Knik River Public Use Area

November 12, 2005
Senator Charlie Huggins
Representative Bill Stoltze
600 East Railroad Ave.
Wasilla, AK 99654

Dear Senator Huggins and Representative Stoltze:

The purpose of this letter is to offer the comments of the Alaska Quiet Rights Coalition (AQRC) on the legislation you have introduced, SB 197 and HB 307, to create the Knik River Public Use Area (Area). AQRC is a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) organization with more than 600 members and supporters from throughout the state. AQRC seeks a fair and balanced allocation of Alaska’s public lands for both the non-motorized and motorized recreationist.

We agree that some sort of management scheme must be introduced to enable all users to be able to safely enjoy the area. We find the legislation to be internally inconsistent and fails to achieve the goal of creating an area to be enjoyed by all of the public.  Sec. 41.23.180 (1) and (2) are at cross purposes; if you create the area as an OHV recreation area, without limitation, you cannot simultaneously  “protect and maintain” bird and animal habitat.  The provision contained in Sec.  41.23.200 (e) which states that the footprint of all existing OHV trails must remain, and in (f) which states that the “commissioner may not restrict the use of weapons… except in sites of high public use…when the use of weapons constitutes a threat to public safety” mean that the current resource damage to streams and wetlands will continue as will the unmanaged, unregulated shooting throughout the proposed Area.  All of these cited provisions mean that the non-motorized recreationist effectively is shut out of the Area, for there would be no place the hiker, bird watcher, skier, dog musher or photographer would be out of the noise and presence of OHVs or free from the fear of being accidentally shot. There would be little or no opportunity to enjoy natural quiet, wildlife or solitude.

We request that you amend the legislation to provide for an inclusive planning process which includes non-motorized as well as recreational interests, eliminate the extreme provisions which permit unregulated OHV and weapons use and provide citation authority to DNR to enforce the plan developed.  Alaskans are fond of claiming that all the state “resources are to be available to, and shared, by all its residents.  As written, this Public Use Area creates only an OHV sacrifice zone”.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment. Please consider this letter as part of the official record.

Sincerely yours,
Trisha Herminhaus, President
Alaska Quiet Rights Coalition
P.O. Box 202592
Anchorage, AK 99520