Legislature(2005 - 2006)BUTROVICH 205

04/08/2005 03:30 PM RESOURCES

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Heard & Held
Heard & Held
-- Testimony <Invitation Only> --
         SB  85-OFF-ROAD VEHICLE USE ON DALTON HIGHWAY                                                                      
CHAIR  THOMAS   WAGONER  announced   that  SB   85  was   up  for                                                               
3:37:54 PM                                                                                                                    
JACK REAKOFF,  Wiseman resident, said  he has been a  trapper and                                                               
tour  guide since  the 1970s.  He  said that  moose, caribou  and                                                               
sheep populations  in the area  are already heavily  harvested by                                                               
wolves and  bears as well as  humans and opening the  area to ATV                                                               
use  would further  stress  these populations.  He  said that  an                                                               
agreement was  made that this  area would be  managed differently                                                               
than other  areas in Alaska;  ATV restrictions were part  of that                                                               
agreement. Game  populations in northern Alaska  are low density;                                                               
winters are long  and more severe. Growing  seasons are typically                                                               
one to two months shorter than in the rest of Alaska.                                                                           
3:40:45 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR WAGONER  remarked that Mr.  Reakoff said  something about                                                               
an  agreement,  but his  staff  has  been searching  through  the                                                               
records since  hearings were started  on this bill and  could not                                                               
find  a copy  of any  agreement made  by the  state of  Alaska or                                                               
anyone else.  He asked him to  bring him a copy  of the agreement                                                               
he was talking about.                                                                                                           
MR. REAKOFF responded that he didn't  have one, but he would look                                                               
for one. He thought they were mostly oral agreements.                                                                           
3:42:04 PM                                                                                                                    
RAY BANE  said he is a  longtime resident of the  Alaska Pipeline                                                               
Corridor. The  overwhelming consensus of research  on the impacts                                                               
of ATV access indicates that  it causes significant environmental                                                               
damage.  The  Alaska Department  of  Fish  and Game  (ADF&G)  and                                                               
independent environmental scientists  concur with these findings.                                                               
Impacts  include  degraded  habitat, reduced  water  quality  and                                                               
stress on wildlife.                                                                                                             
     Permafrost   lands  like   those  along   the  pipeline                                                                    
     corridor are  particularly prone to severe  ATV damage.                                                                    
     Without  sufficient  ground  frost  and  adequate  snow                                                                    
     cover,  the  fragile  vegetation mass  is  crushed  and                                                                    
     abraded and entire hillsides can become destabilized.                                                                      
He said  that ATV trails  are quickly eroded because  ATV drivers                                                               
are  forced to  use the  margins  on such  trails thus  expanding                                                               
damage done  to them. The  Dalton Highway  has been a  model area                                                               
for environmental stewardship.                                                                                                  
3:44:52 PM                                                                                                                    
DR.  SYNDONIA  BRET  HARTE, Associate  Science  Director,  Toolik                                                               
Research Station,  University of Alaska Fairbanks,  said that the                                                               
station is located in the  Dalton Highway Corridor at Mile 284.5.                                                               
It is  a well-funded facility  for Arctic research studies.   She                                                               
said that current environmental  conditions are important for the                                                               
viability of many  studies conducted through the  station and ATV                                                               
use  could  destabilize  the environment  around  it.  She  cited                                                               
concern  for the  enforcement of  restrictions due  to inadequate                                                               
law enforcement personnel and funding.                                                                                          
SENATOR RALPH  SEEKINS asked if  she attended the meeting  he had                                                               
at the Toolik Research Station.                                                                                                 
DR.   HARTE  replied   that  she   remembers  meeting   with  him                                                               
3:48:12 PM                                                                                                                    
IAN HARRIOTT, University of Alaska  Fairbanks student, opposed SB
85.   He  said that  hunting is  possible and  popular along  the                                                               
Dalton Highway and that allowing  ATV use there would degrade the                                                               
environment and chase off animals.                                                                                              
3:50:49 PM                                                                                                                    
JIM SACKETT,  Fairbanks, supported  SB 85 and  referenced Senator                                                               
Seekins' article  in the  Daily News Miner  that stated  his case                                                               
very  nicely. He  wanted his  kids to  be able  to explore  areas                                                               
along the Dalton Highway.                                                                                                       
3:52:03 PM                                                                                                                    
TERRY REICHARDT, Fairbanks, said that  she has hunted for caribou                                                               
in the area  since 1972 and hunting has change  a lot since then.                                                               
She thought  it was  because of  the increasing  human population                                                               
and resulting increased demand for  the resource. She could think                                                               
of no areas accessible to caribou  by road and stated her concern                                                               
that  lifting the  ATV  ban would  cause the  game  to move  even                                                               
farther away  from the road thus  making ATV use a  necessity for                                                               
hunting.  She suggested  opening  the corridor  to rifle  hunting                                                               
instead of ATV use.                                                                                                             
3:54:14 PM                                                                                                                    
CHARLES  DERRICK,  Fairbanks,  supported  SB  85  and  said  that                                                               
closing  the corridor  to  ATVs  for the  benefit  of hunters  is                                                               
unfair.   He suggested  restricting certain  areas of  the Dalton                                                               
corridor  to walk-in  hunting while  opening other  areas to  ATV                                                               
use. He thought Toolik Lake would  be a nice recreation area, but                                                               
the research  at the station  should be protected. He  thought it                                                               
should  have   been  established  within  the   park  area  where                                                               
conflicts like  this would not  occur. Plenty of parks  have been                                                               
established within Alaska  where ATV use is  prohibited and there                                                               
is no reason the Dalton Highway corridor should be closed.                                                                      
SENATOR WAGONER said that there  has been a verbal agreement that                                                               
the  research  center at  Toolik  Lake  would be  protected.  BLM                                                               
supports that  also and the  committee would write  sideboards if                                                               
the bill passes and Senator Seekins agrees with that.                                                                           
WAYNE HEIMER,  Fairbanks, supported  SB 85  saying that  it opens                                                               
the Dalton Highway  corridor to planning and  thinking. He worked                                                               
with  the ADF&G  throughout the  pipeline planning,  building and                                                               
monitoring phases. His area of  expertise was Dall sheep. He said                                                               
that Dr.  David Kline, while  a distinguished scientific  icon at                                                               
the University, is  out of touch with much  of recently published                                                               
materials on animal responses to  vehicular disturbance. When the                                                               
pipeline  was built  people didn't  know  how animal  populations                                                               
would  be  affected  and   therefore  restrictive  measures  were                                                               
passed. He likened them to  the controversy heard over passage of                                                               
the Patriot  Act. He  thought good  planning and  protections for                                                               
the Dalton Corridor would be needed  and could be managed for the                                                               
maximum benefit of all users.                                                                                                   
3:59:18 PM                                                                                                                    
DAVID STELLER,  North Pole,  said that this  bill in  itself does                                                               
not change hunting regulations in the  area and the Board of Game                                                               
would  still regulate  the area.  Hunting  regulations still  say                                                               
that  no motorized  vehicles can  be  used to  assist hunters  in                                                               
their  excursions.  Hunting  with firearms  within  the  corridor                                                               
would still be prohibited under a separate statute.                                                                             
     There's  millions of  acres of  public  land along  the                                                                    
     Dalton Highway  corridor that  belong to  all residents                                                                    
     of  the  state  and,  in fact,  there's  millions  that                                                                    
     belong  to  all residents  of  the  entire country.  It                                                                    
     doesn't seem  right to  have this  restriction limiting                                                                    
     the use by the people that actually own it.                                                                                
SB 85 would  only allow hunters to use their  ATVs outside of the                                                               
corridor and he supported it.                                                                                                   
4:01:08 PM                                                                                                                    
GAR PESSEL,  Fairbanks, said  he is a  retired geologist  and has                                                               
worked  for many  years with  both industry  and government.  His                                                               
main concern with  SB 85 is that ATV access  will cause increased                                                               
damage to the corridor.  He  said that ATV's have "thrashed" many                                                               
areas in  the state and would  probably do similar damage  to the                                                               
Dalton Corridor.  He said  that industry is prohibited from using                                                               
heavy  equipment in  the  Dalton  area and  ATV  users should  be                                                               
similarly restricted.  He has  hunted in the  Eureka area  and is                                                               
familiar  with the  game  there. He  has  watched everywhere  the                                                               
vehicles can reach and:                                                                                                         
     The  game  gets  shot  out.... It's  like  a  hoard  of                                                                    
     locusts  in  terms  of  running the  game  out  of  the                                                                    
     country -  wherever they can  reach. They've  created a                                                                    
     network  of mud  holes and  muddy trails  to the  point                                                                    
     where I've  even had  some of  them complain  that it's                                                                    
     too  much trouble  pulling each  other out  of the  mud                                                                    
     holes and  they'd like to  be followed if they  had the                                                                    
     money to do it."                                                                                                           
4:04:28 PM                                                                                                                    
FLORIAN SEVER, Sitka, said that  state laws governing ATV use are                                                               
similar to the  federal laws the govern most of  the lands in his                                                               
area. Over the last 12 years  he used a photo service to document                                                               
numerous  instances of  extensive resource  damage that  has been                                                               
caused by ATVs going off of  the existing road systems on Kruzoff                                                               
     The federal  policy is that  the forest is open  to ATV                                                                    
     use as long  as no resource damage takes  place. I have                                                                    
     found  by   my  observations   that  it   is  virtually                                                                    
     impossible  for ATVs  to operate  off  the road  system                                                                    
     without causing  resource damage. This  resource damage                                                                    
     is  often  irreparable.  Wetlands have  a  tendency  to                                                                    
     channelize; they  turn into ponds. They  actually alter                                                                    
     the ecosystem of a wetland.  It changes the nature of a                                                                    
     bog to  a series of  ponds where the remaining  area is                                                                    
     changed forever. Again, I am against SB 85.                                                                                
He stated that no  matter what kind of limits are  put on the ATV                                                               
use on paper, there will always  be those people who want to push                                                               
the edge of the  envelope, so to speak, to always  try to get out                                                               
to places  where nobody else  has been before with  disregard for                                                               
regulations.   He  also pointed  out that  there wouldn't  be any                                                               
funds to remediate  any of the damage. He  referred the committee                                                               
to  Karen  Waters  of  the  Sitka  Rangers  for  photographs  and                                                               
comments he has provided her.                                                                                                   
4:06:18 PM                                                                                                                    
GARVIN BUCARIA, Mat-Su  Valley, said he is  a former professional                                                               
fisheries  biologist and  opposed  SB  85. He  said  it has  been                                                               
demonstrated that  ATV use causes  irreparable damage  to tundra.                                                               
He  said  that the  system  in  place  works  now and  should  be                                                               
maintained.  He remarked  that Alaskans  cannot afford  to damage                                                               
what  has taken  thousands of  years to  generate and  is already                                                               
subject to the effects of warming and climate change.                                                                           
4:08:55 PM                                                                                                                    
KRISTIN  SMITH,   Executive  Director,  Copper   River  Watershed                                                               
Project, Cordova, opposed SB 85. She  noted it has no fiscal note                                                               
and there  is no  definition of  ORV. It  could allow  Humvees or                                                               
anything like that.  However, she is most concerned  that ATV use                                                               
will conflict with preservation of  fish and wildlife habitat and                                                               
its  destruction of  habitat is  well  documented throughout  the                                                               
GEOFF  CARROL,  Alaska  Department   of  Fish  and  Game  (ADF&G)                                                               
biologist  for  Unit  26A,  Barrow,   opposed  SB  85.  It  would                                                               
negatively  affect the  state's credibility  since it  has broken                                                               
several  promises  concerning  the  preservation  of  the  Dalton                                                               
4:12:54 PM                                                                                                                    
He  said that  passing SB  85 would  greatly disrupt  hunting and                                                               
would cause  significant competition between  subsistence hunters                                                               
and recreational  hunters in  the area.   The caribou  there have                                                               
already been  disrupted by human  activity and passing  this bill                                                               
would create even  a greater disruption. He  agreed with previous                                                               
testimony  that  SB  85  would create  an  increased  demand  for                                                               
enforcement and consequently of  enforcement funds, which are not                                                               
even mentioned.                                                                                                                 
4:15:17 PM                                                                                                                    
JOSHUA BACON,  Barrow, said he  uses the Dalton  Highway corridor                                                               
with his  father annually to  harvest caribou and opposed  SB 85.                                                               
ATV  restrictions keep  the experience  challenging and  create a                                                               
high  quality  hunting  experience.  The  Steese  and  Richardson                                                               
Highways are  already open to ATV  access.  He said  that lifting                                                               
ATV restriction  would cause increased  human activity  along the                                                               
corridor;  it would  increase  road dust  and  require more  road                                                               
maintenance. It would  disrupt wildlife in the  area and increase                                                               
demands for  enforcement that would require  state funding, which                                                               
is not provided.                                                                                                                
BRIAN  PEARSON, Department  of Wildlife  Management, North  Slope                                                               
Borough, opposed SB  85 because of negative impacts  from ATV use                                                               
to  the subsistence  harvest of  caribou and  furbearers and  the                                                               
damage  to tundra,  wetlands and  riparian systems.  He was  also                                                               
concerned about its impacts to  the ongoing experiments at Toolik                                                               
Lake Research  Station and that enforcement  would need increased                                                               
He informed the committee that  increased access along the Dalton                                                               
Highway would result in increased  pressure on the Central Arctic                                                               
and  Teshekpuk  caribou  herds. He  remarked  that  residents  of                                                               
Anaktuvuk Pass have diets that are  up to 85 percent dependent on                                                               
caribou products.                                                                                                               
4:21:51 PM                                                                                                                    
TAQULIK HEPA  said works for  the North Slope  Borough Department                                                               
of  Wildlife Management  and opposed  SB 85  because of  what its                                                               
impacts  would  be  on  subsistence users.  One  of  her  primary                                                               
responsibilities  has been  to record  a  project that  documents                                                               
subsistence-harvested  resources and  its importance  to each  of                                                               
the eight North Slope communities, especially Anaktuvuk Pass.                                                                   
     There is no doubt with  the passing of this bill, there                                                                    
     will be  a dramatic  increase in  the number  of people                                                                    
     who use the  Dalton Highway, either for  hunting or for                                                                    
     recreational uses  and will provide an  opportunity for                                                                    
     easy  access  to  areas  that   are  important  to  the                                                                    
     residents of the North  Slope for subsistence purposes.                                                                    
     There is bound  to be an increase  in conflicts between                                                                    
     subsistence hunters and sport hunters.                                                                                     
She  said revoking  the  ATV  ban will  affect  the migration  of                                                               
caribou and will  thus have a great impact on  the food supply of                                                               
the residents of Anaktuvuk pass. Further she said:                                                                              
     Under the state system, most  of the North Slope's game                                                                    
     management area  26 is managed under  the Barrow office                                                                    
     in Barrow and regulations for  that area are made up at                                                                    
     the Region 5 Board of  Game meeting. However Units 26 B                                                                    
     and C, including the Dalton  Highway, is managed out of                                                                    
     Fairbanks  and people  from Fairbanks  will have  ready                                                                    
     access  to  managers  for  their  area  and  have  more                                                                    
     influence   on   decisions   that   are   made   there.                                                                    
     Regulations for 26  B and C made at the  Region C Board                                                                    
     of  Game meetings,  which are...almost  always held  in                                                                    
     Fairbanks -  and that  would make  it easier  for those                                                                    
     people  to  attend....  It   is  unfortunate  that  the                                                                    
     management  decisions   for  26   B  will   be  heavily                                                                    
     influenced by the people from  Fairbanks that will have                                                                    
     more access to wildlife managers.                                                                                          
Currently, there is no state  advisory council on the North Slope                                                               
she said,  although it has asked  the state to create  one there.                                                               
That request was declined.                                                                                                      
4:25:12 PM                                                                                                                    
MARK LUTRELL, Seward, opposed SB 85.  He claimed that the bill is                                                               
short-sighted and that revoking the  ATV ban will cause extensive                                                               
ecological damage to the environment and wildlife.                                                                              
     There's poaching;  there's trash  - all the  bad habits                                                                    
     of humans  - extensive ecological damage  like erosion,                                                                    
     decreased water quality, decreased  fishery habitat - a                                                                    
     waste  of mud  holes. You  know the  oil industry  when                                                                    
     they  do run  over  tundra, they  are  required to  use                                                                    
     Rollagons   and  that's   also  very   regulated.  They                                                                    
     understand that the tundra is sensitive.                                                                                   
     SB  85 also  has  management problems.  There's no  law                                                                    
     enforcement out  there; there's no money  for increased                                                                    
     law  enforcement.   There's  no  money   for  increased                                                                    
     biological monitoring;  there's no  money for  plans or                                                                    
     management. SB 85 will lead to unregulated ORV use....                                                                     
4:28:27 PM                                                                                                                    
BRITT  CONSTANTINE,  Alaska   Conservation  Alliance  and  Alaska                                                               
Conservation Voters, stated that she  has personally lived in and                                                               
studied  the Dalton  Highway Corridor  area. In  2001 she  did an                                                               
archeological survey  for the natural  gas line route  and walked                                                               
most of  the distance between Atigan  Pass and the South  Fork of                                                               
the  Koyukuk River.  She walked  7  to 10  miles per  day and  it                                                               
wasn't that hard to do.                                                                                                         
     I don't see why people need  to have ATVs to visit this                                                                    
     area. Part of its beauty is  that it is remote and that                                                                    
     it  is quiet  and there  is no  motorized access.  It's                                                                    
     very  unique  in that  way.  I  just really  think  the                                                                    
     Arctic is a  very special place. It  truly is different                                                                    
     than the rest  of the state and it needs  to be treated                                                                    
     differently  by our  regulations and  by our  laws. All                                                                    
     terrain   vehicles   are   so   damaging   to   tundra,                                                                    
     specifically,  that  they  need   to  be  more  heavily                                                                    
     regulated in areas where there are tundra period....                                                                       
She  said  she  didn't  see  any fiscal  note  that  would  cover                                                               
regulations that would  have to be developed to cover  the use of                                                               
CHAIR  WAGONER  interrupted to  say  that  the  Arctic is  not  a                                                               
portion of the corridor they are talking about.                                                                                 
MS. CONSTANTINE explained  that the gates of the  Arctic Park are                                                               
easily accessible from the Dalton Highway.                                                                                      
     Just because this ban only  refers to five miles around                                                                    
     the  Highway,  that doesn't  mean  that's  all that  it                                                                    
     covers, because you get on  a snow machine in this kind                                                                    
     of country,  you can  go literally  forever if  you had                                                                    
     enough  fuel and  supplies. It's  that flat.  The hills                                                                    
     are gentle and rolling....                                                                                                 
     It only takes  one tire track to  strip this insulating                                                                    
     moss  layer, which  exposes dark  soil.  The dark  soil                                                                    
     absorbs   additional  sunlight   that   heats  up   the                                                                    
     permafrost  and melts  it -  creating a  shorter depth.                                                                    
     This creates a drainage  ditch, in essence, along which                                                                    
     water can drain  and funnel. If there is  even a slight                                                                    
     incline, as  there is in  most surfaces, a  single tire                                                                    
     track  can   eventually  drain   and  turn   an  entire                                                                    
     hillside...into   dry  shrubby   heath.  This   can  be                                                                    
     permanent. So,  this bill  can be  very damaging  and I                                                                    
     oppose it.                                                                                                                 
4:33:35 PM                                                                                                                    
PETE KELLY, University of Alaska,  said someone earlier said that                                                               
the  University opposed  the bill,  but he  is not  aware of  any                                                               
motion from the  Board of Regents, the President or  his staff to                                                               
support  or  oppose the  bill.  The  Institute of  Artic  Biology                                                               
enjoys a large degree of autonomy  and he said he could not speak                                                               
for its departments.                                                                                                            
SENATOR SEEKINS said  he has talked to the land  use planners who                                                               
say there  is no intent  for anybody to rip  up the land  with an                                                               
off-road vehicle.  He finds it  amazing that many  people believe                                                               
that  the revocation  of  a blanket  permit  would allow  rampant                                                               
misuse and  extensive damage  to the land.  He remarked  that the                                                               
last paragraph of  the letter of intent says that  if one year is                                                               
not   sufficient  to   address   peoples'   concerns,  then   the                                                               
legislature  would convene  in a  special session  to extend  the                                                               
4:38:09 PM                                                                                                                    
He said that  it is interesting that Alaska has  a state law that                                                               
prohibits  access to  federal lands  on 180  miles of  road.   He                                                               
didn't  know of  anywhere  else where  that  exists. Further,  he                                                               
stated that  the Bureau of Land  Management has a good  record of                                                               
being able  to put land  use plans into  effect and it  would not                                                               
allow people to run rampant over the lands.                                                                                     
4:39:36 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  WAGONER  said that  Senator  Seekins  had agreed  to  hold                                                               
additional  public hearings  over  the summer  in the  Fairbanks,                                                               
Cold Foot and Barrow regarding this bill.                                                                                       
SENATOR SEEKINS  said he  would take  personal offence  if anyone                                                               
suggests that  he is trying  to allow  unfettered use of  ATVs on                                                               
public land.                                                                                                                    

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