June 20, 2013 | Volume 43, Number 24

Heli-ski map group won't allow scientific information

A five-member map committee charged with recommending boundaries for next year’s heli-ski operations has said it will not allow outside information, including scientific data from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, to be used to form a recommendation.

  The committee voted 3-2 to restrict discussion to the 18 map proposals submitted before the May 31 deadline. The proposals, submitted by residents and operators suggesting changes ranging from expansion to reduction of the allowed area, were limited to 500 words.   

  Southeast Alaska Backcountry Adventures co-owner Scott Sundberg, Tourism Advisory Board member Barbara Mulford and the randomly-selected public representative Dave Long voted to exclude outside information.

Fish and Game assistant area management biologist Mark Sogge and Parks and Recreation Board member Daymond Hoffman voted against the motion, proposed by Sundberg.

  Sogge was sitting in for area management biologist Randy Bachman.

  Sogge said he couldn’t support the motion, as it is “impossible from a science point of view” not to bring in history, data and outside information when considering whether the map boundaries should be changed.

  “All these lines on here are representative of a huge amount of work and compromise and decisions and rationale. And to throw it out the window and just say, ‘Oh well, we’re going to move it back because we have 150 lines that somebody wrote.’ It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me,” Sogge said.

  Mulford said she interpreted the Fish and Game seat on the committee as performing more of a clarification role, instead of presenting new information or study results. “I think we should stick with the proposals,” Mulford said. “This was a public process. I think that we should respect the people who submitted their proposals. I think the idea of having a Fish and Game or wildlife representative on the board was maybe to clarify comments the proposals may have mentioned as far as wildlife is concerned.”

  In an interview after the meeting, Hoffman said he was “confused” by the motion, because the committee had been discussing how important scientific data would be in rationalizing any recommendation regarding boundary changes. “I don’t quite understand it myself.”

  Since Fish and Game did not submit a proposal, the agency apparently will not be allowed to present on any studies not referenced in the proposals, Hoffman said. “It seems to me we’re not going to allow any new information. We’re not going to have any information from Fish and Game,” he said.

  Hoffman said he is going to ask for an explanation at Friday’s meeting, because he’s “not quite sure” how it will affect the process. When asked whether the motion effectively rendered the Fish and Game seat obsolete, Hoffman said, “That’s the way I understand it.”

  After the motion passed, Hoffman, the committee chair, allowed audience members to speak – something the committee is not required to do.

  Thom Ely, whose proposal suggested leaving the lines as they are, asked the committee work by consensus, not majority. “I feel that the borough erred in its selection process for this committee in that all interests are not represented, and voting by majority – obviously as we just saw – is not necessarily going to work.”

  Ely called the entire map amendment process a “waste of time” and said he will ask the borough assembly to remove the annual map review from the ordinance passed last November.

 Peter Goll, who also submitted a proposal requesting a significant reduction in operating area, called the committee “stacked” and said it needed to be reconstructed.

 “I don’t think this committee has a valid right to exist,” he said.

  The committee’s Friday meeting, originally set for noon, is now tentatively scheduled for 4 p.m. It will also meet Friday, June 28.