How should the Haines Borough make changes to where local heliski companies can operate? That question has been on the table for several months. Now, the assembly commerce committee has an idea that would eliminate the group that currently works through proposed amendments.
The most recent heliski map committee was overcome by a couple issues. One, the two permit holders who submitted map changes sat on the committee, raising questions about conflicts of interest. Two, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game is still working on wildlife studies in the area.
The committee worked for a few months at the end of last year and submitted recommendations to the manager. The manager then made his recommendations to the assembly. But the assembly put the process on hold, voting to postpone making any changes until at least the summer. That’s when more information is expected to be available from Fish and Game. They also plan to have a new vetting process in place.
The assembly sent questions about changing the makeup of the committee, and whether it should even exist, to the commerce committee. On Monday, that group said maybe the map committee shouldn’t exist.
Assembly members Margaret Friedenauer and Tresham Gregg were present on the commerce committee. Ron Jackson and Tom Morphet sat with the public.
Here’s what they came up with. First, map amendment proposals would be filtered for wildlife concerns, based on data from Fish and Game and standards set by the Northern Wild Sheep and Goat Council. That would be done by borough staff. Then, the proposals would go separately to the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee and the Tourism Advisory Board. Those groups would evaluate the changes for commerce and backcountry user conflicts and make their recommendations to the assembly.
Essentially, the borough would use two existing advisory boards and staff to scrutinize map proposals.
The group will bring this idea back to the assembly. If they agree with it, the committee will draw up an ordinance to implement the changes. It could be tested this summer if the ordinance is passed and the Fish and Game studies are complete.