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

Heli-ski map committee to delay boundary discussions


January 23, 2020

Efforts to begin redrawing the heli-ski boundary map will likely be put on hold until after this ski season after foul weather prevented Nick Trimble, the committee’s heli-ski industry representative, from attending a meeting with Alaska Department of Fish and Game representatives this week.

Originally, the committee had planned to combine the results of a 10-year mountain goat and bear denning habitat study with detailed information from the heli-ski industry about ski runs and helicopter drop off and pick up locations in preparation for redrawing the boundary map in the next year.

Without Trimble, the committee heard a presentation from Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologist Kevin White on the wildlife study’s result but declined to take further action.

The Fish and Game study tracked mountain goat locations using GPS collars and used over 190,000 location data points to confirm mountain goat habitat previously predicted through models. Similar methods of model prediction and location confirmation generated a map of bear denning habitat. For the bear habitat, Fish and Game used aerial surveys to confirm their predictions.

In the past, this information influenced assembly decisions relating to the boundary map.

In early 2018, the Assembly removed an area north of Rainbow Glacier and another near Flower Mountain from the map after Fish and Game labeled the terrain as critical for wildlife habitat. 

White stressed the importance of giving mountain goats a wide berth, particularly toward the end of winter when their fat stores are depleted and during kidding season when goat kids rely on females for food.

Bear denning habitat, he said, is important to avoid in December when bears are first settling in and toward the end of hibernation in March and April.

The committee plans to generate a priority list of ski runs after weighing each run’s importance to the ski industry against its importance as wildlife habitat.

By considering the map with a higher level of resolution--a run-by-run basis--a method that has seen success in parts of British Columbia, committee members hope to achieve results that are agreeable to both interest groups.

The committee will revisit the issue when representatives from both the heli-ski industry and Fish and Game are present. This will likely not occur before the end of the 2020 ski season.

The current members of the boundary map committee are Trimble, Thom Ely, Dan Shultz, Derek Poinsette, and assembly member Brenda Josephson.


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