By Leigh Armstrong
With Skagway’s trapping code deemed unfit by the Alaska Board of Game, the municipality is waiting to hear from the state attorney general on how to proceed.
In January, the Game Board turned down Skagway’s ordinance and requested the municipality remove it from its code.
Skagway’s ordinance to limit trapping was added to the books in April 2014 and amended in April 2015.
Before the ordinance, hunting and trapping was allowed in public areas, assemblymember Tim Cochran said. “We went through 18 months of testimony and a lot of work (to get the ordinance in place).”
Sherry Corrington, in an email to the assembly, said the town worked hard to meet terms that satisfied both trappers and residents.
“I know this has been a hot topic in the past and know that the amount of trail activity (dogs, kids and adults) will only increase and we should maintain as large a distance as possible to keep everyone safe.
Currently, the ordinance says leg-hold traps must be set at least one-eighth of a mile from any public road, and tree traps must be 50 yards from a public road. Private land for trapping must be clearly marked.
“I’m vehemently opposed to any change. There was a lot of compromise on (the ordinance),” said Skagway resident Courtney Thoe.
“The Game Board turned it down 6-0, saying we overstated our authority,” Cochran said.
The Game Board didn’t specify reasoning on why the ordinance was turned down.
“My opinion, if the state is not going to clarify exactly what is wrong with our code, I don’t see any reason to pursue this any further,” Mayor Andrew Cremata said.
Following January’s Game Board meeting, the municipality received a letter from the Alaska Trappers Association on Feb. 25. The letter asked Skagway to honor the Board of Game decision and repeal the ordinance.
“Obviously, you have an ordinance on the books which is not supported by state law and is in violation of the Alaska Constitution,” Randall Zarnke, president of the Alaska Trappers Association, said in the letter.
The letter proposed that Skagway develop a plan with residents and local trappers after the ordinance is repealed.
The borough contacted its municipal attorney, the Juneau law firm Hoffman & Blasco, to ask about the next steps. The firm recommended three options: repeal the entire ordinance, take no action, or create a draft ordinance repealing just the tree trap and leg-hold ordinances. The tree and leg-hold traps are the specific traps governed by the state.
Because other communities in Alaska have ordinances that limit trapping in public areas, Hoffman & Blasco does not believe the entirety of the ordinance is in violation of the Alaska Constitution.
The assembly chose not to vote on the issue, but to wait until they receive a response from the Alaska attorney general to the borough’s questions of last month.