In this Article:
Alaska Fnaws Loses Long Struggle With Department of Fish and Game Over 'Any Ram' Season to “Protect Dall Sheep Genetics”
By Wayne E. Heimer, President, Alaska FNAWS - updated April 4th, 2008
In spite of Alaska FNAWS best efforts over the last year, the Alaska Board of Game retained the “any ram” bag limit for the new permit hunt in the Chugach Mountains. Here’s the story:
In response to low full curl ram harvests in 2005 and 2006, the Department of Fish and Game and Board of Game implemented a restrictive drawing permit system with a greatly reduced nonresident allocation for the Chugach Mountains. Accompanying this permit system was a change in bag limit from full-curl to “any-ram.” ADF&G justified the “any-ram” bag limit as “conservation genetics.” Alaska FNAWS simply doesn’t “buy” a genetic problem resulting from full-curl ram harvests in the Chugach, and has worked diligently for the last year to get this bag limit change reversed.
Early indications were that the Department proposed “any ram” simply to gather hunter input about a possible change from full-curl to “any-ram” by proposing the change at the Board of Game meeting in March of 2007. There wasn’t very much “public input” about the “any ram” bag limit portion of the proposal at the Spring 2007 Board of Game meeting. It was a minor “add on” to an overharvest problem defined by ADF&G. The major focus was on the permit system and what it would do to hunting opportunity and the guiding industry in the area. The Alaska Board of Game (which makes the hunting regulations) passed the Department’s proposal for both the permit system and the “any-ram” season.
In a series of appeals Alaska FNAWS partnered with the Alaska Outdoor Council, and eventually got the Board to listen to our arguments about “any ram.” We think our position is grounded in Dall sheep biology while the Department’s is based on an arbitrary and shaky theory of genetic benefit.
At the Board of Game meeting in March of 2008, Alaska FNAWS took three approaches. I could not attend the meeting, so we tried to prepare coordinated testimony ahead of time. Our plan was to present the Foundation’s biological position, and back it up with testimony from FNAWS President/CEO, Ray Lee, and a letter from Dr. Val Geist.
Secretary, Karen Gordon, presented the Foundation’s testimony. You can read our testimony here.
In addition to reading the testimony the FNAWS Board prepared, Ms. Gordon presented a simple “fact sheet” on the issue to the Board of Game. To save space here, we’ll post this here.
Alaska FNAWS Board Member and Master Guide, Pete Buist, then testified against the “any ram” bag limit. He read a letter from Dr. Val Geist’s into the record. We’ll include some of Dr. Geist’s letter here because we think you might want to know what he thinks.
SO, HAVING FAILED TO CONVINCE THE DEPARTMENT AND THE BOARD OF GAME THAT “ANY-RAM” IS POOR GENETIC THEORY AND NOT SOUND BIOLOGY, WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO?
We have some options:
- 1. We could declare defeat and just leave sheep management to the gut feelings of ADF&G biologists who have yet to convince us they have given thoughtful answers to the biological questions we have raised, and still want to “experiment” with an “any ram” bag limit to test poorly defined genetic assumptions. Given the erosion of confidence in the credibility of the “genetic conservation” justification that has occurred over this issue, this seems an unproductive approach.
- 2. We can “wait this one out” and try for a more reasonable reception with proposals to repeal the “any ram” bag limit and make the permit system more workable in the future. I don’t know that we have any real choice but to pursue this approach if we don’t “just give up.” It seems reasonable that given more time and less defensive responses by the Department and the Board of Game we might achieve some success in this manner, but this is quite tiring for the Alaska Chapter Board and has definitely made us less effective in other areas where we would like to be active. Besides, being at odds with ADF&G seems likely to complicate improved sheep management.
- 3. We can try to appeal to the better interests of the sheep hunters with permits this year to minimize the biological damage “any ram” may do in 2008. Board Member Dane Crowley has drafted a letter our position on this issue that we intend to send to all permit holders.
- 4. We will certainly continue planning for our “sheep summit” where we hope to summarize biology and management practices and recommend them to ADF&G and the Board of Game.
- 5. If you have advice for the Alaska Chapter Board, you can submit it via the website www.alaksafnaws.org
by Wayne Heimer