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Alaska Prohibit Airborne Hunting, Measure 3 (1996)

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The Alaska Prohibit Airborne Hunting Initiative, also known as Measure 3, was on the November 5, 1996 ballot in Alaska as an indirect initiated state statute, where it was approved. The measure prohibited "hunting wild wolf, wolverine, fox, or lynx the same day a person was airborne."[1]


Alaska is one of the states with initiative or referendum that allows what is called "legislative tampering," which means that the state legislature is allowed to change, alter or revoke initiatives passed by citizens.

In the 2000 legislative session, the Alaska State Legislature passed SB 267 which overturned this initiative.[2]

Election results

Alaska Measure 3 (1996)
Approveda Yes 137,635 58.49%

Election results via: Alaska Department of Elections

Text of measure

The language appeared on the ballot as:[1]

This bill would bar hunting wild wolf, wolverine, fox, or lynx the same day a person was airborne. However, the board of game could allow aerial wolf control if the Commissioner of Fish and Game declared a biological emergency, where wolves in a specific area were causing irreversible loss of a prey population. The law wouldn't apply to people airborne the same day on regular, scheduled commercial flights. Breaking the law would be a misdemeanor. The penalty could be jail time up to one year, a fine up to $5,000, and forfeiture of aircraft or gear used in the offense.

Should this initiative become law?

Yes [ ]
No [ ][3]



Douglas Pope and Joel Bennett, co-chairs of the Wolf Management Reform Coalition, published a supporting argument in the official voter guide. They wrote:

Proposition No. 3 gives all Alaskans their first opportunity to VOTE ON WHETHER AERIAL HUNTING OR TRAPPING OF WOLVES SHOULD BE BANNED except when conducted by the state to avert a biological emergency and no other feasible solutions are available. Wolverines, fox and lynx would be included in the ban.

CURRENT REGULATIONS PROVIDE THAT WOLVES CAN BE SPOTTED, TRACKED AND PURSUED WITH THE USE OF AIRCRAFT before landing and shooting. Under heavy lobbying pressure from special interest groups seeking ever higher hunting quotas, THE LEGISLATURE IS PURSUING A RECKLESS COURSE OF MANDATING WOLF CONTROL TO TRIPLE THE HARVEST OF WOLVES in vast areas of Alaska. This will artificially increase moose and caribou numbers far beyond historic levels and can only be accomplished by aerial hunting and trapping. The Wolf Management Reform Coalition organized this initiative effort because WE FEEL WOLVES SHOULD INSTEAD BE HUNTED ON A FAIR CHASE BASIS AND MANAGED FOR BIOLOGICAL REASONS RATHER THAN POLITICAL ONES. The Coalition includes ex-Governor Jay Hammond, ex-Lt. Governor Lowell Thomas Jr., Jim Brooks - former Commissioner of Fish and Game, Douglas Pope - former Chairman of the Board of Game and other long time Alaskans, many of whom are hunters.

The same day use of an aircraft to spot, track and pursue other big game animals has long been banned except in very limited circumstances because it does not constitute fair chase hunting. The current law which permits SO- CALLED "LAND AND SHOOT" HUNTING OR TRAPPING IS VIRTUALLY UNENFORCEABLE in Alaska's vast wilderness and in fact encourages unlawful conduct on the part of wolf hunters and trappers. And the practice of artificially increasing moose and caribou to unrealistically high levels through aircraft assisted wolf control will lead to the long term deterioration of the wolf, moose and caribou populations. Already, THE AVERAGE NUMBER OF WOLVES REPORTED KILLED IN 1994 IS DOUBLE THE AMOUNT KILLED IN 1989. This does not account for the illegal and unreported take, which may equal the reported harvest.

THE INITIATIVE ALLOWS CONVENTIONAL HUNTING AND TRAPPING of wolves and other furbearers and permits the practice of nonlethal darting of those animals from the air for scientific, research, or nonlethal control programs carried out by the state. A biological emergency, that would permit the state to engage in aerial hunting under the initiative, arises when trend information indicates that wolves are causing a moose or caribou population to decline and that population cannot reasonably be expected to recover without wolf control.

In the lower 48 predator populations have been all but wiped out. WE SHOULD REMAIN DIFFERENT AND WORK TO KEEP ALASKA'S WILDLIFE POPULATIONS IN BALANCE BY MANAGING THEM ON A BIOLOGICAL BASIS WHILE PROMOTING FAIR CHASE HUNTING. Vote yes on Ballot Measure 3 for that future.[3]

—Douglas Pope and Joel Bennett[1]



Al Franzmann of the Alaska Outdoor Council, Inc. published an opposing argument in the official voter guide. He wrote:

Three good reasons exist for Alaskans to vote NO on Ballot Measure #3. First, the new law is not needed. Second, the new law would prohibit necessary wildlife conservation and management programs which benefit wildlife and people. Third, managing wildlife by ballot initiative discourages public participation in the management process.

1. The Federal Airborne Hunting Act already prohibits shooting wildlife from an aircraft. Also three Alaska state regulations prohibit aerial shooting and land-and-shoot hunting of furbearers, including wolves. Current regulations on "same-day-airborne" shooting were challenged as inadequate protection of furbearers in a 1994 lawsuit. The judge denied the complaint, based on evidence from Fish & Wildlife Protection Division and ADF&G that the regulations properly protect furbearers, including wolves.

Under current laws, if predation is identified as the main reason for a low moose or other prey population, no action can be taken unless the Board of Game approves a plan first.

A 1994 ADF&G survey of Alaskan voters (not just hunters) found that 47% of Alaskans surveyed supported wolf control "in some areas of the state to increase moose and caribou numbers". About 37% opposed the idea.

2. Even the smallest, most confined management action -- designed to increase numbers in a severely depressed prey population or to curb wildlife disease -- could not use aircraft effectively if this Act is approved by voters. If wolves zero in on pet dogs, sled dogs, or livestock, immediate and "pack specific" action could not be taken using aircraft. The Act would make it impossible for the State to use aircraft for any reason except a "biological emergency" in a prey population (moose, sheep, caribou, etc.)

"Biological emergency" is defined too narrowly in the Act. A careful reading of the initiative reveals that aerial control could occur only if:

  • wolves or other predators are causing an irreversible decline of the prey; and
  • there is adequate data establishing that the above is true.

"Irreversible decline" and "adequate data" are not defined. Lawyers and courts can easily claim the need for more data or that the decline is not "irreversible".

In addition, the use of tranquilizing darts fired from aircraft could not occur unless a new law allowing that activity was passed. This needlessly disallows a basic wildlife management and research tool.

3. Managing wildlife by ballot initiative discourages public participation in the management process. Alaska's regulation making process is open to anyone who cares to participate. Regulations can be made and promoted -- or opposed -- by anyone. The Board of Game is obligated to base its decisions on factual information or risk revocation of its actions by the courts.

In summary, please vote NO on Ballot Measure No. 3 because:

a) wolves and other large furbearers are adequately protected under existing laws and populations are thriving;
b) the Act would unnecessarily hamper needed management and research;
c) the Act would discourage informed public participation in the wildlife management process.[3]

—Al Franzmann[1]

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