ANCHORAGE (AP) -- A decision by state officials to give 3,000 acres of state land in Hatcher Pass to the Matanuska-Susitna Borough has been appealed by an Oregon-based environmental group.
The appeal, known as a request for reconsideration, was filed last week by Gabriel Scott on behalf of himself and the Cascadia Wildlands Project, a nonprofit group based in Eugene. Scott, who lives in Fairbanks, is the group's Alaska representative.
State Natural Resources Commissioner Pat Pourchot, who authorized the land transfer, has until Jan. 25 to respond to the appeal.
The transfer would give the borough title to 3,000 acres in the foothills of Hatcher Pass. Borough officials say borough ownership would make it easier to develop a proposed ski area nearby. A builder, for instance, could deal directly with one local government.
The land has long been eyed as the site for a resort village if the ski area is built.
Scott said the Oregon group, working mainly in the Pacific Northwest, tries to preserve wildlife corridors in places that are being developed. It claims the Department of Natural Resources did not adequately consider concerns the borough could damage the land and its wildlife.
The area includes key habitat for bears, moose and silver salmon, according to state game officials.
Under state ownership, any development in the area has to comply with the state's Hatcher Pass Management Plan. That plan includes guidelines such as mandatory wildlife corridors and ways to keep bears out of trash collection sites.
Those protections will not apply if the land is transferred to the borough, Scott said.
Borough officials have said they intend to comply with the restrictions in the plan, but nothing holds them to that promise, Scott said. The borough could easily decide to sell or subdivide the land for homes, he said.
Scott also criticized state officials for denying a request to extend the deadline for comments on the land transfer. No one he knows was denied the chance to submit comments, Scott said, but many people did not understand the implications of transferring the land.
No other appeals of the decision have been filed, said state land manager Dick Mylius.
Borough Manager John Duffy said the appeal will not interfere with the borough's plan to try to get a ski area built in Hatcher Pass.
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