NEWS: Alaska House Passes Legislation to Protect Arctic Caribou Herds
Imposing an Additional Restriction on Nonresident Hunters Will Help Preserve a Vital Subsistence Resource
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 27, 2017
Juneau – Today, the Alaska House of Representatives passed legislation adding an additional restriction on nonresident hunters in an effort to protect arctic caribou herds. House Bill 211, sponsored by Representative Dean Westlake (D-Kiana), requires nonresident hunters, without a second degree of kin in Alaska, to be accompanied by a licensed professional hunting guide when hunting caribou from the Western Arctic, Porcupine, or Central Arctic Caribou Herds.
“The caribou and the Alaska Native people in my region are linked together because the herds have served as a source of subsistence for generations. This bill puts in place a minor restriction on out of state hunters that we hope will protect the people that rely on these caribou for food, as well as other Alaskan hunters and nonresidents,” said Rep. Westlake. “I and my colleagues in the Alaska House are committed to making sure the caribou herds of northern Alaska are healthy, abundant, and available to all Alaskans for many more generations to come.”
For the past year, Game Management Unit 23 has been federally closed to all hunters that do not reside in the area, both resident and non-resident alike. Steps are being taken to make this closure permanent, and there similar requests have been submitted to the federal subsistence board for both units 26-A and 26-B.
“At the heart of these closure requests are conflicts between user groups,” said Rep. Westlake. “HB 211 seeks to resolve these conflicts and prevent future federal closures of game management units, and ideally allow unit 23 to be reopened to both Alaska residents and nonresidents at some point in the future.”
Several of the northern caribou herds have experienced significant population decreases in recent years. For instance, the population of the Central Arctic Herd has fallen by 69 percent since 2010 and the Western Arctic Herd has decreased by 41 percent since 2003.
“The science is unclear as to why the number of caribou is declining, which puts the responsibility on us as lawmakers to take steps towards conservation, while still allowing abundant hunting opportunities for subsistence users, Alaska residents, and nonresidents as well,” said Rep. Westlake.
HB 211 passed the Alaska House of Representatives today by a vote of 21-19. The bill will now be sent to the Alaska State Senate for consideration.
For more information, contact Forrest Wolfe in Rep. Westlake’s office at (907) 465-3473.