Tour operator appeals ban on eagle baiting in preserve

Posted: Tuesday, July 10, 2001

HAINES -- A Haines tour operator is appealing a state order banning the baiting of eagles for observation purposes within the Alaska Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve.

Department of Natural Resources commissioner Pat Pourchot will decide the appeal filed by River Adventures owners Duck and Karen Hess.

The appeal alleges the state's decision was factually unfounded and wasn't made through proper rule-making procedures.

The couple wouldn't comment on the appeal. But the filing says the state should have consulted the preserve advisory council, held public hearings and studied the impact of feeding eagles before banning the activity.

''Had the DNR taken the procedural actions required by the legislature, it would have found that the factual assertions contained in (the order) were unfounded,'' the appeal reads. ''There is simply no negative impact to the eagles or their habitat from periodic feeding, there exists no present conflict with other user groups as a result of the feeding.''

The appeal asserts the operation is protected as a traditional use. ''Here, the owners of River Adventures originally began commercial jet boat tours on the river in 1973,'' the appeal states. ''As such, the guided tours conducted by River Adventures are a traditional use as contemplated by (state statute).''

The appeal argues that the feeding is protected unless the director of parks, in consultation with the preserve advisory council, finds that it causes significant damage to resources in the preserve.

Director of Parks Jim Stratton said the company's tour business likely is protected as a traditional use, but eagle baiting is not.

''They've had a permit from us for years and I really don't see where we could deny their permit to operate where they've been operating for years,'' Stratton told the Chilkat Valley News. ''They can continue to do their tours -- they just can't throw bait in the air.''

Pete Panarese, Division of Park's chief of field operations, said the state has grounds to regulate the activity.

''I think the law they're looking at is for before we restrict a traditional use. We're managing a commercial use,'' he said.

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