ANCHORAGE (AP) The Alaska Department of Natural Resources is backing away from a planned freeze on the number of Kenai River fishing guides.
The department said Thursday it was responding to businesses that filed suit against the proposed two-year moratorium on new permits.
Under a stipulation agreed to by all parties, the lawsuits are dismissed, and DNR will complete a public-use impact study on the Kenai River before proposing any further administrative action to restrict the number of guide permits issued within the Kenai River State Management Area,'' the agency said in a press release.
Pete Panarese, acting director of the state Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation, said he had no idea when such a study might begin, the Anchorage Daily News reported.
The division still believes that a cap on the number of guides allowed to operate on the Kenai River is a good idea, but it has pledged not to impose one until a study determines a fair number, Panarese said. The cap proposed by former State Parks Director Jim Stratton would have prevented permits from being sold to new guides starting this year.
That idea was generally supported by existing guides but opposed by lodges worried about access to guides and potential increases in guide fees.
Alaska Wildland Adventures, Kenai River Sport Fishing Camps and others challenged the moratorium in court.
Meanwhile, Stratton, a political appointee of Democratic Gov. Tony Knowles, left with the election of Republican Gov. Frank Murkowski. Panarese said Thursday he has heard nothing on when a new director might be named.
The lack of a director makes it hard for the agency to go forward on the development of a long-term management program for guided fishing on the Kenai, he said. Such a program was to have been tied to the moratorium.
Panarese said he was unsure what affect the lifting of the moratorium might have on the fishing season. There were 346 guides registered to fish the Kenai last year, but not all of them fished. The number of guides has crept upward slowly since registration began in 1982. There were 207 that year.
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