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Show the Chugach your love

Action needed by 20, 2013


How many adventures have you had in the Chugach National Forest?  From skiing to hiking to fishing to kayaking, the list goes on and on.  It’s easy to fall in love with the Chugach National Forest, and now is your chance to show that love by attending a public hearing on its future management.  

The U.S. Forest Service is revising their management plan for the forest, and it’s our job to make sure we protect the forest so families can continue to enjoy the Chugach into the future.  Will you attend this public hearing to make sure the Forest Service is headed in the right direction?  

With over 5 million acres, it is surprising that not one single acre of the forest is permanently protected as designated Wilderness.  However, this is our chance to urge the Forest Service to make a Wilderness recommendation for the Nellie Juan-College Fjord Wilderness Study Area, our country’s largest Wilderness Study Area encompassing the Copper River Delta wetlands and other areas in the Prince William Sound.

Protecting the Nellie Juan-College Fjord Wilderness Study Area will ensure the benefits we experience day will be afforded to our children.  First-class salmon habitat, a thriving tourist economy in the Sound, and unspoiled wilderness are all reasons to make this wilderness recommendation a reality.

Take Action:

If you can't make the meeting, you can email comments to: chugachplanrevision@fs.fed.us

Attend a hearing:

Rescheduled Planning Meetings for November 2014

  • Girdwood & Whittier combo meeting:  Wednesday November 13, 6:00-9:00 pm @ Girdwood Community Center
  • Anchorage: Wednesday, November 20, 6:00-9:00 pm @ Chugach National Forest Office, 161 E 1st Avenue, Door 8, Anchorage, AK 99501

More Information:

The U.S. Forest Service's website is here, at Chugach National Forest.

 

Talking Points about Wilderness within the Chugach National Forest:

The only Wilderness Study Area in the Chugach National Forest is known as the Nellie Juan-College Fjord Wilderness Study Area.

The legislative history of ANILCA shows the Nellie Juan-College Fjord Wilderness Study Area (WSA) has been valued for its wilderness character since at least the mid-seventies. Congress affirmed this in 1980 (ANILCA). USFS affirmed it in the 1984 Forest Plan, which to this day directs the service to manage entire WSA for its wilderness character.

As development and motorized uses continue expanding elsewhere on Chugach National Forest (CNF), especially on the Kenai Peninsula, it heightens the need to dedicate an area of CNF to wilderness preservation for public values and interests.

The new USFS planning rule proposed directives, Chapter 70, indicate the CNF Forest Plan Revision will have to include a wilderness assessment, and any recommendation for lands to be included in the National Wilderness Preservation System must be presented in a wilderness recommendation to Congress.

We have requested the CNF produce a new wilderness recommendation to Congress and take into consideration changes since 2002. The changes merit recommending much of the WSA for continued wilderness protection.

Wilderness character is a CNF resource as important as timber, scenery, minerals, wildlife, clean air and other resources. Examples:

  • Economic: businesses in Whittier, Valdez, and Cordova rely on the area’s wilderness character for kayak tours, boat tours, hunting/fishing tours, photography tours, water taxis, flightseeing, and large cruise ship tours, plus commercial salmon fishing. 
  • Ecological: carbon sequestration, wildlife habitat, salmon habitat, the value of undeveloped forests to marine mammals. 
  • Cultural: Alaskans and their visitors have come to expect, rely on, and value the fact that the entire WSA is managed for wilderness character. They seek opportunities for undeveloped nature, remoteness, challenge, solitude, education, heritage resources, all values described in the 1964 Wilderness Act and CNF policy for the WSA.  These values are already apparent in the Forest Plan Revision process, where recent public forums have shown strong wilderness values for wsa and expressed desire not to change management of the area (see meeting notes posted online).

But although public expresses desire for no change in WSA management, current (2002) wilderness recommendation would lead to significant management change. Whereas current direction is to manage entire WSA for wilderness character, 2002 recommendation would remove wilderness protection of large areas, including upper Columbia Bay, Glacier Island, Knight Island, Nellie Juan Lake, Port Wells, Esther Island, and the mainland between Port Nellie Juan and Icy Bay. Each of these areas is highly valued for wilderness character:

Columbia Bay: Upper Columbia Glacier drainage currently not recommended as wilderness to “allow for helicopter skiing and hiking in vicinity of Valdez” (ROD, 17). The 2002 Plan could not have foreseen the dramatic recession of Columbia Glacier and how that would enhance the area for wilderness character. In 2002 the area excluded from wilderness recommendation was remote ice and rock. But today it is opening up into a vast marine and terrestrial area highly valued as wilderness by tour operators, researchers, educators, and Alaskans. It is one of the Earth’s most rapidly changing landscapes. It is a classroom for climate education and research. Removing the current wilderness protection for the benefit of a comparatively small number of visitors accessing by helicopter would be a disservice to the greater number of people using/valuing the area for its wilderness character. It is arguably the most remote, best wilderness character in the entire WSA, with another 10 km of ice predicted to open in the next decade. This is a valued area for science, education, recreation, solitude, adventure, connecting young people to nature.

 

Glacier Island: Not currently recommended as wilderness because of value of subsistence uses (ROD, 17).

  • The justification is difficult to understand because all customary and traditional subsistence uses in lands designated as wilderness are protected by Title VIII of ANILCA. 
  • Not only is subsistence in wilderness protected by ANILCA, but wilderness character benefits subsistence by protecting the undeveloped landscapes and fish and wildlife habitat beneficial to subsistence.  
  • Glacier Island has been managed as wilderness since 1984, with no apparent detrimental impacts to subsistence uses. 
  • Finally, the Native Corporations already own Heather Bay and part of Glacier Island, areas open to development. This heightens the value of continuing to protect the adjacent lands as wilderness for current and future public interest.

Knight Island: not protected because of mineral potential, current mineral rights, and private lands.

  • ANILCA protects all existing mineral rights in wilderness.
  • ANILCA protects all reasonable access to private lands adjacent to wilderness.
  • Knight Island has been valued for wilderness character at least since early seventies. It’s been managed for wilderness character since 1984. Why are we protecting mineral potential there when it’s already so highly valued as wilderness? No new mineral interest there for decades. And mineral activity is allowed on nearly the entire CNF outside the WSA. 

Mainland b/w Nellie Juan and Icy Bay: not currently recommended as wilderness because of hatchery and set-net activity.

  • Agreed that Main Bay Hatchery and set-netting community are incompatible with wilderness, but the area excluded from wilderness recommendation is far too big. Much land currently managed as wilderness and with high wilderness value would be excluded, when all that needs to be excluded is the area immediately around Main Bay. 

Nellie Juan Lake: all CNF lands in Nellie Juan area are currently protected as wilderness, currently valued as wilderness, and should be recommended as wilderness.  

Lands close to Whittier: Lands in a “day use radius” of Whittier were excluded from 2002 recommendation in anticipation of tourism growth and associated need/desire for development of tourism infrastructure/opportunities (ROD, 17). 

  • Makes sense to exclude WSA lands closest to WHT, but not as much as 2002 plan recommends. Excluded lands do not need to extend all the way to Harriman Fiord, Perry Island, Esther Island, Cochrane Bay, all the way to southern Culross Island. 
  • These areas were excluded for the benefit of tourism growth, yet the thriving tourism businesses in Whittier show that the current management of the area for wilderness character is great for business. Allowing development in these areas would only degrade their wilderness character and push businesses and visitors to more remote parts of the WSA, causing more widespread degradation of wilderness character. 

Finally, the USFS has a history of decisions in the WSA that have degraded wilderness character, including constructing the hatcheries and the Naked Island Communication Site and allowing OHV use in Kings River for recreational mining. In addition, land transfers to state parks and corporations have opened large parts of western PWS to development and motorized uses. These trends heighten the current and future values of the WSA lands for wilderness character to satisfy USFS multiple-use principles and the public interest. 

     
     

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