose population. The more hunters that the department can help educate the better.Too much "shady light" about predator/prey management strategies has already been aired. Hopefully everyone has read the departments brochures on Intensive Management. They are on ADF&Gs website.

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