Citizens Challenge State Day-Use Policy in Court
A lawsuit filed today charges that the State has failed to adequately prevent harm to its land, wildlife, and citizens due to an illegally adopted policy governing "generally allowed" uses of State land. The suit, filed by attorneys with Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund on behalf of Lynn Canal Conservation (LCC), Friends of Glacier Point (FOGP), and the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council (SEACC) contends that the policy is illegal because it failed to undergo the public rule-making process as required by state law.
"DNR's day-use policy lets tour operators bring in as many customers as they like, without permits, user fees, or stipulations to minimize impacts to public resources," said Tom Waldo, the Earthjustice attorney who filed the suit. "Some great places are being overrun, and it's the Alaska residents who suffer."
Under the current state policy, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) maintains a list of "Generally Allowed Uses on state Land," which, among other things, allows commercial recreational use of State lands on a day-use basis without a permit. The lawsuit contends that the uses list is a "regulation" under state law, which requires a public rule making process.
One operator who has taken advantage of the day-use loophole is Chilkat Guides, who flew in nearly 10,000 cruise ship passengers this summer to Glacier Point, in the Haines State Forest, for what is billed as a "Wilderness Safari." With as many as 116 takeoffs and landings per day, the crowds and substantial airplane noise have displaced local recreational users and wildlife. Although DNR issued a permit to Chilkat Guides for overnight storage of four canoes on state land, the agency determined that no other permit was necessary for the operation, citing that rest of the operation is covered under the "Generally Allowed Uses" list.
"The day-use policy has failed the people of Haines," stated Matthew Davidson of SEACC. "The Glacier Point area was once a popular place for the people of Haines to visit. It is time for DNR prevent similar conflicts across the state by crafting a publicly reviewed policy that addresses the true impact of these operations through reasonable permitting requirements."
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