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Bjorkman bill would close hunting and fishing license residency loophole

Sen. Jesse Bjorkman in April, 2023.
Riley Board
Sen. Jesse Bjorkman in April, 2023.

Two bills filed in the Alaska Legislature this session are looking to tighten the requirements for an in-state hunting license, in hopes of preserving resources for residents.

Nikiski Republican Sen. Jesse Bjorkman prefiled Senate Bill 171 earlier this month, which would align the in-state hunting requirements with PFD eligibility. That means, in addition to living in state for 12 months and not claiming residency anywhere else, applicants would have to be in the state six months of every year.

“The goal of Senate Bill 171 is to preserve hunting and fishing opportunity, as well as to conserve stock of Alaska fish and game. and make sure that Alaska residents are taking advantage of the residence regulations, and that the regulations are benefiting the people who live here,” Bjorkman said.

He said the bill addresses a loophole that allows nonresidents to access in-state resources by having an Alaska PO box, a spot in a harbor or a piece of undeveloped land.

"They don't actually live here, but they are able to take advantage of resident bag limits and opportunities because our definition of resident is very loose," he said.

It’s a companion to a house bill from Sitka independent Rebecca Himschoot.

Bjorkman said nonresidents taking advantage of in-state bag limits is more of an issue in Southeast Alaska, something Himschoot cited as motivation for her bill. That bill is receiving support from local fish and game advisory committees and local governments in Southeast. But he said regulations on the Kenai Peninsula do open the door to potential abuse of the system.

“For instance, we have a personal-use set-net fishery near the Kasilof River that people could take advantage of and not actually be residents,” Bjorkman said. “Our personal-use dipnet fishery, our liberalized availability for bull moose harvest on parts of the Kenai Peninsula. Opportunities to harvest moose, bear, caribou, sheep, goats, brown bears. All of those animals have increased harvest opportunity and some increased bag limit availability for residents.”

He said to keep those options open to residents, the state needs to prevent nonresidents from exploiting them.

Himschoot’s bill received a mostly positive reception during a hearing earlier this week. Bjorkman’s has not yet had a hearing.

Bjorkman has sponsored nine other bills so far this session, including a bill that would have the state compensate hunters for unlawfully seized game, and one that would allow tax exemptions for farm buildings like barns or processing sheds on farm land.

He’s also focusing on education. One bill would offer incentives to teachers who get a national board certification.

“Becoming nationally board certified is absolutely the best professional development available to teachers, so when teachers complete that process, under this legislation, they would be eligible for a $5,000-a-year incentive,” he said.

Bjorkman also filed a bill that would prevent school districts from starting the school year in August, to allow summer economic opportunities for students like hunting, fishing and in-state tourism.

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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