April 25, 2007
Tongass National Forest
Attn: Forest Plan Adjustment
648 Mission Street
Ketchikan, AK 99901
To whom it may concern:
The purpose of this letter is to offer the comments from the Alaska Quiet Rights Coalition (AQRC) on the proposed Tongass Forest Plan (Plan). AQRC is a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) organization with approximately 600 members/supporters throughout Alaska. We believe natural quiet and natural sounds are forest resources which deserve protection by land managers for the benefit of the forest, its users and wildlife. We believe public land managers must provide a fair balance between the recreational opportunities available to the nonmotorized and the motorized user. AQRC is dedicated to protecting the rights of Alaskans to quiet places for the benefit of public land users, home owners, communities, businesses, wildlife, visitors and future generations.
AQRC has been very involved with the Chugach Forest Revised Forest Management Plan. As an organization we have had little involvement with the Tongass National Forest (Forest), though any number of individual AQRC members Â do recreate in the Forest and are involved with this planning effort. We do, however, support Alternative 1 which proposes the least development and provides the most support to wildlife values, maintaining roadless areas and unroaded recreation and tourism opportunities. We are disappointed that natural quiet is not identified as a forest value or resource.
Additionally, we have specific comments on helicopter-supported tourism which originates in Juneau and takes place on the Forest. AQRC is well aware of the noise issues created by this tourism activity and appreciates the Forest Service’s awareness Â as indicated in the DEIS: “Helicopter traffic, in groups of one to three helicopters, is almost continuous to and from Icefield locations during the summer” and “Activities at or near capacity include…helicopter use in the immediate vicinity of urban areas.” As indicated in our Oct. 2006 report, “Helicopter-Supported Commercial Recreation Activities in Alaska”, the 2005 data shows that the number of actual landings on the Juneau Icefield (18,355) is rapidly approaching the number of landings authorized by the outstanding permits (19,991). AQRC is concerned that despite the awareness of the impacts, the demands of the tourism industry will force the Forest Service to increase the number of landings and service days permitted on the Juneau Icefield at the expense of the Juneau residents, wildlife and nonmotorized recreationists. While the proposed Plan’s Standards and Guidelines for Recreation and Tourism acknowledge that commercial tourism may conflict with local residents’ use of the same area, they fail to require Â consideration of impacts caused off Forest Service lands by recreational/tourism activities permitted on Forest Service lands. AQRC strongly recommends that the Standards and Guidelines state clearly that one consideration to be weighed by the Forest Service in promoting additional commercial tourism use of the Forest is the impact such increased activity could have on Juneau or other similarly situated communities.
AQRC recognizes that permitting and planning are different activities. We request that this plan provide an adequate framework to protect the rights of Juneau residents, recreationists and wildlife to have peace and quiet in the face of demands for additional noisy commercial tourism activity.
Thank you for the opportunity to comment. Enclosed for your information is a copy of the report referenced above.
P.O. Box 202592
Anchorage, AK 99520 Susan Olsen, Treasurer
Alaska Quiet Rights Coalition