Off-roaders want more trail access

Posted: Friday, August 12, 2005

ANCHORAGE (AP) — ATV riders and other off-road enthusiasts are pushing legislation that would allow off-road vehicles to tool around on land near the Knik River.

The bills would create a Knik River Public Use Area in a region that includes Jim Creek and Swan Lake and extends south toward Chugach State Park.

The Alaska Outdoor Access Alliance said the bill, sponsored by Sen. Charlie Huggins, a Wasilla Republican, and Bill Stoltze in the House, designates the region as an ‘‘off-road motorized vehicle recreation area.’’

Meanwhile, the Bureau of Land Management and National Park Service are working on two plans that will outline rules for motorized access on federal land along two Alaska rivers, the pipeline corridor and in the Denali backcountry.

The Access Alliance was formed late last year as an umbrella organization for snowmachiner, boater and other motorized outdoor groups to fight efforts to stop or limit motorized access around the state, said Todd Clark, Alliance president.

‘‘We’re sort of putting our foot down,’’ he said.

But the Knik River Watershed Group said motorized users should not be allowed unrestricted access to the backcountry.

‘‘The status quo, which is go anywhere I want, anyhow I want, any time I want, probably isn’t going to work,’’ said chairwoman Cecily Fritz.

The group support more limits, but is not pushing for bans on motor vehicles on trails altogether, she said.

Fritz said Huggins’s and Stoltze’s legislation moves too quickly and doesn’t allow for a comprehensive planning process.

A public meeting on Huggins’ and Stoltze’s bills is scheduled for Aug. 18 in the Butte.

The Bureau of Land Management, meantime, expects to release the East Alaska Resource Management Plan as early as December. Under the option BLM prefers, some trails could become off-limits to ATVs, dirt bikes and other vehicles.

The plan could affect about 1.6 million acres of federal land. Most of that land includes the Bering Glacier, but it also covers parts of the trans-Alaska oil pipeline utility corridor and the Gulkana and Delta rivers.

BLM Planner Tammy Larzelere said the agency wants to give people a few non-motorized options.

‘‘Currently almost every single trail in our district is a motorized trail,’’ she said.

Stoltze, R-Chugiak, said he wants to strike a balance between motorized and non-motorized recreation.

‘‘When we’re looking at good management for a jewel of an area, I hate to see the sides being drawn,’’ he said.

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