U.S. Forest Service and Murkowski at odds over heritage area

Posted: Friday, May 19, 2000

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The U.S. Forest Service and Alaska Sen. Frank Murkowski are at odds over a proposed Kenai Mountains/Turnagain Arm National Heritage area.

Murkowski, R-AK, wants an area stretching from south of Anchorage to Cooper Landing to Seward designated a National Heritage area.

The designation would highlight historic Native and frontier pioneer trails as well as the Gold Rush history and natural beauty of the Kenai Mountains and Turnagain Arm region.

Under Murkowski's plan, most of the decision making about the Heritage area would be made by local communities. Federal agencies would mainly provide technical help.

The U.S. Forest Service does not like that concept.

Sandra Key, an associate deputy with the Forest Service, said the proposed area would cover a big chunk of the Chugach National Forest, which is managed under an agency plan. She said there would have to be major changes for the agency to agree to the bill.

''We'd like to recommend that the National Forest lands be excluded. Most of the National Heritage Areas are predominantly private lands. In this case, 85 percent of the land, about a million of the 1.3 million acres, is part of the Chugach National Forest,'' she said Thursday.

Murkowski said when he proposed the idea he assumed the Forest Service would not interfere with the bill. The senator said given the Forest Service's position he's seriously considering withdrawing the bill or going forward regardless of the agency's stance.

The bill has the support of Gov. Tony Knowles and a wide range of local groups.

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