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

Assembly appoints three to public safety commission

 


The Haines Borough Assembly’s Commerce Committee on Monday agreed on a model for decision-making that might replace the heliski map committee.

The five-member map committee late last year got bogged down in questions about conflicts of interest, as owners of heliski companies held two of the committee’s seats.

The idea for replacing the map committee with the assembly, proposed by assembly member Tom Morphet, met resistance at a committee meeting in January, when tour operators and others said such a process would not allow for enough public participation.

At the January meeting, committee member Ron Jackson developed an alternate plan: have state biologists and borough committees representing tourism and recreation vet proposals ahead of assembly review.

The assembly recently directed the Commerce Committee to consider three alternatives: Jackson’s, Morphet’s and a variation to the existing committee.

On Monday, they chose Jackson’s. Under the model, proposals would be screened by Alaska Department of Fish and Game, then reviewed by the Tourism Advisory Board and Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee.

“If we could get past the ADFG thing, the two issues that are left are residential noise and backcountry user conflicts,” Jackson said. “Whatever committee, or the assembly, that deals with what’s left after it comes through that sieve would have just two things to focus on. At least it would be narrowed down.”

Commerce committee chair Margaret Friedenauer said there’s likely to be perceived conflict of interest no matter who looks at the issue.

“The idea of conflict of interest seems to be coming up in every committee,” Friedenauer said. “In TAB you do have heliski operators and in parks and rec you do have conservationists. I like the idea I’m just not sure how to address this conflict of interest that now keeps coming up everywhere.”

Morphet said he was agreeable with Jackson’s model, and Commerce Committee member Tresham Gregg also got on board.

“We have a standing committee like parks and rec who could field a lot of the information, and you have staff that’s also fielding a lot of information and that gets presented to the COW (committee of the whole) so we’re not starting at square one when we’re dealing with it,” Gregg said.

Borough staff would overlay maps where existing ski areas are versus where existing wildlife habitat buffers are, based on ADFG findings expected to be released by late May. Helicopters should remain at a 1,500-foot horizontal distance away from wildlife, according to the Northern Wild Sheep and Goat Council.

After the ADFG report is released, the tourism and parks and rec committees would weigh in.

“Somewhere in the process we need to look at that and say have we just wiped out our heliski industry or not,” Jackson said. “We don’t want to do that.”

The borough assembly is expected to revisit proposed map changes later this summer.

 
 

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