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As Suburbia Replaces Frontier, Mat-Su Considers Restricting Trapping for the First Time

PALMER — Matanuska-Susitna Borough officials are considering a historic ban on traps and snares at schools and along trails popular with dog owners.

The conflict between trailside trapping and pets is on the rise in this growing municipality with frontier roots that’s given way to expanding suburbia. The population of Mat-Su topped 100,000 last year, making it the second largest municipality in the state behind Anchorage.

Progress on the proposed borough law comes as winter’s trapping season gets well underway and residents report several dogs caught in snares or traps since December in the Knik River Valley and off Archangel Road in Hatcher Pass.

A draft ordinance proposed by borough Assembly member Dan Mayfield of Big Lake and co-sponsored by Matthew Beck from Palmer would ban all trapping on school grounds except for educational demonstrations. It would also bar traps or snares on borough property within 100 feet of the sinuous, hilly trails at the 360-acre Crevasse Moraine trail system near Palmer.

The proposal calls for $150 fines for a first offense, $300 for the second offense and $500 for the third and any subsequent offenses. Violators forfeit their traps.

Numerous Alaska towns and cities already restrict trapping in some way including Anchorage, Valdez, Fairbanks and Juneau. But efforts to address trail conflicts outside city limits have run into opposition around the state.

If Mat-Su does adopt some form of the proposed law, it would mark the first time the borough restricts trapping.

Right now, if a loose dog gets caught in a trap or snare on borough property, the dog owner is breaking the law. The trapper isn’t.

Not popular with anybody

The proposed Mat-Su legislation has roots in a petition presented to Mayfield last year by a nonprofit called Alaska Safe Trails Inc. More than 3,500 signers urged the borough to ban trapping on school grounds, at Crevasse Moraine and at Government Peak Recreation Area near Hatcher Pass.
Government Peak isn’t included in the proposed draft because of what Mayfield described as “convoluted” land management questions because the area includes state land that the borough manages.

The proposed ordinance that emerged a few months ago isn’t supported by either trails advocates or trappers.

“Trappers are kind of giving some pushback because they think this ordinance may be the first step in several steps of outlawing trapping,” Mayfield said. “And the folks who are really engaged in providing safe trails in the borough are against it because they don’t think it goes far enough.”

The ordinance is expected to be introduced for a public hearing at the end of the month, with hearings to begin in February or March.

It’s already gone before several borough boards: the Mat-Su School Board; the animal control board; and the Parks, Recreation and Trails Advisory Board, which took public testimony at three meetings and will hold another later this month.

Read full article: Alaska Town May Restrict Trapping

Photo: Bill Mohrwinkel with his dog Remi at the Crevasse Moraine Trailhead in Palmer on Friday, Jan. 6, 2017. The trails are adjacent to areas used by trappers, and Remi was caught in a trap last month, but was not injured. (Loren Holmes / Alaska Dispatch News)

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