Chugach plan recognizes skiing, snowmachining incompatible
I find it ironic that snowmachiners are complaining now that they are being pitted against skiers in the debate over how to manage the Chugach National Forest for winter recreation. This conflict has been raging for years, although snowmachiners apparently have not noticed.
The heart of the problem is that snowmachining is incompatible with backcountry skiing. Snowmachiners may not be bothered by skiers, but the noise and tracks of snowmachines often ruin a skier's experience. In less than an hour, a snowmachiner can destroy a favorite ski slope for weeks.
The key to solving this problem is recognizing that these uses are incompatible and designating areas that are off limits to snowmachines. The proposed revisions to the Chugach National Forest plan offer a compromise that both sides should find reasonable.
The proposed plan recognizes that snowmachining in the Chugach is extremely popular. Accordingly, motorized recreational use is given a priority during winter months. In fact, more than 90 percent of the million-acre forest would be open to snowmachiners under this plan. Less than 10 percent would be set aside for skiers, snowshoers and other non-motorized users.
Let's be clear that this proposed plan does not close access to public lands. Instead, it allows for more people to enjoy these lands in a variety of ways.
Feds recognize fishing rights; why doesn't Board of Fish do the same?
Why is it the federal government recognizes the rights of commercial fishermen by compensating them when it takes away their fishery, such as buying them out of Glacier Bay in the Southeast and paying $70 million-plus to Western Alaskan fishermen when it denies them their right to fish because of Steller sea lions?
When the Board of Fish takes away a fishery as it is doing in Cook Inlet, Area M and now Cordova it tells fishermen, "Too bad, go away, get another job. Your permit, your life's investment is worth nothing."
We fishermen in Cook Inlet have tried every way within the system for the last 20 some years to keep a viable fishery. Our backs are against the wall. We are being forced into the courts to protect our businesses. Businesses that the state has sanctioned. Businesses that the state loans us money to start. Businesses that the Board of Fish then puts us out of. Businesses that the federal government recognizes are property and pays for when it takes them away or reduces opportunity to engage in those businesses.
It is time for fishermen across the state to unite behind Cook Inlet in the courts.
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