Editor's note: This letter was sent to the director of State Parks from the Kenai-Soldotna Fish and Game Advisory Committee and submitted for publication.
It is with great concern that we are writing you regarding the level of law enforcement on the Kenai River. Current enforcement levels are less than half of what they were 20 years ago, while public use of the river has escalated.
Gov. Frank Murkowski has said that the Kenai River resources and public use are a top priority of his administration. If this is true then everyone associated with the Department of Natural Resources and State Parks administration should understand the need for adequate enforcement.
Another contributing factor is the reduction of assistance from other agencies because of restructuring of priorities and budget reductions. The Kenai River Special Management Area is probably the top revenue generating watershed in the state, so why isn't it of the highest priority to protect it?
Over the past 20 years the Kenai River Special Management Area has went through some dynamic changes both in additional regulation requirements and monitoring, bank restoration closures and increased infrastructure. Besides river enforcement duties the rangers also are responsible for campground, boat launch and day-use sites' monitoring and enforcement. Additional facility development in the last few years was necessary to handle the larger public use, but at the same time, this growth has further stretched the effectiveness and time management of enforcement priorities.
We are now in the midst of raising guide fees and trying to find a method to cap the guide industry. Both of these are important and necessary changes for the good of the resource, but they could contribute to more illegal guiding and thus further compound the enforcement dilemma.
Twenty years ago there were six rangers, two ranger techs, three full-time troopers and several refuge enforcement personnel. Today there are only three rangers, two troopers (two to three days a week, depending on other duties) and refuge enforcement personnel.
In 1997, when there were four rangers, the Revised Comprehensive Management Plan recognized this shortfall and called for more enforcement personnel. However you look at it, the mainstay of overall knowledge and duty rests with the professional park ranger core.
The Kenai River is the premiere river of our great state and one of the leading public use fisheries in the world. Its resources and opportunities are much too important to gamble with inadequate enforcement.
We of the Kenai-Soldotna Fish and Game Advisory Committee respectfully request that the Division of Parks re-evaluate its enforcement requirements and work toward restoring a personnel level that can adequately protect this great resource that is so vitally important to all of us.
Dwight Kramer, chair, Kenai-Soldotna Fish and Game, Advisory Committee
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