February 22, 2005
Written comments may be mailed to Mark Burch, ADF&G, 333 Raspberry Rd., Anchorage, AK 99518. In addition, a public roundtable discussion on the draft will be held on March 16, 2005 from 6-9 p.m. at the Coast International Inn at 3333 W. International Airport Road in Anchorage, Alaska.
All 50 states are required by the federal government to prepare a Wildlife Conservation Strategy in order to receive federal funds known as "State Wildlife Grants." These grants were established at the urging of many states, including Alaska, so that states have the funding necessary to learn more about non-game fish and wildlife species.
"The State Wildlife Grants program helps keep fish and wildlife from declining. By working proactively with other agencies and organizations, states can implement specific conservation strategies for these species and ensure that they do not become listed under federal or state Endangered Species legislation," said biologist Mark Burch, who is helping to develop Alaska's Conservation Strategy.
Nationally, many non-game species, which are neither recreationally nor commercially hunted or fished, are listed on the federal Threatened and Endangered Species List. The number of listed species already exceeds 1,000 nationwide and is expected to increase over the next decade. State Wildlife Grant funding ensures that states have the necessary resources to manage these species and maintain management authority over them.
This management authority is especially important given that when a species is listed, federal oversight aimed at rebuilding the species can affect resource development, hunting, and/or fishing opportunities in habitats used by the listed species. In Alaska, for example, the listing of Steller sea lions has restricted commercial fishing opportunities in the Gulf of Alaska.
Once a species is listed, the funding necessary to protect or restore it is far greater than would have been required to prevent its decline in the first place. Spending on listed species has increased more than six-fold over the past 10 years to over $600 million dollars a year.
Alaska's draft Strategy focuses on the development of conservation strategies for non-game species. The Alaska Natural Heritage Program, part of the University of Alaska Anchorage, contributed to the strategy by preparing species descriptions for more than 40 species. The draft Conservation Strategy also includes maps of the state with text on the landscape, people, wildlife, land use and management. The document describes 32 regions, from the Brooks Range foothills and Beaufort Coastal Plain to the Alexander Archipelago.
According to Burch, monitoring and filling knowledge gaps for non-game species is a big part of the strategy. "Alaska is a big place blessed with abundant fish and wildlife resources, only some of which are hunted or fished. Learning more about where these non-game species occur and their interactions will help us manage these resources and prevent them from becoming threatened or endangered. This will enable Alaska to maintain management authority over these species and their habitats."
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