Hunting and fishing guides, recreational businesses, air taxi services and tourism companies who take clients onto state land are now being asked to pay a yearly registration fee to the state for day use activities.
"It's not a permit that requires them to get previous authorization before they go out," said Wyn Menefee, a spokesperson with the State of Alaska Department of Natural Resources Division of Mining, Land and Water. "It's just a registration for gathering information."
Commercial day use has usually been allowed without a formal permit, while any overnight use by commercial operators who have clients stay in a shelter on state land has always required a permit. A shelter can be defined as anything from a small tent to a building, Menefee said.
The new requirement for day use registration was put into state regulations by the DNR in Decem-ber 2002, but the online system was not finalized until this month, Menefee said.
Registering online can save business owners some money. The fee is $25 using the state's Web site and $50 if companies use paper forms. Menefee said filling out the online form is not difficult.
"We just want them to tell us where they're doing the day use, estimate how many people they're taking out and describe their types of access and modes of transportation," Menefee said.
All commercial recreation businesses that use state uplands, shorelands, tidelands and fresh water bodies are required to register.
"The only businesses the new registration process doesn't apply to are the ones that are doing exclusively marine, saltwater activities where they never go onshore," he said.
He said the state will use the information from the registration forms to build a database. Over time, he said, the information will be helpful in determining trends, impacts, concentrations and periods of commercial recreational use of state lands.
"We've had a real big hole in our data about commercial day use out there," he said. "Its a growing area, we know that, but we've just not been able to really put our finger on how much activity is occurring, say, on the Susitna River, or in the Peters Hills or wherever."
He said the compiled data will help state regulators make better decisions in the future on land use management issues, and the basic use data will be made available for public viewing.
Menefee said the registration requirement applies to commercial day use of "general" state land, not acreage held by the University of Alaska, the Alaska Mental Health Lands Trust or parklands.
And what happens if your business does not register?
"We don't have a direct fine," Menefee said. "But if you don't preregister before you do this commercial use on state land, you are in trespass. So conceivably, the state could prosecute under its trespass laws
"But we're not trying to create penalties for people, and we look at the fee of $25 only once a year as being pretty reasonable," he said.
Businesses need to register before they begin their day uses of state land each calendar year, and registration needs to be completed at least 30 days in advance of the expected use, according to the DNR.
The registration site and information about who needs to register can be located at www.dnr.state.ak.us/mlw/commrec. Businesses can also register at any of the DNR information offices in Anchorage, Fairbanks or Juneau.
Robert Howk is a reporter for the Alaska Journal of Commerce.
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