Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966

University to weigh in on resource extraction


November 16, 2017

The Haines Borough Planning Commission voted to hold two more public hearings as it works to define “resource extraction” in borough code after the University of Alaska requested the commission table the discussion for 30 days.

Changing the definition of resource extraction came up last spring after a resident asked whether or not they needed a permit to sell timber on their land in Mud Bay. Borough Planner Holly Smith noticed that resource extraction isn’t addressed in Mud Bay code and the planning commission held public hearings on the issue.

The borough attorney got involved and told borough officials that when it comes to land use law, if a use is not expressly prohibited, it’s allowed.

The university’s Board of Regents triggered a timber sale on about 400 acres of land in the Mud Bay Land Use Service Area in September after the borough planning commission discussed changing the definition.

“Instead of working on a new definition the conversation turned to resource extraction itself,” Commission Chair Rob Goldberg said during last week’s meeting. “We’ve had a lot of testimony from folks who don’t want resource extraction in their neighborhoods. We had a lot of testimony from others, especially large landowners, who don’t want any limitations on resource extraction.”

Representatives from the university met with the Haines Borough Assembly last week to discuss, among other issues, alternatives to logging in the Mud Bay rural residential area. The university also asked the planning commission to delay work on defining resource extraction.

“The University intends to provide proposed language for the resource extraction definition, to be included with the other two draft proposals, for consideration at a future planning commission meeting,” UA’s Director of Facilities and Land Management Christine Klein wrote to the planning commission.

University Regional Resource Manager Patrick Kelly, who stressed to the borough assembly the need for trust between both parties, said the university appreciates the commission waiting for their input.

“That opens the door,” Kelly said. “That’s a game changer for us.”

The borough’s current definition defines resource extraction, in part, as removing natural resources such as timber or gravel “for commercial purposes.”

Goldberg said the definition is too loose and allows individuals to circumvent code.

“The problem with it is that it’s too easy to circumvent because of the word commercial,” Goldberg said. “We’ve had people moving truck loads of material and circumventing the definition saying ‘It’s not commercial. I’m just moving it from one property to another or I’m giving it away to my friends.’”

The commission discussed member Jeremy Stephens’ proposal that would define resource extraction as “a primary land use involving the removal of any naturally occurring material. If the removal of a naturally occurring material is the result of a primary land use, such as property development, the removal of the naturally occurring material is a secondary land use and is not considered resource extraction.”

Several of the commissioners felt the definition was too vague and said they’d continue to come up with ideas before the next meeting.


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