December 13, 2006
To whom it may concern:
The purpose of this email is to express the comments of the Alaska Quiet Rights Coalition (AQRC) on the proposed action regarding the development and operation of the Spencer Mineral Materials site.
AQRC is a statewide, non-profit organization with approximately 600 members/supporters who work to protect the rights of Alaskans to quiet places for the benefit of users of our public lands, home owners, communities, businesses, wildlife, visitors and future generations. We believe natural quiet and natural sounds are resources of our public lands which deserve as much protection as any other resource. We advocate that public land managers provide a fair and balanced allocation of Alaska’s public lands for both non-motorized and motorized use.
We can support your assertion in the Whistle Stop project ROD that “recreation and minerals development are not incompatible” only in the abstract; not in the situation proposed. Map 4 indicates that the northern edge of the recreation development area is immediately adjacent to the 297 acre gravel deposit, less than about 1/3rd of a mile from the 241 acre gravel deposit and approximately 1/5th of a mile from the quarry rock deposit. If all the recreation were to take place at the southern edge of the area, that would add perhaps a half mile to the above estimated differences. We do not believe the estimated distances are sufficient to eliminate the sounds of the mining operations and we suppose the terrain will not muffle the sound since, by establishing quiet hours (from 10 pm to 6am), you are acknowledging the noise. With such sounds, i.e., the beeping of trucks backing up), a visitor getting out of the train at the Whistle Stop simply will not have a backcountry recreational experience. We further note that Map 5 shows existing mining claims cover virtually the entire area included in the recreation development area. While the noise may be much less from such operations, the visual impact of placer mining will destroy the very experience being championed by the Whistle Stop project.
It may be that some gravel extraction can take place at the northern edge of both gravel deposits due to distance and buffering terrain without the noise of same being heard by visitors to the Whistle Stop. The operating premise, however, must be not that recreation and minerals development are compatible per se, but are compatible ONLY if the recreationists can neither hear nor see the operations. It would be one thing if the two activities were being proposed for an already developed area and, accordingly, expectations about the outdoor experience would be lessened. However, the outdoor experience being touted by the Whistle Stop project is one of a “touch of wilderness”, of being able to access, and experience, the backcountry.
Thank you for this opportunity to comment.
Susan Olsen, member of the board,
Alaska Quiet Rights Coalition