Legislation working it’s way through the Alaska Legislature would require non-resident hunters to hire a guide before hunting caribou on the North Slope.
Rep. Dean Westlake (D-Kiana) introduced House Bill 211, titled “An Act requiring a nonresident to be accompanied by a guide or resident spouse or relative when hunting certain caribou; and providing for an effective date,” labeled as a measure to protect and sustain caribou herds that have declined in recent years.
It’s unclear how the guiding requirement would reduce harvest, except perhaps if it’s intended to discourage non-resident caribou hunting entirely.
Fly-in caribou hunts utilizing a transporter rather than a guide have remained one of the less expensive hunting options left to non-resident hunters visiting Alaska. Moose, bear and mountain goat hunting already requires non-residents to hire a guide.
“I heard from the North Slope. They love it and want it to advance,” Weslake said in a story in the Arctic Sounder this week. “I dropped the ball, though, and they want the Teshekpuk Lake herd added, as well, which is what we’re doing now.”
The bill specifies that nonresidents must apply for big game tags to hunt caribou from the listed herds. Then, before the tag can be issued, the hunter must provide to the state an affidavit stating the applicant will be “personally accompanied” by a qualified guide.
Since introducing HB 211, Westlake noted he’s heard from some out-of-state guide groups who are unhappy with the proposed change.
“They could understand what I’m trying to do but they’re opposing it on general principle,” he said.
An important component of the bill to Westlake is that it isn’t dependent on game management units within the state, as many recent nonresident hunting restrictions have been. Rather, the restrictions follow the herds themselves.
He cited issues reported over the last several years from residents across the region.
“It [would get] rid of a lot of the transporter problems like they have had in Anaktuvuk Pass,” Westlake said. “It will quit disrupting the caribou routes, which has been an issue and you won’t have a bunch of discontented outside hunters because the transporter drops loads and loads of people off. They’re concerned about transporting; it’s not about whether or not they get anything.”
“What it boils down to is I’ve never shied away from the fact that we’re subsistence first and resource development second — and a strong second, mind you — and this goes a long way in showing that this is what we value the most,” Westlake said.
The bill has moved quickly through three readings and could be up for a final vote this week.