Wanted to post this for those interested in the Delta Bison issue, hope it formats okay when pasted in. (Maps won't paste in though)
Delta Bison Working Group Recommendations
Following the January 11, 2011 Meeting
I. Recommendations and results from the December 9, 2009 Delta Bison Working Group meeting
The recommendations made through the December 9, 2009 meeting were based on the consensus of the full seven-member Delta Bison Working Group (DBWG). Members of the 7-person DBWG and the interests they represent are:
1. Leonard Jewkes- statewide hunting
2. John Sloan- Delta Junction business
3. Mike Schultz- Delta Agriculture
4. John Haddix- U.S. Army
5. Glen Wright- Delta Junction community
6. Don Quarberg- Delta Junction hunting
7. Phil Kaspari- Statewide agriculture and research
A. Recommendations to ADF&G
· Increase funding for bison habitat improvement. In FY 2009 and 2010 the ADF&G, Division of Wildlife Conservation (DWC) allocated increased funding for habitat improvement on the bison range and other Delta bison management activities.
· Allow use of herbicides on the Delta Junction Bison Range (DJBR). This is intended as an additional tool to improve production of bison forage.
Most of the Working Group discussions on herbicide use have focused on the wet blade mower technique that selectively applies a small amount of herbicide and has been undergoing testing the last few years. A potentially extensive permitting process would be involved for ADF&G to obtain approval from the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation to use herbicides on the DJBR.
B. Board of Game Proposals (primarily intended to ensure the harvest objective is achieved so the herd size can be controlled)
· Extend the authorized length of the Delta bison hunting season to July 1-June 30. This could help to remove animals that might remain in private agriculture lands year-round (adopted by the Board of Game in March 2010)
· Authorize same day airborne hunting (rejected by the Board of Game in March 2010 – the Board did approve a proposal to allow ground-based radio communication to help locate bison; see 5 AAC 92.080(7)(E))
· Prohibit taking of bison with highly visible radio-collars (adopted by the Board of Game in March 2010)
C. Recommendations to ADF&G and DNR, Division of Agriculture
· Establish an on-going crop damage assessment program. This is a cooperative effort between ADF&G and the Division of Agriculture and has now been conducted in the summers of 2009 and 2010.
D. Legislative Recommendations
· Increase the application fee for Delta bison hunting permits from $10 to $20. This measure is intended to increase available funding for improving bison habitat on the DJBR and other areas.
This recommendation would require legislative action. As is presently the case, the legislature cannot dedicate funds from application fee revenues to a specific purpose (e.g.; Delta bison management) but the legislation could express this intent and, if additional funds from application fees are forthcoming, they could be directed to Delta bison management in the budgeting process. A draft legislative proposal has been submitted to ADF&G headquarters for consideration by the administration.
E. Other points of agreement
· The Delta Bison Working Group agreed that the long term solution to solving conflicts between bison and agriculture is fencing.
The Working Group did not reach agreement on whether the best approach to fencing is to:
a) enclose private agricultural lands to prevent bison from entering and damaging crops;
b) enclose the bison herd into the DJBR or some portion of the range, or;
c) to construct some type of “drift” or barrier fence to prevent the bison from moving from the DJBR into agricultural lands north of the Alaska Highway.
II. Recommendations from the January 11, 2011Delta Bison Working Group meeting
All members of the DBWG were present except for Glen Wright who could not attend due to medical reasons. The group worked to achieve consensus recommendations; however, where consensus was not reached majority rule voting was used and majority and minority recommendations are identified.
A. Fencing Recommendations
· The DBWG reaffirmed by consensus that the long term solution to solving conflicts between bison and agriculture is fencing.
· The DBWG did not achieve consensus on the best approach to fencing but developed majority and minority recommendations. Both proposals are conceptual and have details that must be worked out prior to final decisions and implementation. All fencing alternatives under consideration would involve significant funding which would likely require legislative action.
o Majority recommendation (5-1 vote): The majority of the DBWG supported a proposal to fence private agricultural lands to keep bison out.
Approximately 160 miles of fencing would be required (Map 1). Provisions of the proposal include:
§ Enclosing large blocks of contiguousagricultural lands as complete units with boundary fences rather than fencing individual farms. This approach will help reduce the total length of fence required and costs involved.
§ Constructing two sections of drift fence to the west of Sawmill Creek to prevent bison from entering agricultural and residential areas in the Delta-Clearwater and Tanana Loop Road areas. One section would run from the northern edge of the Delta I West agricultural block, northwest along the northern boundary of the Delta-Clearwater area, and then north to the edge of the Delta-Clearwater River. The Delta-Clearwater River seldom freezes over and the banks are steep, thus forming a barrier to the bison. The second (southern) section of the drift fence would run from the SW corner of the Delta I West agricultural block, along the Alaska Highway around Delta Junction and extend to the Tanana River by the Alyeska Pipeline Bridge. Because the drift fences would not be enclosed on the western ends there is no guarantee that bison would be prevented from going around the end of the drift fence and accessing private agricultural lands or the city of Delta Junction. Bison have utilized the Delta River as a corridor but have never been seen swimming up the Tanana under the bridge, consequently the drift fence should block their advance into the Tanana Loop area.
§ Maintain corridors between large blocks of agricultural land to allow movements of bison and other wildlife species (i.e. the Gerstle River and Sawmill Creek).
§ The necessary fencing should be paid for through a combination of legislative funding and cost-sharing by the involved owners of agricultural parcels.
Map 1. Approximate locations of recommended bison-proof fencing around agricultural areas and the Delta community (map prepared by Dan Proulx, Division of Agriculture).
o Minority opinion (1-5 vote): Construct a drift fence south of the Alaska Highway to prevent bison from migrating from the DJBR to private agricultural lands.
The fence would extend from the Richardson Highway near the City of Delta Junction, to the west bank of the Gerstle River, and then up to a point on the Granite Mountains where the bison would be unlikely to travel. Approximately 45-50 miles of fence would be required, depending on where the western end is located. This approach would involve less total miles of fence than the approach of fencing in private agricultural lands but may have significant impacts on movements of other wildlife species in the area such as moose, wolves, and grizzly bears. Gates could be installed to allow movements of bison and other wildlife at times when agricultural operations would not be disrupted. Because the drift fence would not be enclosed on either end there is no guarantee that bison would be prevented from going around the fence and entering onto private agricultural lands. In the recent past, bison have migrated south along the Delta River to the confluence with the Tanana River. If they resumed this movement pattern the drift fence may be ineffective at preventing bison from approaching agricultural lands from the northwest. The western end of this drift fence would tie-in with the existing fencing around Ft. Greely and the Missile Defense compound, or extend to the Delta River. The bison often move down the Delta River, past Delta Junction and could move around the western end of this drift fence and gain access to the Tanana Loop area.
Map 2. Approximate location of the bison-proof drift fence as proposed by the Salcha-Delta Soil and Water Conservation District (map courtesy of Bryce Wrigley and the SWCD).
B. Hunting Recommendations
· Use the year-round hunting season authorized by the Board of Game to allow hunting of bison that remain in agricultural areas north of the Alaska Highway between May and July (DBWG consensus).
o This hunt would be implemented on an as-needed basis, in cooperation with farmers, to eliminate bison that do not migrate out of agricultural areas and is intended to prevent bison from remaining in agricultural areas year-round.
o Bison harvested in this hunt would be applied to the annual harvest quota.
o The DBWG voted 4-2 to recommend the bag limit for this special hunt to be any bison. Those who voted against the any bison bag limit voiced concern for killing cows with very young calves as well as killing the young calves themselves, and preferred a bulls only bag limit.
· Establish an either sex bag limit when the regular Delta bison hunt is opened. Once the quota established by the Department for either cows or bulls is met, only bison of the remaining sex can be taken (DBWG consensus).
This recommendation may require further departmental review to determine its legality.
C. Herd size Objective
· Majority recommendation (5-1 vote): As an interim measure until fencing is achieved, reduce the herd size objective from the present 360 bison pre-calving to a range of 275 – 325 bison pre-calving. Once fencing is completed the herd size should be based on the biological carrying capacity.
· Minority opinion (1-5 vote): Do not change the present herd size objective of 360 bison pre-calving.
D. Delta bison hunting permit application fee increase
· The DBWG reaffirmed their previous recommendation to raise the permit application fee from $10 to $20 (consensus).
o The Working Group also reaffirmed that the intent of the fee increase is to provide additional funding to support habitat improvement on the DJBR and Delta bison management in general.