July 5, 2013 | Volume 43, Number 26

Heli map committee seeks 22 changes

The Haines Borough’s ad-hoc heli-ski map committee is recommending 22 alterations to the current boundaries, including the expansion of areas in the Takhin Ridge and removal of lands in the Kicking Horse area.

Of the 22 proposed changes, eight involve contraction of areas due to wildlife concerns and lack of use. Arguments for increased areas include safety, remoteness, and low use by non-motorized backcountry users.

The altered areas vary in size. The dimension of the changed areas will not be available until planning and zoning technician Tracy Cui meets with the committee to plot the changes on the map.

New boundaries will be calculated and mapped by Cui this week, said Mayor Stephanie Scott. Cui, learned in geographic information systems (GIS), will bring an expertise and precision to the map previously unavailable, Scott said.

“People have complained bitterly about the map being inaccurate. Now that we have a GIS person on staff, we’re going to go ahead and use her... We now have that technology available in-house,” Scott said.

The five-member committee – composed of heli-ski operator Scott Sundberg, resident Dave Long, tourism advisory board member Barbara Mulford, parks and recreation board member Daymond Hoffman and Fish and Game biologist Randy Bachman – will provide a rationale for each of the 22 changes in its report to manager Mark Earnest. The report and map are expected to come before the assembly July 23.

Committee chair Hoffman said he supported breaking down the changes so the assembly can analyze each of the 22, instead of accepting or rejecting the whole map outright. Scott agreed.

“They can make 22 separate motions. They can talk about each and every one, not just about the map, finally,” she said.

Hoffman said explaining the expansions to the public, particularly to opponents of the heli-ski industry, will be the biggest obstacle to approval.

“To them it feels like we’re taking, we’re taking, we’re taking.... There’s a public perception. That’s going to be the hardest part to deal with,” he said.

Fish and Game representatives from Juneau, who occasionally appeared telephonically for Bachman during the meetings, remained adamant the map should not change until ongoing wildlife studies are completed.

Sundberg acknowledged opening up area on the Takhin Ridge “is a totally different story” than some of the other changes, as it has never been included in the allowable area. The committee passed a motion at its June 28 meeting to direct Earnest to gather input from Klukwan on the proposed changes in the Takhin.

Sundberg said he did not think the assembly would vote to include new area in the Takhin unless the Chilkat Indian Village was involved in the process.

Mayor Scott said the committee was assembled not to oversee industry regulation, but to consider the map. “Yes, there have been violations. I think regulation will be addressed by the assembly in the future,” she said.

During its June 27 meeting, the committee reworked a motion passed at a previous meeting that excluded from discussion information – such as scientific information or wildlife studies – not contained in the submitted proposals.

Sundberg amended the motion, which passed, to allow board members, including Fish and Game representatives, to bring in outside “scientific” and “factual” information for consideration.