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Cooper Landing group takes trapping setback proposals to Board of Game

A conibear trap.
Lex Treinen
Alaska Public Media
A trapper demonstrates use of a leg-hold trap, designed to restrain an animal without killing it.

Winter trapping season is starting up again next month, and a group of Cooper Landing residents that have long wanted to make trails safer for their dogs are still working to create regulations on trapping in recreational areas. But they’re worried about their chances of passing those regulations through the Board of Game this cycle.

The Cooper Landing Safe Trails Committee, led by resident Lorraine Temple, has been working for years to introduce setbacks on popular trails — which would require trappers to place traps 100 feet back from local trails and campgrounds. Their goal is to protect recreators and their dogs from being accidentally harmed or killed by traps, which they said happens a handful of times in the borough each season.

Last year, the group submitted a set of proposals to the Federal Subsistence Management Board, which turned them down. This year, they’ve submitted similar proposals to the Board of Game, which oversees trapping regulations in the state.

Temple said the group is proposing setbacks in popular areas like the Russian River and Quartz Creek campgrounds, along the Snug Harbor and Bean Creek roads, and on trails like the Lower Russian Lake Trail and the southern part of Resurrection Pass. The group would also like to require signage alerting recreators to traps in the area.

“This is not overstepping into trappers’ land in a large percentage way. It’s only 100 feet off a trail. 100 feet off from a campground. 100 feet off a road. That’s just so minute,” Temple said.

Temple said she’s confident there’s public support for the proposals, but still worries that won’t be enough. In the past, she said, proposals that have had vast public support have still been turned down by the Board of Game. She said it will probably take an “act of God” to pass the proposals when the board meets in March.

It’s not just Temple who’s concerned about their chances. Nicole Schmitt is the Executive Director of the Alaska Wildlife Alliance. She said no proposals for trapping setbacks have been approved by the board since 2010

“The city of Ketchikan put in a request that the Board of Game provide setbacks from public use areas, including their town cemetery, and the Board of Game didn’t approve of those,” Schmitt said. “Anchorage asked for setbacks, the Board of Game denied them, and so they had to pass it through a city ordinance.”

Last year, when the Alaska Wildlife Alliance submitted a proposal for 50-yard setbacks on trails in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, the Board of Game asked the group to negotiate with the Alaska Trappers Association. They did, and the Wildlife Alliance narrowed the proposal down to a handful of trails and collected 500 comments in support. But the Board of Game still rejected the proposal, 6 to 1.

This year, the Alaska Wildlife Alliance only submitted one proposal to the Board of Game.They’re asking the board to limit trapping and hunting near the new wildlife over- and underpasses that will be created on the Cooper Landing bypass project and within a quarter mile of those locations.

Schmitt said she knows the chances of getting something through the board are slim.

“If history repeats itself, then yeah, there’s very little chance that these will pass,” she said. “But I also think that the Board of Game and trappers themselves have an opportunity to come to the table and see that there’s a way that we can share these trails, truly, where trappers can still have access with very reasonable setbacks that give recreationalists the peace of mind that they’re not going to come upon a trap.”

Trapping season kicks off in November. The Cooper Landing Safe Trails proposals and AWA proposal will all be discussed at the Board of Game meeting on the central peninsula on March 3, 2023.

The Alaska Wildlife Alliance maps accidental trap encounters on their site, and asks the public to submit encounters to their Map the Trap project.

Correction: A previous caption identified the leg-hold trap in the photo as a conibear trap. We regret the error.

Riley Board is a Report For America participant and senior reporter at KDLL covering rural communities on the central Kenai Peninsula.
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