Legislature(1995 - 1996)
02/05/1996 08:13 AM House RES
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 447 - CAN'T CLOSE LAND TO TRADITIONAL REC. USES CO-CHAIRMAN GREEN announced that the committee would hear HB 447, HB 439 and HSCR 1, in that order. Witnesses from Anchorage, Delta Junction and Fairbanks were on the teleconference network and Jane Anvik was available via offnet. Number 079 DAVID STANCLIFF, Legislative Staff Assistant testified on behalf of the sponsor, Representative Beverly Masek, and said there are two reasons for HB 447. The first reason is an Administrative branch of government is using a legislatively created statute for a purpose which the legislature did not intend. The second reason is to involve the people's branch of government in the major decisions concerning public access to state land and waters. MR. STANCLIFF informed the committee of an authority that now exists, according to the Administration, which enables the commissioner or the director to enlarge the state park system and block traditional public access without legislative involvement. MR. STANCLIFF distributed a handout entitled, Denali State Park Master Plan and referred to a departmental map, Denali State Park boundary modifications. He said the park was created by the legislative authority, but the boundaries on the map are not those created by the legislature exclusively. On the Southwest side of the park boundary, there is an expansion of the original boundary which, purposefully, takes in Blair Lake. Number 250 MR. STANCLIFF informed the committee that the new section of park was created through an ILMA, an Interagency Land Management Agreement. When the Department of Natural Resources was asked to explain how the 360 acre expansion happened, without statutory authority, Representative Masek received a document from Jim Stratton, Director, Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation, citing statutes that are totally unrelated to expanding parks restrictions or authority. Number 293 MR. STANCLIFF said the Administration has been asked to produce records showing the number of times and purposes ILMA authority has been used. He said the sponsor was given an estimate of over 500 times; 50 decisions involved park authority and 50 more involved fish and game authority. The remainder involved the Department of Transportation for material sites which is one of the categories this authority was intended for along with firefighting and telecommunication sites. MR. STANCLIFF continued, the legislature gave the Administration the authority to transfer interagency land on areas up to 640 acres without legislative involvement. That authority, as it has been used on Blair Lake, has meant the end of over 50 years of traditional access. He said the new regulations for Denali Park were drafted to specifically eliminate aircraft landings in the ILMA zone at Blair Lake. MR. STANCLIFF related that Representative Masek had difficulty explaining to her constituency that this Administration, or any Administration, could eliminate activity which has taken place for over 50 years without legislative oversight. Number 431 MR. STANCLIFF said Representative Masek introduced HB 447 to stop this type of activity and prevent it from happening in the future. He said the Senate version of HB 447 has ten co-sponsors. MR. STANCLIFF continued, the reason Representative Masek took a broader approach in dealing with the administrative access prohibitions is twofold: this committee and the full legislature should establish ground rules for matters as important as public access, long term public access for recreation. HB 447 would establish those ground rules by not allowing access activities to be eliminated without legislative consent. Number 511 MR. STANCLIFF said HB 447 will not affect Administrative authority within parks and it will not affect fish and game lands. The bill pertains to the land and waters under general land management of Title 38. All other lands and waters are in Title 41. He said the sponsor will leave it to the committee's discretion whether the legislature needs to have oversight in those areas as well. MR. STANCLIFF concluded, this bill is about accountability and striking a better balance on behalf of Alaskans. To date, no legislature has placed in statute, language recognizing and protecting public access to lands and waters for recreation as a broad policy matter. Number 683 CO-CHAIRMAN GREEN said, by allowing this public access, could there be restrictions on "other uses," which might ultimately be deemed the highest and best use, such as a gold mine where there could be the potential of injury to the public. MR. STANCLIFF responded that almost all recreational access in the state is along routes traditionally used by miners, the timber industry and others. It is not Representative Masek's intent to obstruct valid land disposals or land use patterns with regard to development by this legislation. If there needs to be protective language inserted by the committee, the sponsor will be happy to cooperate. Number 820 RON SWANSON, Director, Division of Land, Department of Natural Resources said he would provide background information in addition to the sponsor statement. He said about 500 Interagency Land Management Agreements (ILMAs) have been issued since statehood. ILMA's have been issued to the Division of Parks, the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities and the Department of Fish and Game. Most of the ILMA's have gone to DOT/PF for a variety of purposes: material sites, communication sites, airports, and maintenance facilities. The Department of Fish and Game sites are research sites and hatcheries. MR. SWANSON said the Division of Parks ILMA's are issued in a variety of ways and under a variety of different land ownerships. Most of these sites are "507 sites" conveyed to the DNR by the Bureau of Land Management under statute 507 which says they can only be used for recreational uses. These sites are usually campgrounds like Harding Lake and Chena River; others have been added via the planning process. The DNR goes through a land use planning process using an area plan. The areas are identified by recreational use, either through expansion of additional parks, like Denali, or just identified for those particular purposes. They are then transferred to the Division of Parks for management because that is the appropriate entity. MR. SWANSON said, when the DNR transfers an ILMA to parks, fish and game, or transportation, we convey it subject to their authority to manage the land. In this case, it is the Division of Parks, and it is under Title 41, not Title 38. In the DOT/PF, it is under Title 19, and in the Department of Fish and Game, it is under Title 16. When the Division of Parks receives the land, they use their authority, sometimes they restrict access, but they also have citation authority. The state under Title 38 authority has no citation authority for activities that occurred within the area. MR. SWANSON said the intent of the bill focuses on parks and the activities that happen within parks and the restrictions there. He recommended that the committee look at Title 41 and not Title 38. To his knowledge, the department has never restricted access under Title 38 at any time. Restrictions that have occurred on existing leases such as the Fort Knox Mine. The DNR cannot allow people to go meandering around and digging up holes, but if it is under lease, a private landowner can do that. The DNR has never restricted access on state land under Title 38 authority. Number 976 MR. SWANSON mentioned the DNR Catalog of Alaska State Parks which lists all the parks and sites and the method they are managed under today. He identified some of the most popular ones, adding that Land and Water Conservation Funds and federal sport fish money have been used on these sites: Chena River, Harding Lake, Valdez Glacier, Worthington Glacier, Southcentral McHugh Creek, Clam Gulch, Kodiak's Buskin River, Inca River and Fort Abercrombie are under an ILMA. In Southeast Alaska, the Chilkoot Trail, the entire Juneau Trail system and Sitka's historical Totem Bight are all examples of parks that have been ILMA'd over to the Division of Parks to manage under Title 41 authority. Number 990 CO-CHAIRMAN GREEN noted the arrival of Representative Austerman and the presence of Representative Tom Brice. Number 1000 REPRESENTATIVE OGAN referred to the Denali State Park Master Plan and discussed the East boundary expansion adjacent to Indian River of approximately 470 acres. He asked what the term, "a more logical boundary means." MR. SWANSON agreed with Representative Ogan that the current boundary is the railroad tracks. He said the area along the river is a popular use area and the idea is to adjust the boundary right up to the river. DAN RITZMAN, Alaska Environmental Lobby, expressed concerns with HB 447. He said the Alaska Environmental Lobby is comprised of 22 member groups from around the state and participates in the many land use planning decisions that HB 447 seeks to circumvent. Developing a long range management plan should be a long detailed process involving representatives from all of the interested users groups and local and regional residents. Under current law, in regulations, the state land management agencies take very in-depth planning processes before classifying land use. MR. RITZMAN continued, a good example of this is the recent planning process for Denali State Park. That process lasted for over two years and had twelve public meetings, task force meetings, and, at least, three opportunities for written public comment to be submitted. MR. RITZMAN felt that HB 447 would take land classification responsibilities away from the professionals in the land management agencies, and make it a political decision in the hands of the legislature. He said the legislature does not have the time or the staff to conduct the long involved, public involvement processes necessary to make land classification decisions. He feels these decisions should remain in the hands of the professionals in the departments of natural resources and fish and game. Number 1300 CO-CHAIRMAN GREEN said the committee would hear from witnesses on the teleconference network. PATRICK PHILLIPS, member, Chugach State Park Citizens Advisory Board; officer and director, Alaska General Industries Inc., testified that an estimated 28,000 snowmobile owners reside in Anchorage. He said HB 447 is a splendid piece of legislation and is greatly needed. If this bill had been in place 15 years ago, perhaps 70 percent of Chugach State Park would not have become a wilderness sanctuary closed to winter motorized recreation. He asked the committee to consider adding language to restore snowmobile owners rights in those areas that have been taken away, and the right to recreational access on public lands. Number 1419 KEVIN HITE, Board of Directors, Anchorage Snowmobile Club, and Park Watch Coordinator, Chugach State Park, said he is testifying in support of HB 447 on behalf of the 700 members and families of the Anchorage Snowmobile Club. He said Anchorage is a prime example of an area that has been closed to recreational use with the slow incremental exclusion of access of a particular user group to public lands based on personal preferences. HB 447 will help stop the disenfranchisement of the snowmobile user group. Number 1523 MICK MANNS, Paradise Valley Mining and Golden Wilderness Recreation, testified on behalf of the recreational users and miners of the Brooks Range, Coldfoot and Bettles. He said the law needs to be clarified and HB 447 is a good place to start. Our concern is in active mining. We work with the snowmachiners and dog mushers in our area and mark the trails to keep them off of our airstrip and keep them away from areas of open cut. There should be language added to HB 447 that protects both the traditional users, and the miners, and the people who own private airstrips. Every winter individuals abuse that right; they run over runway markers and tear up mining claim markers in active mining areas. By staying on traditional trails, especially when there are open pit and drift shaft hazards, they can avoid injury to themselves and avoid liability to the state and to the miner. There should be something in law to penalize abusers. Number 1776 RANDY CROSBY, Sno-Action Alaska and (indisc.) Lake Lodge, testified in support of HB 447 saying that he is aware of many instances where land managers of the state have taken it upon themselves to reclassify land, and then restrict or prohibit the most common means of transportation used to reach these lands. For example, Blair Lake, about 15 miles north of Talkeetna. Until last year, this was a lake reasonably accessible only by airplane, in the summer. Through an ILMA, it is now classified as part of Denali State Park. The first thing park managers did was to propose prohibiting aircraft from landing there with the regulation change. When questioned on their actions, park managers said they were pursuing management objectives to protect the resources. History will show that aircraft have been landing there for decades and no harm has come to the resource as yet. The value of this lake and the surrounding land has decreased for most Alaska citizens as the reasonable access to it is now a signature away from being prohibited. He felt that HB 447 will allow citizens more control in the management of their land and take away the power of bureaucrats deciding what is best for us. Number 1905 LINNEA GREAVES, Far North Tours, testified in support of HB 447 saying that winter tourists look forward to snowmobiling and snow cap tours. She expressed concern that some recreational access will be limited. She asked the committee to look at extending its authority to Title 41. CO-CHAIRMAN GREEN announced that the committee had received written testimony from Roy C. Bowdre, Delta Junction, in support of HB 447. DANA OLSON, Amber Lake Homeowners Association, testified that HB 447 supersedes the land planning process and has the potential of constitutional challenges because it affects the equal opportunity to obtain state ownership. She believes that the public has the right to obtain land, but has a problem with a bill that affects the state's ability to do land planning and to dispose of land simply for recreational or subsistence uses. MS. OLSON said her property in Amber Lake includes a seismic trail with signs posted no trespassing. Keep Out. Still, there are snowmachine races down the trail destroying the fences, the shrubbery and the agricultural crop. She forewarned that the legislature will have a problem with enforcement. MS. OLSON felt that HB 447 is being generated by the self-interests of the bill's sponsor and the Talkeetna area. She said the proponents of HB 447 are very vocal about being involved in the land planning process, and recommended that these issues be addressed in the staff plan. Number 2141 DAVID ROGERS, Attorney, Lobbyist, Council of Alaska Producers and Echo Bay Alaska, testified that he is concerned about implications with respect to mining and other development projects. He said he would follow the progress of the bill. Number 2179 MR. STANCLIFF said it is not the sponsor's intention to thwart mining or development or private land ownership. The bill only involves decisions that are major, public access decisions. The planning processes can go on "ad infinitum," and this does not take away powers of planning. But, if HB 447 passes, the legislature would have a say in the matter. We have in statute protected access for mining. What has not happened is to balance the agenda with regard to recreation. MR. STANCLIFF said the DNR's comments were not exactly correct in that this bill is addressed to the commissioner's authority. In the case of Blair Lake, the commissioner's representative stated that if we wanted to get into parks, we needed to move from Title 38 to Title 41. Representative Masek started with Title 38 because land managers allowed the Division of Parks to extend 640 acres into general land management and shut off access. There is nothing to prevent this from happening. This bill would allow some protection for future development as it coincides with traditional access. He said the Senate version may be the vehicle that is used, but he asked the committee to consider moving HB 447. Number 2298 CO-CHAIRMAN GREEN clarified that HB 447 is an amendment to Title 38. He asked if the Senate version is the same. MR. STANCLIFF said the bills are identical, but more and more folks want to extend into the Department of Fish and Game land, who will block access; and they want to extend into Title 41, Division of Parks, because of winter tourism. The Alaska Visitors Association and the Alaska Tourism Marketing Council have listed "access" as a major part of their agenda. He said there are 54 million acres of federal wilderness in this state and access has been blocked on it. It is called national parks. MR. STANCLIFF reported that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is also in the process of blocking motorized access in all kinds of areas. The BLM has blocked access in recognition of archeological discoveries along the Denali Highway. What is left for Alaskan citizens really exists only on state lands. Number 2351 REPRESENTATIVE OGAN referred to the Jim Stratton memo and asked for clarification on ILMA's. He asked Mr. Stancliff if he feels the Department of Natural Resources is exceeding its intent. MR. STANCLIFF said the statutes cited in the memo make no reference to restricting access to state land. He said there have been 500 uses of this discretionary authority and the department has been asked to provide explanation of how they have affected access. Number 2437 REPRESENTATIVE OGAN asked Mr. Stancliff if he characterizes this action as an abuse of the ILMA process. MR. STANCLIFF said Representative Masek feels it is a blatant abuse of the process. Number 2447 REPRESENTATIVE OGAN asked if Representative Masek would consider a "friendly amendment" to include "horseback riding and packing" in the allowable means of traditional means of access? MR. STANCLIFF responded that would be considered a friendly amendment and said another friendly amendment would include "recreational mining." It is not limited to those....end Side A. TAPE 96-12, SIDE B Number 000 CO-CHAIRMAN GREEN referenced earlier testimony from witnesses concerned about mining and safety issues. He asked if the sponsor would consider an amendment to include the posting of notices. MR. STANCLIFF said that would be considered a friendly amendment. When the state parcels out land disposals or mining claims and they are across a trail that has been used for forty years, there is going to be conflict. Proper marking and a provision in the legislation that says it does not authorize unacceptable incursions into private land or development lands would be proper. Number 057 CO-CHAIRMAN GREEN discussed with Mr. Stancliff whether the sponsor would prefer that the bill be amended in the Resources Committee or the House Finance Committee. MR. STANCLIFF indicated that the Senate version will probably be the version that is passed. He recommended that the committee pass HB 447 out of committee with the attached friendly amendments. Number 106 REPRESENTATIVE OGAN moved to pass HB 447 out of the Resources Committee with individual recommendations and attached fiscal note. REPRESENTATIVE ALAN AUSTERMAN objected, advising the committee not to pass the bill until the committee's amendments are incorporated. He stated that the committee may not like the Senate version, and said he wants to further research Title 41. Number 161 REPRESENTATIVE OGAN concurred with Representative Austerman and withdrew his motion. Number 200 CO-CHAIRMAN GREEN appointed a subcommittee for HB 447 comprised of Representative Nicholia, Co-Chairman Williams and Representative Ogan, chair. CO-CHAIRMAN GREEN brought HB 439 before the House Resources Committee.