Hunters concerned about parks regs in preserve
December 19, 2019
The Chilkat Bald Eagle Advisory Council voted 4-3 to move the 25 Mile Chilkat Valley Wilderness Memorial from the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve into the Alaska Department of Transportation right of way after members learned that the structure would restrict hunting in the area.
Alaska State Parks cited the grandfather of a child who shot his rifle near a parking lot at 20.5 Mile. The citation shined a light on an obscure parks law that prohibits the discharge of a firearm within half a mile of a developed facility, defined as a boat ramp, campground, picnic area, rest area, visitor’s information center, swim beach, trailhead, building, parking area or developed ski area.
Last week, the advisory council discussed eliminating the law from the preserve, and cited concerns that improving boat ramps and other access sites along the Haines Highway during phase two of the highway reconstruction project would displace traditional hunting rights.
“If we build all this infrastructure all around the road you displace the whole native community from what they traditionally used to do,” council member Bill Thomas said.
State parks Southeast superintendent Preston Kroes said he’s opposed to removing the law. “It is 100 percent just a safety factor for being in those heavily populated visitor areas that draw people into them because they have an outhouse, parking lot (or) interpretive facilities. It’s so it’s unlikely that anybody’s going to get injured or killed in those busier areas.”
John Katzeek argued that hunting half a mile away would be more dangerous. “If you have to hunt the half a mile away, that means you’re going to be shooting back toward the river because that’s where the animals are going to be, feeding on the salmon,” Katzeek said. “What brings the brown bears there? It’s the salmon. That’s why we hunt there.”
Kroes said the amount of area in the preserve affected by the regulation represents about 1,200 of the 48,000 acres, or 2.5 percent, of the eagle preserve.
Lynette Campbell said it matters more where, not how little is restricted. “If that area you’re reducing is accessible by the road...it doesn’t matter how small it is. To make the assumption that it really doesn’t matter because there’s 10 million other acres is a problem in my opinion unless you ask the public if that matters.”
The council also discussed the possibility of losing more hunting area if river access and pullout sites in places like 13, 14.5 and 16 Mile were improved. Kroes said should those areas be improved the no discharge of a weapon law would likely apply in the area.
Council member Andy Hedden asked if just improving road access would cause the law to apply. “I can’t give a definite answer until we have a design,” Kroes said. “Just smoothing out the road I would say no but I would also be opposed to doing that without doing something to improve parking because if we’re improving the road, it’s going to bring more vehicles.”
The council will take up the issue again at its next meeting, and Kroes said they could suggest reducing the half mile restriction to a quarter mile.
Moving the monument makes little difference in terms of hunting at 25 Mile since a trailhead and a developed ski area are located in the area. Both are defined as a developed facility according to State Parks law.