Permit Auction Nets Over $150,000 for Dall Sheep
by Tony Russ
reprinted from the Alaska Hunting Bulletin May 1997
Although Alaskans are at odds over hunting and access rights, priority uses of game, native rights, management authority, land ownership, etc., all should applaud a recent advance for wildlife conservation. As a result of cooperative efforts by the Foundation for North American Wild Sheep (FNAWS), the Division of Wildlife Conservation, and the state legislature, a significant sum has been added to the Alaska Department of Fish & Game's budget. Furthermore, there is a bright prospect that the future will hold more and greater sums of money for state wildlife management.
During the 1996 session Representative Con Bunde (R-District 18) sponsored HB59. This legislation allowed the department to issue a limited number of big game permits to qualified organizations for auction on behalf of the agency. The organization is allowed to deduct its administrative costs and not more than 10 percent of the net proceeds. The organization must use its part to promote game law enforcement or management. The department receives the rest.
This type of permit, often called a Governor's Permit, has been available in several other states for many years. Alaskans have also wanted to offer these permits to bring in funds for wildlife management, but our laws did not allow it. Now we can offer these permits.
The Alaska chapter of FNAWS is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting and enhancing Dall sheep populations in Alaska, educating the public about Dall sheep, and professional management of Dall sheep. FNAWS requested and received one Dall sheep permit for auction under the new law. The organization chose last Februarys National FNAWS Convention in Philadelphia as the auction site to get top dollar for the permit. During the auction, hunters added donations of 25 hours of Super Cub time and a custom rifle. That helped push the selling price up to $200,000. After deducting administrative costs and the 10 percent that FNAWS may choose to keep, the department will have nearly $160,000 for wildlife conservation projects.
A hunter from Phoenix named Jerry purchased the permit. Jerry has a long history of supporting wildlife conservation. To date he has paid more than $1.4 million to FNAWS alone for seven sheep permits. Although he is buying the opportunity to hunt one sheep, anyone who spends this much money is in reality making donations to promote wildlife conservation. He could obviously get a lot more hunting for his money than just seven chances to hunt sheep.
And, Jerry is only getting an opportunity to hunt Alaska sheep--just like thousands of other hunters this fall. He may choose any hunting area in the state that has an open season for nonresidents, but he has to specify which area before he goes hunting. He has to use a legal weapon for that area. He must also follow all other regulations that apply to non-resident hunters. Basically, all his permit did was to guarantee him a permit to hunt in areas he may have drawn anyway if he paid his five bucks and applied. His permit does not take away from the established number of permits in any area. It is an extra permit for the one area he chooses.
The Alaska chapter of FNAWS has long been a financial supporter of sheep projects in Alaska. Along with other state chapters and the national organization, total FNAWS funding for sheep projects in Alaska and other parts of North America as of May, 1995 approached $11 million. The money FNAWS retains from the sale of this permit will most likely be used to fund even more projects which benefit sheep.
FNAWS and the Division of Wildlife Conservation have established a working group consisting of Cam Rader and Billy Dunbar from Alaska FNAWS and the division's Southcentral and Interior Regional Research Coordinators, Chuck Schwartz and Ken Whitten respectively. This board will cooperatively identify sheep projects to fund with the state's share of the auction proceeds.
This type of cooperation between hunting/conservation groups and ADF&G can only benefit our wildlife. Hunters have historically paid the lions share of wildlife conservation funding and will continue to do so if given reasonable opportunities. Department employees and FNAWS members who worked on this project deserve the congratulations of Alaska hunters. This project has helped bridge the gap that I have observed recently between hunters and ADF&G. State wildlife agencies and hunters need each other as much as wildlife needs both of them.
Tony Russ is a lifelong Alaskan, a dedicated sheep hunter and member of Alaska FNAWS. He is the author of the book Sheep Hunting in Alaska, and the editor of The Ram, the quarterly publication of FNAWS in Alaska. For information about Alaska FNAWS, contact the group at PO Box 240065, Anchorage, AK 99524-0065. Tel. (907) 248-9010. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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