JUNEAU (AP) -- The U.S. Forest Service wants to designate 47 spots in Southeast Alaska for use by large commercial tour groups.
The proposal covers about 5,000 miles of shoreline from South Baranof Island to Skagway. The agency recently released a draft environmental impact statement that would guide commercial recreation in the area.
Public comments on the plan will be accepted through the first part of January, according to team leader Bill Tremblay.
The proposal would affect outfitter-guides, smaller cruise ships, hunters, kayakers and anglers on the north end of the Tongass National Forest. The goal is to take a comprehensive look at commercial recreation, Tremblay said.
''We're seeing a lot more of the mid-size cruise ship types, larger groups than what smaller outfitter and guides deal with and something smaller than what the large cruise ships have. There are areas along the Tongass where their use might be dispersed,'' Tremblay told the Juneau Empire. ''This document looks at things in a cumulative way on a number of groups that may go into an area during the season.''
Under the preferred alternative in the draft plan, the Forest Service would allocate an average of 23 percent of total recreation capacity to commercial use. The allocation would vary depending on land use designation and how close an area is to a community.
Without a specific allocation for commercial use, the Forest Service issues permits on a case-by-case basis, according to the document.
The preferred option would designate 33 areas for large groups to use in all seasons and another 14 spots large groups could use occasionally.
''Groups can be as large as 75 people in size, but the caveat to that is there is some differentiation of group size depending on the land use designation,'' Tremblay said. ''In a wilderness, groups are limited to 12 people or less.''
Juneau area sites that would be designated for large groups include No Name Cove at the northern side of the entrance to Tracy Arm, a spot on the east side of Shelter Island, Sunny Cove on the north side of Taku Inlet, Cordwood Creek on the west side of Admiralty Island's Mansfield Peninsula, Fowler Creek at the base on the Mansfield Peninsula and a small cove on the back side of Douglas Island.
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