Monday, August 14, 2017

Alaska Ag......The Prop 64 Problem

Borrowing an infamous line from our cultural history......the $64 dollar question facing the Alaska agriculture community might be this:

Will the Alaska Board of Game outlaw domestic sheep and goats?

Proposition 64 (previously Prop90) has been resurrected, and will be addressed at the November meeting of the Board of Game. The specific proposal is here:  2017-2018 Board of Game Proposal Book    Under "Permits for Possessing Live Game" scroll down to Page 80 to read for yourself. This proposal was shelved last year, and re-emerges again for the upcoming meeting.

What has changed since the last time this topic came to the forefront of public attention?  Not much. The working group (consisting of local producers, a DOA observer, Alaska Farm Bureau member, AWSF and others) meets occasionally. Seemingly not much progress has been made, and little is heard, except to concede to controversial testing on a limited number of domestic sheep and goats. The methodology, and reporting, of these voluntary tests have created yet another fracture in the farming community. 

Without going over the details of the disease, or testing for m. Ovi, it helps to understand this: In the L48, m. Ovi has been blamed for the demise of herds, and major die offs within established ranges there. The actual science of this assumption has not been proven, since other factors are commonly present when m. Ovi seems to overcome or contribute to an animals' death.  In fear of the same fate happening to the treasured trophy sheep and goats in Alaska, the Wild Sheep Foundation, and it's Alaska chapter, are aggressively attempting to outlaw (literally) domestic sheep and goats. Because...well, guides/hunting lodges, and so on....and a wealthy client list of same.  What percentage of positive exposure tests, is acceptable to the sponsor of the proposal? Our bet: Absolutely zero. 

None of the wrong headed proposed requirements have any solid scientific backing, and in fact, the demand for a 15 mile "set back" from habitat is preposterous-when you remember that the state has not even established habitat or range.  15 air miles from where?  The tree line on our major mountain ranges?  Not an accurate boundary, proven as recently as last summer when one was seen in downtown Palmer-negating the "natural boundaries" argument as well.  Are domestic sheep and goats even co-mingling anywhere?  It's not known, although it might be argued that pack goats could, in theory, pose a risk.  But these Alaska flocks are not free ranged, as on grazing leases in the L48. Here, our predator risk is very high and very real. 

So, imagine the Alaska State Fair without sheep or goats.  No bright eyed, hard working 4-H kids with market lambs, rams, and goats.  No more goat milk soaps at all the small farmers' markets, no more succulent lamb chops, lovingly and carefully raised by people you know. No fiber arts from local fleeces, made into stunning outerwear and felted onto canvas.  No backyard does providing allergen free milk for families in need, And that's just for the 15 mile restriction. 

Think that's a crazy thing? Well, it is!  The proposed changes include state permits, mandatory testing, and double fencing, at minimum.  It will drive many families to abandon small livestock raising altogether, further hampering Alaska's ability to feed itself.  Removing domestic animals from the "clean list" is a very slippery slope, and could easily lead to seizure of private property in the future.....even other species.  Bird flu, anyone?

What is even crazier is that the DOA, yes, that agency-with it's carefully selected golden boy at the helm-is seemingly completely absent from any and all discussions about this matter. Yes, they have a "representative" at the *closed door meetings* the working group has....but there has been no hue or cry given, no alarm about eliminating an entire segment of Alaska farming, no nothing. Epic fail on the part of Dear Director. 

Also an epic fail, that the state even allowed 1) a working group in the first place, and 2) evidently allows a game board-with no farmers on it-to dictate to *all* residents on domestic livestock, and 3) Seemingly has no problem with all this happening behind closed doors.  

The testing mentioned above, is voluntary. Detractors are certain that *any* positive will give AWSF the ammo it needs to outlaw their domestic flocks. Supporters are fearful that if they don't join, the same result will occur. There is no Plan B, no other options, and no way to even force the Board, or anyone else, to even map or identify the "habitat" that wild sheep and goat occupy in the State.

Epic fail, all around. And no good outcome appears likely.   Of course, it would be wonderful if certain other Alaskans picked up clarion call of distress, and helped to fight back against Outside influences.  People like the owners of MMM&S, MQM, Rocket Ranch, MVM, even Denali Meat Co. Every slaughterhouse owner or investor, should be standing shoulder to shoulder with the local livestock producers. Every retail butcher shop owner should be as well....They *all* need the product our locals raise, especially for their ethnic customers. 

That too, will be an epic fail. 

So enjoy those photo ops and petting zoos while you can, because it is possible they will disappear from the Alaskan landscape forever, especially with the AWSF making sure that our more rural areas are declared "domestic free".  Because while the WSF, and it's Alaska chapter, are making sure the wheel is spinning with a "working group", they have been busy in the Bush, selling their fears to native groups. It's working, too.


Anonymous said...

Spot on.

Anonymous said...

Excellent post!!!

Anonymous said...

I believe pack goats are already not allowed during hunting season, for back country.

Anonymous said...

You forgot to add one very important state agency here. The State Vets office. This whole issue in wether or not AFWS BOD will be able to insure this will happen will be if they can convince The State Vet which remember sits under EPA, a regulatory agency. If you want to save the sheep and goat industry in AK. direct your emails, fight, petitions to Dr. Gerlach. He is the only one that has the authority to take domestic sheep and goat off the clean list. DOAdoesnt even have a seat at the table, except thru advocation. This prop.64 is strictly regulatory issue. Your "beloved EPA/StateVet" are the ones that need to have this fight brought to their from door.
This could all be stopped and put to sleep with one letter from Dr. Gerlach to AFWS BOD, stating that there is simply not enough scientific evidence to pull domestic sheep and goat from the clean list and therefore no cause to institute these fencing and the fifteen mile rule regulations. One letter, BOOM, this would go away. You should be asking yourself why this letter isn't being written by EPA/State Vet??
This comes down to AFWS trying to flex their muscles and agenda. They have absolutely NO statutory authority to make this prop.64 law. Ironicly DOA has no statutory authority to fight AFWS. The Buck starts and stops with EPA/State Vet who are the only agency which has the Statutory Authority to decide whether Prop.64 is instituted or not.
I am floored that Ms, Blog Writer who calls out everyone without exception, would not even touch on this? Could it be that our Beloved Ms. Blog Writer has some sort of ties to EPA that would prevent her from denouncing them for their total lack of accountability and absolutely no defense for the farmers raising goats in all this? It sure makes this anonymous responder wonder why Beloved Ms. Blog writer would not add such important Truth and Facts to this Blog??

Anonymous said...

page 52, idiot.

suvalley said...

^^ Not an idiot, you have linked the incorrect year of the proposal book. I cited the page the download showed in the pdf file. It is the 2017/2018, or current, book where Prop 64 shows up as a verbatim repeat from Prop 90.

As to the state vet, this angle was not brought up because it is the Board of Game that has the statutory power to remove domestic animals, *not* the State Veterinarian. You can read the regulations online for yourselves. The state vet will no doubt provide input again. Where, by the way, he stated essentially the same things as the above poster. Please note that it did not stop the AWSF from submitting it once again.

What action(s) the Board of Game might take to protect our joint wildlife resource, is unknown.

If they adopt the proposition as written, it is still unclear if the matter would then formally go through the regulatory process. As in, legislature, public notices, and so forth.

And finally: As to the EPA. Please, get your alphabet agencies in order. Locally, it is the Alaska Department of Fish and Game which ultimately decides the fate of domestic sheep and goats. It is not a federal agency, unless you know something I do not about how our state government is structured. I discovered this when I personally asked our State Vet when this matter came up last year.

Anonymous said...

Yes, an idiot. AFWS? Alaska Fish Wildlife Service? Alaska Foundation for Wild Sheep? EPA? Huh?

The link was provided to show that the state vet did comment on prop 90 (and no doubt will on prop 64) and BOOM, it did not go away.

suvalley said...

Now, do you feel better for the insults? That a simple typo (Alaska Wild Sheep) upsets you, is a lame attempt to discredit the content.

And did I not say, that the issue has arisen again? Why yes I did. Looky there, we agree on something.

But hey, insult away, safe in your anonymity. It's all good, whether you agree with anything here or not :)

Anonymous said...

Well there you go then. OSV, has clearly spelled out the law and the overreach of ADF&G. At this point this Prop. Has the same authority as a legislative minority resolution, it means absolutely nothing.
The most they could do, would be to tighten up there feral regulations, and put a zero tolerance ruling on domestic sheep and goats outside of an inclosure.
And BTW, you were correct in slamming me for my department acronyms EPA should of been DEC, AFWS, should of been ADF&G. I stand corrected in my above comment.
I am beginning to think this prop is turning into, a much to do about nothing scenario. The link to the letter you posted from OSV clearly states that ADF&G has no statutory authority here and it clearly rests in the hands of DEC/OSV and Dr. Gerlach clearly states his position on this matter. I'd bet the farm that until there is scientific documentation that domestic sheep and goats are responsible for transmission of this disease in AK Dall Sheap, that raisers of domestic sheep and goats will be safe in this state.

Skye R. said...

Hey great job on this article! It was interesting to read.
I am a FFA and 4-H kid who is doing a research paper on how M-ovi
will most likely impact out ag in Alaska IF it is PASSED.

Anonymous said...

One non word ICLIE! Trump didnt get us out of this one. Yet.