An Outdoor View: Changes are afoot

“No man’s life, liberty or property are safe when the Legislature is in session.”

— Lawyer, politician and newspaper editor Gideon J. Tucker, 1866

As I write this, the Alaska Legislature is cutting costs and looking high and low for ways to generate revenue. Wondering if any of their ideas have anything to do with fishing, I called my old friend Olof Prail, a Juneau insider who’s up to his nose in all things legislatorial.

“What’s going on down there, fishing-wise?” I said.

“Plenty,” he said. “It’s not quite as exciting as when the Corrupt Bastards Club was in charge, but it’s interesting.”

“Don’t tease me,” I said.

“Well, there has been some difficulty in recent years with finding candidates for Board of Fisheries seats who can survive the selection process. Representative Willie Waugh’s bill would be an improvement. Prospective board members would simply enter their names in a statewide lottery. The first seven names drawn would be board members.”

“But wouldn’t that take all the fun out of the process?”

“Yeah, but politics would be out of it,” he said. “The bill also would permanently eliminate Soldotna and Kenai as locations where fish-board meetings could be held. The thinking is that it would relieve board members of the stress of having to think up new reasons for not holding meetings on the Kenai Peninsula.”

“Good,” I said. “I was getting tired of hearing the same old excuses, year after year.”

“If you like that, you’ll love this,” he said. “Senator Ima Bigg-Pickel’s bill would give non-residents $500 for each fishing and hunting license they apply for. The senator says it would increase tourism by making tourists happier, which would boost the sport-fishing and hunting industries and the state economy.”

“Whoa! Non-resident license fees have been paying for the bulk of Department of Fish and Game programs for years. When the state starts handing tourists checks instead of taking their money, how will those programs be funded?”

“The senator thought of that,” he said. “Her bill would require resident license fees to be doubled each year until Fish and Game is satisfied.”

“Wouldn’t the increase in the price of fishing and hunting licenses be a little off-putting for residents? Seems to me that lots of them would suddenly become non-residents.”

“She thought of that, too,” he said. “Her bill would require that non-residents meet stringent qualifications. They would have to spend at least 11 months per year out of state, and spend at least $10,000 each time they come to Alaska.”

“This is starting to make sense,” I said. “The state gives oil companies credits, and you can see how good that is for the economy.”

“On another subject, Representatives Ali Baloni and Luke Warm have co-sponsored a bill that would authorize the state to buy and operate a high-speed ferry to run sockeye dipnetters from Anchorage to the mouth of the Kenai River and back. The more people who use the ferry, the less traffic there would be on the highways.”

“Another win-win deal for everyone,” I said. “Who said our lawmakers aren’t doing anything?”

Normally, Les Palmer can be reached at les.palmer@rocketmail.com. On April Fool’s Day, he makes himself scarce.

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