In its six days of meetings in Soldotna, the Alaska Board of Game heard hours of public testimony and weighed in on more than 150 proposals to change hunting and wildlife regulations in the state. Members considered nine proposals around the contentious issue of trapping setbacks, which require traps to be placed a certain distance from public-use areas like trails and campgrounds.
Out of those proposals, the board failed seven.
“I am disappointed at the decisions they came to and the lack of support the Board of Game showed,” said Lorraine Temple, who heads the Cooper Landing Safe Trails Committee — the group behind many of the proposals.
The group has tried and failed to get the same proposals passed before at the federal level. At the heart of their concern is that dogs can get caught in traps when those traps are close to multi-use trails.
“These are supposed to be multi-use areas,” Temple said. “If you have a trap right on a trail, a trap right on a beach, those areas are not safe for different activities. We’re trying so hard to work toward making these areas truly multi-use, and not to eradicate the trapper entirely — that’s not the idea behind our proposals.”
Temple said the proposals had vast public support in Cooper Landing and were created through a survey of the community. The group also got support from local agencies like Cooper Landing Emergency Services and the Cooper Landing Advisory Planning Commission, and from the U.S. Forest Service.
But not everyone thinks setbacks, as proposed, are a good idea.
Representatives from the Kenai Peninsula Trappers Association told the board it’s important for dog owners to keep their pets on leashes, and say they’re already using signage in the area to signal when there are traps nearby.
“The Kenai Peninsula Trappers Association opposes these proposals because they add unnecessary regulation to solve the problem of loose-running dogs being caught in traps,” the association’s president, Dianne MacLean, wrote in a comment to the board.
Historically, the Board of Game has not been supportive of trapping restrictions, either.
This meeting was no exception. During their deliberation this week, board members said they worried the setbacks wouldn’t be enforceable or that they placed an undue burden on trappers, among other concerns. They rejected proposed setbacks along certain snowmachine and Nordic ski trails in Homer, multi-use trails on the eastern Peninsula and several pull-outs, winter trails, popular hiking trails, and beaches along Kenai Lake in Cooper Landing. The board also turned down a proposal that would have required signage in all active trapping areas.
The board did approve two proposals — one that places setbacks in Kachemak Bay State Park, and another that applies to campgrounds in the Cooper Landing area.
However, the next morning, the board took another look at the campground proposal and amended it, changing the required setback distance from 100 yards to 50. Board member Lynn Keogh proposed the amendment, citing the setback distances in Chugach State Park.
“Fifty yards is already in regulation for certain areas around campgrounds and stuff, so I’d like to amend the proposal to be 50 yards instead of 100 yards,” Keogh said.
The board also approved a proposal that will limit hunting and trapping on and around highway wildlife crossings in the Cooper Landing area.
Temple, for her part, said her committee will be back in three years with more proposals. And she said she’s monitoring a lawsuit in Valdez that could give municipalities jurisdiction over trapping, and is planning to approach the Kenai Peninsula Borough about the subject.