Proposals to ban Kenai Peninsula wildlife trapping near public trails, campgrounds and roads got no traction this week with the Alaska Board of Game.
The board, meeting in Anchorage, unanimously voted Wednesday against twin proposals -- one for the Cooper Landing area, the other from Tern Lake to Seward -- to prohibit traps and snares within 250 feet of most trails, trail heads and campgrounds, including heavily used recreational areas of the Chugach National Forest.
The proposals also would have banned trapping on private land, which is not illegal under state law though trapping ethics and game managers recommend getting the owner's permission first.
Residents say years of dogs and dog teams getting caught, maimed or killed in snares and traps led to the proposals.
Trappers, hoping to stave off regulations, started meeting with Cooper Landing residents last summer to hash out a compromise. Trappers would agree to stay out of certain high-conflict public areas and dog owners would be warned to leash or restrain their pets in other areas. Trappers posted dozens of signs.
But the cooperation collapsed early this year, both sides say, after Cooper Landing resident Ken Green refused to pull his proposal to ban trailside trapping from the Board of Game agenda. The Alaska Trappers Association felt that Green didn't concede enough. Green and others said they needed the guarantees only laws can bring.
Most of the Board of Game on Wednesday expressed disappointment the two sides couldn't work together on a compromise.
"It could have been resolved at a more local level," said board vice chair Nate Turner, who owns a family hunting business in Nenana and is a member of the Alaska Trappers Association.
Board chair Ted Spraker said he attended last year's kick-off compromise meeting for the Kenai Peninsula and explained a solution that worked in Juneau, where the board approved trailside and other setbacks on trapping. Spraker, a Kenai Peninsula trapper who lives in Soldotna but said he doesn't trap in the areas covered by the proposed bans, said Green didn't take his advice during that initial meeting, which both attended.
"That's their prerogative and they would like to see all these areas closed, which does pretty much close trapping," he said. "I think this goes beyond a fair deal between the two groups."
Several board members said the proposals covered too much ground and lacked clear boundaries.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game couldn't even come up with a totally accurate map of the proposed closed areas, retired Alaska State Trooper Bob Mumford said. The agency estimated the two proposals would cover at least 22 square miles between them.
"The enforceability of this would be extremely difficult," said Mumford, who lives in Anchorage. "It would be a full-time job. We'd need a Cooper Landing trooper."
Teresa Sager Albaugh, a Tok construction and design consultant, said she often lets out her dog along the highway when she's out making long drives without leashing it first. She's the one -- not any local trappers -- who's breaking the law, Sager Albaugh said. "This proposal in part seeks to enable that."
Green said he was disappointed but not surprised by the board's decision.
"I was personally hoping to make a bigger dent in the standard responses from the Board of Game to our requests because I feel like we're being slightly profiled (as being) on the politically incorrect side of trapping, trying to be detrimental towards trapping when what we're trying to do is establish areas that we can be sure about around our communities," he said.
The total square mileage covered by the proposal doesn't accurately represent his request or equal to a total ban on trapping, Green said, because it's largely trailside corridors across a much larger landscape.
He said he expects to bring another proposal on the issue of statewide interest to the board, this one asking "for general regulations with the stipulation we try and figure out where areas of trapping can actually exist."
Alaska Dispatch Publishing