The heliski map committee made a decision on one proposed amendment Tuesday. It was a unanimous vote, although one of the committee members was excluded.
Of the eight proposed map changes on the committee’s agenda, three were discussed. Of those three, they voted on one. Sean Brownell, who represents the heliski industry on the committee, explained a complication with the area in question.
“S1 is BLM land and it’s included in the BLM map for heliskiing,” said Brownell. “And I don’t know that the borough can manage BLM lands so I would say that the BLM lands that are open for heliskiing should be managed by BLM and open.”
Southeast Alaska Backcountry Adventures owner and committee member Scott Sundberg proposed the change.
“Last year there was some confusion, we submitted our days, we had landings in here,” said Sundberg. “The borough said ‘hey you’re out of boundary.’ But BLM said ‘no you’re not because we permit them to do that.’”
Heliski operators receive a separate permit to ski BLM land, and they are limited to 100 landings per operator. Brownell said that doesn’t amount to much use.
“Which, to make it clear, really represents three or four days of heliskiing a season,” said Brownell. “It looks like a large area but we barely touch it.”
Committee member Lori Smith, who holds one of the resident chairs, made a motion to take the area off the map all together, since it’s a borough map but they don’t actually manage that land. But Meredith Pochardt, who holds the conservation seat, suggested including it anyway, clearly marked as BLM land.
“I don’t see the big deal whether it’s on the map or not on the map,” said Pochardt. “You’re already permitted to go there and ski it so it’s not like we’re deciding whether you can go there and ski there.”
Committee chair Ron Jackson said he’d like to work more with BLM to determine if they have concerns in the area. For now, the group voted unanimously to keep it on the map, and as Pochardt suggested, make it clear that it’s BLM land.
Sundberg did not participate in the vote. That’s because of the borough attorney’s opinion that he should recuse himself from voting on map changes that he proposed.
Sundberg said he doesn’t care if he can’t vote on his proposals, he just wants to be part of the discussion about them.
The committee also talked about two map changes proposed by Alaska Heliskiing but chose to hold off on voting until the map accurately reflects what they are looking for. One of those changes would remove a ridgetop area that has already been approved to add more land to the bottom of the run, allowing them to better avoid avalanches, according to Brownell. He suggested the compromise to appease residents who have concerns about heliksiing in the area.
The other proposal would amend the map to allow access to peaks that Brownell believes weren’t included because of an oversight.
The next meeting is on Thursday at 5 p.m. in the Haines library. Map amendment requests can be viewed on the borough website. The committee’s recommendation is due to the borough manager at the end of the month.