Alaska senator says chances for unchanged otter bounty bill slim

SITKA, Alaska — A Sitka senator who proposed a bounty on sea otters said he wants to find a different way to support Alaska Native hunters.

Republican Sen. Bert Stedman told CoastAlaska the chances of the bill advancing, as written, are slim.

He said he needed to sit down with the Sealaska Heritage Institute and have a few more meetings in Juneau to work out how the bill proposed last year could be changed, “if it’s going to end up trying to be marketing assistance or tanning assistance or something else,” he said.

Sea otters eat shellfish harvested by divers and crabbers in southeast Alaska, which some fishermen say is a problem.

The bill proposed having the state pay $100 for each sea otter lawfully killed under the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act.

Under the law, only Alaska Natives can hunt sea otters in Alaska. But the federal agency that manages otters said Stedman’s bill would violate the federal law.

Stedman has said part of what he is trying to do is begin a discussion on the issue.

On another front, Stedman said he supports an effort by Gov. Sean Parnell to get 2 million acres of the Tongass National Forest turned over to Alaska.

“If the state was to take basically all of northern Prince of Wales (Island), outside the Native land selections and homesites and stuff like that, that would give us a timber base that we could run a fairly good-sized economic generation off of,” he said.

Stedman chairs the Senate Health and Social Services Committee, which he said will take up items requested by the administration but not much else.

He said he has no intention of running committee hearings “to entertain people.”

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