A few of you know that I was asked and accepted a board member position on the APH (Alaskans for the Palmer Hay flats). My reasoning here is that they are a very large and active group working for improvements of the Hay flats, and that we, as duck hunters, need more of a voice in the direction they are going. While there are a number of hunters in their organization, and several other hunters on the board, I did not see much priority for hunting activities in their direction.
Many of us are not fully in favor of what we see happening. They are discussing and planning larger parking lots, more board walks, viewing towers for birdwatchers, nature centers similar to what is in Eagle River, and much more. And what is more, they have the political power to get grants and other support to mobilize these plans for the future.
One of our board members made a contact recently while checking out the new bridge at Cottonwood Creek. Julie, the “goose lady” as she is known to many, started hunting the flats with her father in the “50’s” she became and worked as a biologist throughout her life, and still spends 30+ days each fall hunting on the flats. Duck hunting is her passion, as it is ours. I am attaching a portion of a letter she sent to the APH board representing her views, which I agree with fully. I too agree that we are heading towards “development” of the hay flats, rather than protection and safekeeping of what was once a Alaskan Wilderness area.
”So, the moment has come....We Are Loving the Hay-Flats to Death! Over ACCESSIBILITY IS KILLING THE REFUGE!
I long for the foraging of Cottonwood Creek at low tide, the heart beat of the marsh before the advent of the bridge.
I long for the days for the walk along Cottonwood Creek before the scars of ATV's and plastic tracks and neon trail markers.
I long for the lost Marsh, that is now displaced with damage and lack of regard.
I long for limited parking at Rabbit Slough and Cottonwood Ck. parking; when is enough- enough.
I long for the narrow rutted roads that offer adventure and make us feel alive.
I long for the Child that once was. Your there-----look. You don't need a social outing.
I long for Nature's teachings; letting the land come to us.
I long for acts of attention and receptivity, those not taught in books or discovered through scientific inquiry.
I long for the passion and humility of this ridge, now The Scout Ridge
Overlook; I feel only a dull grade of pleasure, I rarely see enthusiasm in watchers.
I long for quiet dialogue with the landscape that stands before us. After all, it does not take any conceptual knowledge to appreciate a bird migration.
Though drawn to the Palmer Hay-Flats, we are somehow insensible to it. Our lives are so removed from this gem that it's become just a picture, an image to be captured and taken home. As friends of the Palmer Hay Flats we may not damage the land as mining or timber or oil corporations would, but in one sense we do what they do; we value the land for one of its extractable qualities. We have reduced natural beauty to postcard prettiness, another commodity to be consumed in our dogged pursuit of happiness.
Yes, this land WAS once a wilderness. Let us not Love it to Death!"
("the goose Lady so I've been told")
Julie has it right. The hay flats are heading towards development rather than conservation. Soon people will not be allowed to hunt Reflection Lake and ideal spot for those hunters without boats to enjoy their passion. The hunting boundaries will be creeping in, limiting our hunting area on the refuge. At the same time, the refuge has been deemed “multiple use” by the controlling agencies, and as such, other groups besides hunters are demanding access.
Come join us, we need more board members from the hunting community to help shape the direction of the Palmer Hay Flats Refuge. Let us know what you think, share your ideas.