Hatcher Pass Management Plan

May 28, 2009

Philana Jarvis, Land Use Planner
Department of Natural Resources
Hatcher Pass Management Plan
550 West 7th Ave., suite 1050
Anchorage, AK 99501-3579

Dear Ms. Jarvis:

The purpose of this letter is to offer the formal scoping comments of the Alaska Quiet Rights Coalition (AQRC) in regard to the Hatcher Pass proposed Management Plan Revision. To date we have participated in the meetings held in both Anchorage and the Mat-Su and, at the recent scoping meeting in Anchorage, offered informal comments.

AQRC is a statewide, nonprofit organization with approximately 600 supporters/members from throughout Alaska. 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. We seek a fair and balanced allocation of the public lands of Alaska for both non-motorized and motorized users.

Some facts concerning the state-owned lands within the Mat-Su Borough (excluding Hatcher Pass Management Area) are:

of the 14 designated areas managed by the Division of State Parks and Outdoor Recreation, only one, Nancy Lakes State Recreation Area, allocates any land for quiet winter recreation;

`25% of trails (10 out of 40 miles) and approximately 15% (rough estimate) of the 22,476 acres are allocated for non-motorized use;

of the hundreds of thousands of acres of state general domain land and designated state lands, such as the Knik River PUA, managed by the Div. of Mineral, Lands and Water, not one acre has been designated for non-motorized use, summer or winter.

DNR staff have stated the following facts regarding the Hatcher Pass Management Area:

Hatcher Pass contains 213,500 acres;

the state of Alaska owns 203, 500 of those acres (95%);

of these state owned acres, 33,000 (16%) are closed to snowmachine use and 27,100 acres (13.2%) are closed to summer ATV use.

The above facts and figures should make clear to all that DNR has failed to provide recreational opportunities for the non-motorized user of state lands in the Mat-Su Borough and that the current Hatcher Pass plan is grossly unbalanced in favor of motorized recreation.

Our first point, therefore, is that the revised management plan must provide a fairer balance between the areas and trails allocated for the non-motorized and the motorized recreationists. Secondly, such areas and trails must offer both easily accessible as well as back-country recreational opportunities, to suit the varying abilities of quiet recreationists. Thirdly, as expressed at the meetings and in the posted comments, it is clear that shared trails or space do not work for a variety of reasons, from safety to robbing the non-motorized user of the quiet experience he/she desires. This requires that trails and areas must be adequately separated. Fourthly, areas set aside for non-motorized use in a plan are meaningless unless the motorized recreationist is aware of the restrictions and honors them. This requires that clear boundaries be established on the ground and be enforced. These four concerns could be most easily met in the revised Management Plan by designating the east side of Hatcher Pass as non-motorized and the west side motorized. A snowmachine corridor (or corridors) could be designated to permit travel from parking lots to the motorized area routed around, not through, the non-motorized areas if at all feasible.

Additionally, should additional lands be added to the management area, they must be designated in a fashion which protects mountaineering and the Mountain Club huts from motorized visits and use. If the revision results in only minor tinkering with boundaries we urge that the Gold Mint Valley, on both sides of the Little Susitna, be designated non-motorized as a minimum adjustment which would help rectify the current imbalance in the plan.

Thank you for this opportunity to offer scoping comments.

Sincerely yours,

Susan Olsen, President
Alaska Quiet Rights Coalition
P.O. Box 202592
Anchorage, AK 99516