March 30, 2010
To: Clark Cox
Department of Natural Resources
Division of Mining, Land & Water
550 West 7th Ave, Suite 900c
Anchorage, Alaska 99501-3577
Re: Guide Concession Program to limit the number of big game guides operating on state lands
Dear Clark and staff,
Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the proposed Guide Concession Program (GCP).
Alaska Backcountry Hunters & Anglers (AK BHA) is a conservation organization chapter dedicated to protecting and conserving big wild public-lands habitat. We also advocate for prudent wildlife management policies and allocations (including a state-mandated resident preference to our game) that ensure sustainable game populations and wildlife diversity.
AK BHA opposes the Guide Concession Program as it is currently drafted.
Wildlife Resource Issues and Concerns
Part of the rationale behind the proposed GCP is that the allowance of an unlimited number of big game guides (and their client hunters) to operate on state lands, and some other BLM lands, has created an overabundance of guides and their clients that is causing “biological harm” to our wildlife populations. Essentially, overharvests are occurring in some areas, by guided non-resident hunters, and those overharvests affect both sustainability and future general hunting opportunities for all.
The solution within the GCP to the problem of too many guides and guided clients causing biological harm to our wildlife populations is to limit the number of contracting guides that can operate in each new proposed concession area. With the ostensible intent to reduce the number of guided clients who can thence hunt in those concession areas.
But the reality of the proposed GCP, as it is currently posited, actually does nothing at all to reduce actual guided hunter numbers, because there is nothing concrete within the framework of the proposed GCP that would prevent a contracting guide who wins a concession lease from hiring an unlimited number of assistant guides to work within that concession area.
We have been told that DNR will attempt to work with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADFG) to set sustainable biological harvest limits in concession areas for guided hunters, and that concession leases will only be awarded to contracting guides who submit a prospectus that aligns with those harvest goals. We would certainly support such harvest limits, but within the current framework of the proposed GCP, since there is nothing to ensure this will actually take place, we cannot support it.
AK BHA continues to wonder why other more viable, concrete, and lawsuit-free legal solutions to the problems we continue to have with an overabundance of guides and their hunter-clients in some areas haven’t been truly considered.
There has always been one concrete solution that would ensure overharvests by non-resident guided hunters does not and cannot occur: limit non-resident hunting opportunity in the areas where we have concerns with specific game species.
Via the Board of Game, make those areas draw-only for non-residents and limit/cap the number of permits available to non-residents in a fair and equitable manner according to our state constitutional mandate that gives Alaskans a resident harvest priority to our wildlife. That is the solution that so many other states already have in place. This solution also helps to cure the other problems we currently have in some areas with conflicts between guides (guide vs. guide), and guides and resident unguided hunters.
The other value of such a solution is that it is not open to any expensive legal lawsuits; the Board of Game has this authority without question and has used it already.
That is the solution we prefer at this time, on an area-by-area basis.
We want to also highlight the concerns we have for the many individual contracting guides of extremely high caliber and professionalism – some of whom are AK BHA members – who still actually guide clients in the field every year on fair-chase hunts, who will no doubt be forced out of business should this proposed GCP (as it is now worded) be put in place.
Under no circumstances do we support any competitive bidding process!
In speaking with the Department of Law, we have been informed that a competitive bidding process within the proposed GCP is more likely to help the program withstand the legal challenges that will surely come if this program is implemented.
We firmly believe that any such competitive bidding process as proposed completely skews the intent of the GCP to pick the most qualified concession winner, and opens the door wide for manipulation of the entire application process by any guide who is wealthier than another, or gets the financial backing of hunt clubs and/or organizations.
This puts us between a rock and a hard place, and is yet another aspect of why we must oppose the GCP as outlined.
In closing, AK BHA well recognizes we have problems in some areas with the allowance of an unlimited number of guides and assistant guides, and where there are still general hunting (no draw permit needed) opportunities for non-resident hunters.
These problems tend to be more prevalent in Dall sheep areas.
The Board of Game well recognizes these problems, and so far has stalled implementing any widespread non-resident draw-only regulations for some species that would also cap the percentage of permits available to non-resident hunters, because of hopes this GCP would be implemented.
As of March 30, 2010, we understand that DNR did not get the requested necessary funding or staff to follow through with implementation of this proposed GCP.
The state of Alaska can no longer wait to fix the known problems. The guide industry can no longer wait to fix the known problems. We urge the guide industry to work with the Alaska Board of Game to look at each area and unit on a case by case basis, to define where problems are occurring, and to move to draw-only non-resident hunts in these areas that also cap non-resident hunting opportunity in a fair and equitable manner according to our constitutional directives to allow for resident hunting preference.
Mark Richards, co-chair Alaska Backcountry Hunters & Anglers