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Wanton Waste and Other Conservation Crimes

Many Alaskans love to hunt and fish. It’s part of the DNA of being an Alaskan. You would think that with the state’s vast area and low population density that there would be little to go wrong if you are out in the wilderness from a legal point of view.  You would be wrong. Both federal and state laws dictate what you can and cannot do when you hunt or fish. As with other laws, ignorance of what you are legally able to do is no excuse if you are caught infringing strict fish and game laws. To take an example if you kill a deer and decide it is too big to carry back to your boat or vehicle, you could face imprisonment for what is called ‘wanton waste.’ Federal laws regulate what animal and plant parts you can freely imported and exported into the state.

The wanton waste laws

The term ‘wanton waste’ simply means that an animal has been killed without being used afterwards. It is designed to stop hunters from indiscriminately killing large prey mammals and birds for sport and just leaving their carcasses where they found them for sort.

Under Alaska law, (statute AS 16.30.010), it is considered a class A misdemeanor to fail to salvage the edible portion of a mammal or bird (e.g. a waterfowl species). By ‘salvage’ it means remove, e.g. cut off, a reasonable part of the carcass for human consumption. The statute specifically refers to ‘failing to salvage knowingly, intentionally, recklessly or with criminal negligence’ salvage parts of the animal or bird that has been killed. With respect to a game mammal, the statute specifies the amount that as a minimum should be removed. This is stated as the ‘hindquarters at least up to the hock.’

Penalties for infringement of this statute include a minimum period of imprisonment of 7 days in a county jail and a minimum fine of $2,500.

A defense of such a charge against you could be made if it can be shown that there was a clear reason why a carcass could not be used, such as extreme weather conditions, injury that needed immediate attention, or that the carcass did not belong to you, amongst others. As with any other crime, penalties increase if there has been a previous conviction and the worst aspect is not the fine or imprisonment as such but the long term effect of having a criminal conviction.

Other state wildlife laws regulate such things as the use of spotter planes to find game animals and the use of planes to ‘herd’ large mammals to make them easier to hunt.

The Lacey Act

The Lacey Act is another wildlife or conservation related law, but this time it is a federal law, not a state law. The Lacey Act is valid U.S. wide, so is not specifically an Alaskan law. It was the world’s first piece of legislation which controls the import and export of animal (and now plant) parts. Basically, if you bring in animals or plants or parts of them that are on the prohibited list, you risk a criminal conviction. The penalties depend on how much you knew about the illegality of the product imported or exported but even if you didn’t know that the part was illegal, it doesn’t completely prevent you from being charged with a federal offense.

The Lacey Act was first enacted back in 1900, but there have been several amendments, most notably an amendment in 2008 to include plants and plant parts including timber and paper. The best way to eliminate the chance of a possible criminal charge if you intend importing or exporting animal or plant parts is to check whether the parts can be legally traded in and out of the country and that the correct application form is filled in.

An example of how the export of an animal part could be regarded as a violation of the Lacey Act is the export of mammoth ivory. Permafrost melting around the Arctic Circle is uncovering previously buried mammoth parts including potentially lucrative mammoth ivory. Currently, mammoth ivory is still legal, but elephant ivory is not. Walrus ivory is only legal if it comes from walruses that died before 1972. As you can see, just taking this one example there s plenty of opportunity for confusion and possible violation of the Act.

Why a dedicated criminal defense attorney is so important

The details above demonstrate that whatever your relationship with wildlife and plant parts, you could easily contravene a wildlife or conservation law like the wanton waste statute or the Lacey Act. In Anchorage, contact criminal defense attorney, Dattan Scott Dattan. You can reach him at his office at 907-276-8008.

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Law Office of Dattan Scott Dattan

2600 Denali Street, Suite 460
Anchorage, AK 99503
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