By Jenny Neyman
After the Alaska Board of Game last month rejected proposals to limit trapping in recreational areas from Cooper Landing to Seward, Ken Green, of Cooper Landing, is feeling caught in a bit of a Catch 22 in his efforts to prevent dogs from being caught in game traps.
“The thing is we’re just going to have to live with it. That’s all there is. You have to live with what the Board of Game decrees, basically,” Green said.
Green, of the Committee for Safe Public Lands and Trails, submitted a proposal that would prohibit trapping within 250 feet of private land, public trails, trail heads, associated parking lots, roads and campgrounds, and in certain special areas, including frequently used beaches along Kenai Lake. A similar proposal was submitted for the Seward to Moose Pass area.
In doing so, Green thought he was following the appropriate procedure when one would like to see a regulatory change regarding hunting or trapping — take it to the authority on those regulations. Board members, however, in their March 18 unanimous denial of the trapping ban proposals, stated that the matter should have been resolved at the local level.
“The enforceability of this would be extremely difficult. It would be a full-time job, we’d need a Cooper Landing trooper just to check these places for trap lines because there’s a lot of tails down there, and this would encompass an awful lot of area,” said Board of Game Member Bob Mumford, of Anchorage.
Board President Ted Spraker, of Soldotna, said during deliberations that he had attended a community meeting on the issue in Cooler Landing and advised that those concerned about trapping work with local trappers and representatives of the statewide Alaska Trappers Association to come to compromise that would work for both sides — deciding together which areas should be restricted for trapping and which would be left alone. That’s what happened in Juneau to resolve conflicts there between dog owners and trappers, the board noted.
But in this case, Spraker said, the proposals were submitted without trappers having a say in them.
“I suggested strongly that they work with the trappers, and also select a few very important areas for people to run dogs and so forth and draft a proposal and not swing for the fence, so to speak,” Spraker said. “They didn’t take that advice. That’s their prerogative. And they would like to see all these areas closed, which does really pretty much close trapping with all the trails they’ve named plus the 250-foot setback so I think this goes beyond a fair deal between the two groups.”
Board member Pete Probasco, of Palmer, noted that the resulting proposals were too broad and too restrictive to trappers.
“I think their proposal almost would prohibit trapping in most of the area because I don’t think there are any trails left that they didn’t feel there was a significant problem with. The trappers do have some rights on their part, too,” Probasco said.
In the aftermath of the vote, Green isn’t sure how to proceed. He said he had attempted to work with the trappers association, but that they didn’t want to continue discussions when Green wouldn’t agree to withdraw his proposal.
Tom Lassard, who traps in the area, testified to the board that local trappers had posted signs in areas of concern warning trappers to be mindful of dogs in the area, and for dog owners to be aware that traps could be present. He said he had met with Green and was willing to continue to do so, but that the trappers would rather restrict themselves through signage and education, rather than having regulations passed.
That’s not good enough for Green, though, who wants enforceable rules.
“It’s just an advisory sign that anyone could ignore. It’s like me putting up an advisory sign for fishing regulations or speeding,” he said. “If the 55 mph speed sign on the highway was just an advisory sign, how many people are going to pay attention?”
But if the board won’t pass his proposed regulations without compromise with the trappers, and if trappers won’t be involved in crafting a proposal if it results in regulations, Green’s not sure what to do now.
At this point in the year, with fishing about to supplant trapping season, the matter is cooling to the back burner of public attention, but Green hopes to continue spreading awareness of the issue. He’s slated to give a presentation in Wasilla later this month, and hopes to coordinate efforts with others concerned about the issue in other communities throughout Southcentral, to pursue trapping restrictions in recreational areas from a more broad-based, unified front.
Green said he’s thinking about contacting the trappers association to resume discussions, and is considering revising his proposal and resubmitting it the next time the board considers the Southcentral region.
“Maybe 150 feet would be OK,” Green said. “But, no — the way the system is that you have to have everything down in detail when you turn in a proposal and on any little detail they can just turn your proposal down.”
In the meantime, Green hopes to continue to catch the public’s attention on the issue, and that both sides exercise caution to make sure no dogs are caught in traps.
“I don’t know where it could go at the moment, expect we’re going to keep it publicized that it is an issue,” Green said.