Legislature(2005 - 2006)BUTROVICH 205

03/21/2005 03:30 PM RESOURCES

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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Heard & Held
Moved CSSB 144(RES) Out of Committee
         SB  85-OFF-ROAD VEHICLE USE ON DALTON HIGHWAY                                                                      
CHAIR SEEKINS announced SB 85 to be up for consideration.                                                                       
BRIAN HOVE, Staff to Senator Seekins,  sponsor of SB 85, read the                                                               
sponsor statement.  He said the  Dalton Highway is the  only road                                                               
north of  the Yukon River. Current  law bans the use  of off-road                                                               
vehicles  within  five  miles  of the  highway's  right  of  way.                                                               
Starting  at  mile  57,  the Yukon  River  crossing,  the  Dalton                                                               
Highway extends  357 miles  north to the  Arctic Ocean.  This law                                                               
essentially prohibits access for  average Alaskans to recreate on                                                               
public land  that would  otherwise be  open to  their use.  SB 85                                                               
removes the  prohibition on the  use of off-road  vehicles within                                                               
the  five-mile corridor  of the  Dalton Highway.  It provides  12                                                               
months for  owners to work on  land use plans to  prepare for it.                                                               
In accordance  with those plans,  campgrounds, trails  and public                                                               
use cabins could  be built while protecting  sensitive areas. The                                                               
Bureau of  Land Management (BLM) already  has turnouts, restrooms                                                               
and visitor  centers constructed to accommodate  increased public                                                               
interest in  this part  of Alaska, which  is attracting  more and                                                               
more visitors.                                                                                                                  
3:44:34 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR GUESS asked the definition of off-road vehicles.                                                                        
MR. HOVE  replied snow machines and  ATVs. Snow is on  the ground                                                               
nine months  out of  the year  up there  and trappers  have their                                                               
trap lines.                                                                                                                     
CHAIR SEEKINS  said off-road vehicle  is not defined  in statute,                                                               
but statute does say:                                                                                                           
     Off-road vehicles  are prohibited  on land  within five                                                                    
     miles  of the  right-of-way  of  the highway.  However,                                                                    
     this prohibition  does not  apply to  off-road vehicles                                                                    
     necessary  for oil  and  gas exploration,  development,                                                                    
     production  or transportation,  a  person  who holds  a                                                                    
     mining claim  in the vicinity  of the highway  who must                                                                    
     use the  land to be  able to get  there and the  use of                                                                    
     snow machine  travel across  the highway  corridor from                                                                    
     land outside  the corridor to  access land  outside the                                                                    
     other  side of  the corridor.  This paragraph  does not                                                                    
     permit the use of snow  machines for any purpose within                                                                    
     the  corridor if  the  use begins  or  ends within  the                                                                    
     corridor or  within the right-of-way of  the highway or                                                                    
     if the  use is for  travel within the corridor  that is                                                                    
     parallel to the  right-of-way of the highway  or if the                                                                    
     use is for travel within  the corridor that is parallel                                                                    
     to the right-of-way of the highway.                                                                                        
He said  the highway  corridor means lands  within five  miles of                                                               
the highway right-of-way. So, there's  a 10-mile stretch that you                                                               
can't unload the snow machine off  your truck and use it anywhere                                                               
in there.                                                                                                                       
The landowners  are primarily the  BLM and Department  of Natural                                                               
Resources  (DNR) and  he  asked  them if  12  months  would be  a                                                               
reasonable time for them to put  in place the land use plans they                                                               
have had or that they  have contemplated having eventually. Those                                                               
would restrict types  of vehicles and time of year  they could be                                                               
used like they do everyplace else  in the United States on public                                                               
3:47:12 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR BEN STEVENS arrived.                                                                                                    
3:48:15 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR GUESS asked  if federal or state law requires  them to do                                                               
the land use plan.                                                                                                              
SENATOR  SEEKINS replied  that he  didn't  know that  the BLM  is                                                               
required  to  do  that  under  federal law,  but  they  have  the                                                               
authority and have had their draft plan since 1991.                                                                             
SENATOR DYSON asked  what the history behind  the prohibition is.                                                               
No one wants  to see raping and pillaging of  the country because                                                               
of open access.                                                                                                                 
SENATOR  SEEKINS  replied  that  the Dalton  Highway  was  not  a                                                               
secondary public highway until some  time after its construction,                                                               
but it  was open to the  public. He has  not been able to  find a                                                               
single document  that indicates what  the intent was or  any kind                                                               
of an agreement between parties.                                                                                                
     It  was simply  meant at  that time,  from what  we can                                                                    
     tell,  to protect  the environment  so that,  again, we                                                                    
     could perhaps see land use  plans that went into effect                                                                    
     to be able  to keep from having, as you  said, the rape                                                                    
     and pillage of that land, which no one wants to see.                                                                       
3:53:18 PM                                                                                                                    
MR. HOVE presented a map of the Dalton Highway.                                                                                 
CHAIR SEEKINS  presented a slide show  of his trip up  the Dalton                                                               
4:04:12 PM                                                                                                                    
End of slide show.                                                                                                              
4:04:49 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR GUESS  asked if Alyeska  Pipeline Company supports  SB 85                                                               
and does it have security concerns.                                                                                             
CHAIR SEEKINS  said Alyeska understands  that the  whole pipeline                                                               
has security concerns.  If more people are going to  be up there,                                                               
Alyeska  has  said  it  wants  the  state's  help  in  addressing                                                               
security concerns.                                                                                                              
4:06:50 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR WAGONER arrived and took the gavel from Chair Seekins.                                                                    
4:07:53 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR SEEKINS said  it's time to plan for when  the public uses                                                               
the  lands along  the  Dalton  Highway. He  has  no intention  of                                                               
opening up the corridor to all-terrain trucks, etc.                                                                             
4:09:38 PM                                                                                                                    
THOR  STACY, Weisman  Village,  said he  is  a registered  guide,                                                               
trapper and  life-long Alaskan.  He believes in  the use  of non-                                                               
renewable and renewable resources. He stated:                                                                                   
     First of  all, I  want to  dispel some  myths on  SB 85                                                                    
     that have been presented in  its favor. For the record,                                                                    
     I'm  opposed to  SB 85.  First of  all, the  perception                                                                    
     that a  large part  of Alaska would  be opened  up that                                                                    
     has been 'locked up'. As you  can see from the land use                                                                    
     map...most of  the land north  of the Yukon  is federal                                                                    
     refuges,  parks and  preserve.  This  will, by  federal                                                                    
     statute, not  be opened  up to  off-road vehicle  use -                                                                    
     thus  creating intensive  use on  state  DNR land  that                                                                    
     they  have already  discussed building  on, which  they                                                                    
     have a plan for.                                                                                                           
He said that this would be  a unnecessary law, because people are                                                               
already  using off-road  vehicles  and there  is no  enforcement.                                                               
There  are  already  legal   accesses  for  mineral  exploration,                                                               
private  lands beyond  the corridor,  going through  the corridor                                                               
from one side to another on snow machine and others.                                                                            
MR. STACY said further:                                                                                                         
     There is  a perception that  the land is unused  and an                                                                    
     underutilized  resource. That's  also incorrect.  Right                                                                    
     now  our  game population  on  state  lands -  and  I'm                                                                    
     familiar with it as a  hunting guide...I use these as a                                                                    
     trapper.... We're  having a hard year  this year. We're                                                                    
     having  a   bad  time  for  moose.   We're  at  maximum                                                                    
     sustained  yield.  We have  a  very  low density  moose                                                                    
     population in the Yukon flats  and the mountains of the                                                                    
     Brooks  Range -  averaging .1  to .2  moose per  square                                                                    
     mile. It's a very different  part of the world than the                                                                    
     sub-arctic parts of Alaska.                                                                                                
4:13:22 PM                                                                                                                    
He said  another myth is  that there is  extensive infrastructure                                                               
in place  to support  expanded use.  Existing pullouts  are there                                                               
for    heavy   industrial    traffic   to    support   commercial                                                               
infrastructure  on  the  North Slope.  Recreation  vehicles  will                                                               
cause a serious hazard for commercial traffickers.                                                                              
4:14:21 PM                                                                                                                    
MR. STACY said  four caribou herds will be accessed  by this road                                                               
currently, they  are all depleted requiring  intensive management                                                               
by  the  state,  which  is in  violation  of  its  constitutional                                                               
mandate of sustained  yield. Unit 16 has a  high predator harvest                                                               
to reestablish  equilibrium in nature.  Currently there  are non-                                                               
resident  seasons for  moose or  caribou in  those areas  because                                                               
there is a tier system of  local subsistence. He did not think it                                                               
would take much stretch of the  imagination to see the impacts on                                                               
all three of the caribou herds that cross the road.                                                                             
4:15:54 PM                                                                                                                    
He pointed  out that access  is tool that  can be used  to manage                                                               
remote  resources.  There is  one  game  warden at  Coldfoot  for                                                               
enforcement of the  entire Brooks Range, the  foothills and north                                                               
to the  Arctic Coast. He  is competent, but  he won't be  able to                                                               
respond to the additional access and  use problems. SB 85 needs a                                                               
fiscal note because enforcement will  cost the state more than it                                                               
does now.                                                                                                                       
4:18:07 PM                                                                                                                    
There  are   no  trails  or   off-road  vehicle  tracks   in  the                                                               
wilderness, although  there are  mining trails  that were  put in                                                               
100 years ago. He said the  tracks from an off-road vehicles will                                                               
be left for  over 100 years. "The impact at  first will be small,                                                               
but in time it won't be what it was."                                                                                           
Right now it  is legal to use airplanes,  horses, boats, walking;                                                               
there  is  no  restriction  on   reasonable  access.  The  system                                                               
protects the resource. People come  to Weisman for the wilderness                                                               
and the  state doesn't  need to  spend money  to maintain  a slow                                                               
SENATOR SEEKINS asked where his trap line is.                                                                                   
4:21:59 PM                                                                                                                    
MR. STACY outlined several of his trails.                                                                                       
SENATOR SEEKINS asked him if he accessed it with a snow machine.                                                                
MR. STACY replied yes.                                                                                                          
SENATOR SEEKINS asked him if he knew that is illegal.                                                                           
MR.  STACY   replied  that  it's  not   illegal  for  subsistence                                                               
4:22:42 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR SEEKINS said it is illegal according to state law.                                                                      
MR. STACY  responded that subsistence activities  are not allowed                                                               
with a snow machine on state land.                                                                                              
SENATOR SEEKINS said that he  is trying to correct for reasonable                                                               
access so people are not breaking the law.                                                                                      
CHAIR WAGONER closed  the hearing due to no phone  lines and said                                                               
he would hold the bill.                                                                                                         

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