Jan. 15, 2014
Alaska Quiet Rights Coalition
P.O. Box 202592
Anchorage, AK 99520
Kachemak Bay State Park Planning
550 West 7th Ave., Suite 1050
Anchorage, AK 99501
Ref: Kachemake Bay State Park and Kachemak Bay State Wilderness Park Management Plan
Dear Shawana Guzenski;
Thank you for the chance to comment on Kachemake Bay State Park and Kachemak Bay State Wilderness Park Management Plan during this scoping process.
The Alaska Quiet Rights Coalition (AQRC) is dedicated to protecting the rights of Alaskans to quiet places for the benefit of public land users, home and cabin owners, communities, businesses, wildlife, visitors, and future generations. While trends in recreation may change the necessity for wildlife to thrive and the desire of people seeking places to recreate away from mechanized noise will not change. A healthy environment requires quiet places.
Alaska’s natural beauty, wildness, wildlife, expanses of undisturbed open space, and peace and quiet are among its most cherished values, and Alaskans, our visitors, and future generations have the right to experience the natural sights, sounds and quiet beauty of our state. In the vast majority of cases, the obtrusive noise, summer landscape degradation and winter snowscape defacement, exhaust, and dangers of motorized recreation are incompatible with those special natural experiences. With the development and increased use of motorized personal craft that are being used on water, land and snow by a growing population it is becoming ever more important to restrict their use. It is now possible for vast areas of Alaska to be detrimentally impacted by motorized use.
Unfortunately natural quiet and the opportunity to hear and enjoy natural sounds are increasingly hard to find in our state—a fact which would surprise the great majority of non-residents for whom Alaska is a potent symbol of the natural and the wild, not of noisy mechanization. Although there are many places in Alaska that look the same as they did 100 or more years ago, very few sound as they did only 10 or 20 years earlier.
Consequently, not only do we need to protect those quiet areas that still remain, but we need to restore many previously quiet lands to their former, more natural, more pristine condition. Most of us, until quite recently, took the restorative quiet of the outdoors for granted. We assumed that the backcountry would always provide a quiet refuge from the noise, busyness and artificiality of our towns and cities. That assumption, to our great chagrin, has proven to be false. We now know that natural quiet and natural sounds require our—the public, and the public’s stewards, the land managers—constant vigilance if they’re to survive even into the middle of our present century.
Ironically, accessible natural quiet can be easier to find in the lower 48, in the many designated Wildernesses where motorized recreation is prohibited, than in supposedly wild Alaska, where many federal land managers erroneously believe that ANILCA requires them to allow obtrusive recreational activities, for example, snowmachining, even in designated Wilderness. Recreational snowmachining, inaccurately characterized as “traditional activity,” is allowed in spite of its numerous adverse impacts and the conflicts it so often creates with truly traditional, low impact means of access like walking, snowshoeing and cross country skiing. We can and should do better.
Natural sounds and natural quiet are components of the “natural resource values” for which state lands are set apart as parks. AQRC believes the ability to experience the natural sounds and wilderness qualities without the intrusion of anthropogenic (man-made) noise should be a priority management goal and objective of the Alaska state park system. The statutory language establishing the two parks specifies that KBSP is to be managed as a scenic park while KBSWP is to be managed as a wilderness park and that their lands and waters are to be “reserved from all uses incompatible with” (their) primary function as a “scenic” or a “wilderness park”. AQRC believes commercial use permits for helicopter skiing, unregulated float plane landing on lakes within the parks and jet ski activity in park or adjacent waters all are incompatible with the values for which the parks were established. We therefore oppose changing the management plans or regulations to allow any such activities. Where float plane landings are authorized, there must be strict enforcement of the regulations to protect other park users from unwanted noise and intrusion.
AQRC believes in a fair and balanced allocation of the state’s public lands for both non-motorized and motorized recreation. At the present time, there is a gross imbalance on the public lands that both unwisely and inequitably favors motorized recreation over muscle-powered recreation. In the interests of both good stewardship and fundamental fairness, this imbalance needs to be rectified. Alaska State Parks are prime public lands where it should be expected that clean air and water, fish and wildlife, scenic beauty, and the wilderness character for which Alaska is famous worldwide is protected.
Natural quiet and natural sounds should be recognized by all public land managers as critical resources in and of themselves that deserve no less consideration than clean air and water or fish and wildlife and their habitat. Soundscape plans should be prepared. The analysis of proposed agency actions should include a determination of the possible effects on natural quiet and natural sounds and on the humans and wildlife that enjoy or depend on them. Alternatives should be considered.
Several general principles should apply to all public land decisions regarding the use of recreational motorized vehicles, both private and commercial, and whether used on the land, water, or air (some of these principles will not apply to all types of vehicles).
1. An analysis should be done of the possible effects on natural quiet and natural sounds and on the humans and wildlife that enjoy or depend on them.
2. Several alternatives should be considered, including ones that prohibit and that minimize impacts and conflicts.
3. Actions that would result in increased in motorized activity should be balanced with measures to increase opportunities for high quality non-motorized recreation.
4. Motorized recreational vehicle use should be allowed only where it will not cause significant environmental or social harm.
5. Where motorized recreation is allowed, adequate funding for monitoring and enforcement must be provided.
6. Motorized recreation should not be allowed on lands designated, managed or proposed as Wilderness.
Thank you again for this chance to offer our comments.
Brian Okonek, President
Alaska Quiet Rights Coalition