The Bureau of Land Management is soliciting comments from Haines residents as it starts work again on the Ring of Fire Resource Management Plan.

Eight BLM representatives hosted an open house April 4 to gather comments and answer questions on the “Haines Block,” which encompasses about 320,000 acres of BLM-managed lands mostly northwest of town to the Canadian border. Agency lands are largely used for heli-skiing.

BLM began work on the plan in 2006, but it was postponed in 2012 as the agency went through an office reorganization and awaited mountain goat and bear habitat studies from the state Department of Fish and Game released last September. The BLM Glennallen field office received funding last year to resume work on the “Haines Block Amendment” in the Ring of Fire document.

Glennallen field manager Marnie Graham said BLM wanted to give Haines residents a chance to update comments from 2012.

Graham said decisions to be made this go-around include “whether to retain or change special land area designations, whether to retain a monitor and control area for wildlife studies, and whether to establish a maximum number of annual helicopter landings on these BLM-managed public lands.”

Residents had an opportunity to visit five stations in the Chilkat Center lobby with information about current uses of BLM lands, habitat and environment, how to participate in the development process, goals, themes and values and land-use alternatives.

In response to a question about helicopter activity, Graham said there are 300 helicopter landings per season per year, 100 allowed per operator, on Haines-area BLM property. Near Skagway, there are about 1,900 summer landings alone.

Chris Beck, principal founder of BLM contractor Agnew::Beck Consulting, said BLM favors recreation on its lands. “We lean toward recreation on BLM lands, but there are mixed uses,” Beck said.

Helicopter disturbance to wildlife was a leading topic in heliski map amendment discussions. In its 2012 draft, BLM required helicopters to “maintain a 1,500-foot clearance from key mountain goat areas, mountain goats, sensitive bird nesting sites, brown and black bears, wolves, moose, sea lions, and other marine mammals.” The standards are the same as those set by the Northern Wild Sheep and Goat Council. The borough assembly voted last year to consider the conservation organization’s standards in amending commercial heliski terrain.

When asked about the relationship between BLM and the borough, Graham said there was misunderstanding over who had jurisdiction of BLM property during the borough’s review of heliski maps. The borough oversees borough and state lands, and BLM has final say on its property, she said.

Beck added, “There are real advantages if the borough and BLM might sit down together and think about how to some degree these lines might go away for planning purposes, but in the end they are two separate entities with separate purposes.”

The comment period is open until May 31. Comments can be submitted through the website at An updated draft of the Haines Amendment will come for public review between November 2018 and February 2019. The document will be finalized summer 2019.