Susitna-Matanuska Area Plan: scoping comments

May 27, 2009

Ray Burger
DNR, Division of Mining, Land and Water
Resource Assessment and Development Section
550 West 7th Ave., Suite 1050
Anchorage, AK 99501-3579

Dear Mr. Burger:

The purpose of this letter is to offer the scoping comments of the Alaska Quiet Rights Coalition (AQRC) on the revised Susitna-Matanuska Area Plan (SMAP).

AQRC is a statewide, nonprofit organization with approximately 600 members/supporters from throughout Alaska. We are 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 advocates for a fair and balanced allocation of our public lands for both non-motorized and motorized use. We believe natural quiet and natural sounds are natural resources of the land which need to be valued like other natural resources.

Many of our members/supporters recreate in the area encompassed in the SMAP and many also have cabins in the area. AQRC believes that the best use of the area is for recreation and fish and wildlife habitat. We would hasten to comment, however, that unmanaged motorized recreation, particularly the huge increase in recent years in snowmachining, has had a very detrimental effect on wildlife, cabin owners and those who enjoy quiet recreation. Both wildlife and non-motorized recreationists have been displaced from this area due to the motorized traffic while some cabin owners leave their cabins on weekends to avoid the noisy intrusions. Also, since much of the area is wetlands, unregulated summer ATV traffic undoubtedly is severely damaging trails and the habitat for fish and wildlife.

In light of the above, AQRC’s first scoping comment is that the state must value natural sounds and natural quiet as resources of these public lands. However, unlike many other natural resources which the state determines are to be exploited, natural quiet and natural sounds can only exist if they are protected. Preserving these resources benefits wildlife, cabin owners and non-motorized recreationists, as well as tourists. As with other natural resources, the state must then determine where and how this resource is to be protected in SMAP.

Secondly, we suggest that if recreation is determined to be a land management goal for most of the area, the state must provide fair, balanced opportunities for the non-motorized recreationist, as well as the motorized recreationist. Multi use of areas or trails does not work for the quiet recreationist since the machine quickly dominates the area and destroys the experience sought by the non-motorized user. This requires providing separated recreational opportunities. To provide these opportunities, as well as preserve natural quiet, means that the state must acquire the will and the means to regulate motorized recreation and the wherewithal to enforce the regulations. In short, recreational access should not be created without the ability to manage for all users of the area, including wildlife.

AQRC is well aware of the fact that the purpose of this planning effort is to set forth general goals what will guide specific land use decisions in the future. Our point is that DNR needs to realize that these land management goals, such as recreation or habitat protection, cannot be achieved, and maintained, unless tools are put in place to enforce the purpose of the goals. For example, in the Tokosha area, the failure to regulate motorized recreation in any fashion has meant that other types of recreation, such as skiing and dog mushing, as well as other uses, such as quiet cabin stays, have been displaced.

Thank you for this opportunity to offer scoping comments.

Sincerely yours,

Susan Olsen, President
Alaska Quiet Rights Coalition
P.O. Box 202592
Anchorage, AK 99520