The Anchorage Assembly on Tuesday passed a revised version of an ordinance that changes areas where trapping is allowed in the municipality, creating "buffer zones" near trails in hopes of keeping hikers and pets safe from unmarked traps.

The ordinance was introduced last month. Dog owners and trappers have been divided on the issue, but both have said they do not want to tread on the rights of others.

The new law, AO 2019-50, makes it illegal for anyone to knowingly or negligently place a trap or attempt to place a trap in prohibited trapping zones. After two work sessions, Assembly members created a substitute to the originally proposed version to include new language to clarify the trails included under the ordinance.

It's already illegal to trap within a majority of the Anchorage Bowl, an area known as Unit 14C, according to state law. AO 2019-50 would affect places outside of Unit 14C but within the borders of the municipality. Trappers will not be allowed to place a trap within 50 yards of a developed trail or near trailheads, campgrounds or homes in the area of the map highlighted in green. 

All traps set within the Municipality of Anchorage have to be marked with a trapper identification number issued by the State of Alaska or with contact information for the owner of the trap or snare.

A developed trail is defined in the ordinance as a trail or footpath marked, signed or designated by the municipality. According to the ordinance, any trailhead with a graded parking area and signage is considered a developed trail and the prohibited trapping zone extends the length of the main path, or mainstem, of the trail.

Additionally, offshoot trails are excluded from the law and are defined as "secondary and unmarked trail with indica of less frequent usage, maintenance, or development than the mainstem(s) of a developed trail."

This differs from the previous version of the ordinance, in which the prohibited trapping zones were 50 yards within developed or public-use trails. In the newest iteration, the ordinance states the Assembly can establish a list of developed trails by resolution. If adopted, that list would be posted on the municipality's web site.

People against the ordinance said it shouldn't be up to the Assembly to make these rules. They would prefer Fish and Game to get involved to set the regulations.

"I would not advise sending the ordinance as written, just from my experience with the Board of Game, it definitely is a sleeves rolled up, kind of show us the data, examine all sides, into the weeds kind of process," said Sarah Taylor. "And it truly values stakeholder engagement. I think if anyone is concerned about the ordinance being submitted to that level of review, I'd say that's reason enough to reject it and get to work."

Some of them disagreed with the 50-yard rule, saying they will lose a lot of land on which to trap.

Trapper Tom Lessard said it's not about the distance. He's upset about the process and thinks things can be done better — in collaboration with the Board of Game and trapping groups.

For Keri Gardner, who spoke in support of the ordinance, she's worried about the safety of her search dogs while on rescue missions in the Municipality of Anchorage.

"At least two members of Alaska Search and Rescue Dogs have had dogs caught in traps or snares," said Gardner. "I have also had a dog caught in a trap and being a woman with relatively weak hands, I am unable to open a trap by myself."

Some people said they would rather the distance be doubled to 100 yards. Other supporters said they were more worried about the signage.

"When all know when we're out on the trails, there's danger," said hiker Valinda Brooks. "There could be moose, there could be bears, there could be weird people, whatever — but how can we protect ourselves from things from things that we don't even know are there?"

The Anchorage Assembly voted to pass the ordinance 9 to 2. According to the draft ordinance, it will take effect 30 days after being approved by the Assembly.

Jes Stugelmayer contributed to this report.

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