Bill would add state fish, wildlife habitat protections

HB 199 would establish anadromous fish habitat permits for certain activities

Bipartisan legislation introduced by Rep. Louise Stutes, R-Kodiak, calls for new permits for the protection of fish and game habitat.

HB 199, co-sponsored by Rep. Andy Josephson, D-Anchorage, would establish general fish and wildlife permits and major and minor anadromous fish habitat permits for certain activities related to the protection of fish and game habitat.

Anadromous fish are those who migrate up rivers from the sea to spawn.

“Anadromous fish habitat’ means a naturally occurring permanent or seasonal surface water body and its adjacent riparian areas that contribute, directly or indirectly, to the spawning, rearing, migration or overwintering of anadromous fish.

The bill would amend sections of Title 16 of Alaska Statues related to the protection of fish and game, and also add new sections, which would include one stating that when the commissioner determines to issue a general permit that the commissioner shall provide public notice of the proposed permit and opportunity to comment. The commissioner would also be required to hold at least one public hearing if requested by an interested party, and any general permits issued under that section would be subject to review every five years.

The bill identifies as significant adverse effects to fish habitat to include several factors, either singly or in combination with other factors, including impairment of the flow of water necessary for a water body to support anadromous fish habitat and reduction of aquatic habitat diversity, productivity, stability or function.

Individuals affiliated with the statewide campaign to update fish habitat protection laws, known as Stand for Salmon, are supporting the legislation.

In a statement released on March 28, Upper Cook Inlet setnet harvester Mike Wood said he supports HB 199 “because it makes a few simple updates to our salmon protection laws that will help ensure fishermen like me can continue supporting our families and communities, and we don’t lose sight of our heritage and sustainable resources due to short-term economic struggles related to the fluctuating price of oil.”

Read a copy of the legislation now before the House Special Committee on Fisheries at 

http://www.legis.state.ak.us/PDF/30/Bills/HB0199A.PDF