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Thread: Vehicle Restrictions on State Land

  1. #1
    Member broncoformudv's Avatar
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    Default Vehicle Restrictions on State Land

    I am not sure if this is the correct forum, but it does concern all hunters and outdoor enthusiast in Alaska.

    I am not sure how many of you are aware of the steps the DNR (Department of Natural Resources) are presently going through to limit our selection of motorized transportation we use to enjoy this great state and when we can use our motorized vehicles on state controlled public land.

    The following are the current general use guidelines for state controlled land as provided in 11 AAC 96.020, and managed by the Division of Mining, Land, and Water:

    TRAVEL ACROSS STATE LAND:
    Hiking, backpacking, skiing, climbing, and other foot travel; bicycling; traveling by horse or dogsled or with pack animals.
    Using a highway vehicle with a curb weight of up to 10,000 pounds, including a four wheel drive vehicle and a pickup truck, or using a recreational type vehicle off-road
    or all terrain vehicle with a curb weight of up to 1,500 pounds, including a snowmobile and four wheeler, on or off an established road easement, if use off the road easement does not cause or contribute to water quality degradation, alteration of drainage systems, significant rutting, ground disturbance, or thermal erosion. An authorization is required from the Office of Habitat Management and Permitting for any motorized travel in fish bearing streams. (Curb weight means the weight of a vehicle with a full tank of fuel and all fluids topped off, but with no one sitting inside or on the vehicle and no cargo loaded. Most highway rated sport utility vehicles are within the weight limit as are most ATVs, including a basic Argo.)
    Landing an aircraft (such as a single engine airplane or a helicopter), or using watercraft (such as a boat, jet ski, raft, or canoe), without damaging the land, including shore land, tideland, and submerged land.

    A number of us have been using state lands for years illegally with our vehicles and have not even known. Well, I for one have been. I am unsure how long these regulations have been in effect and have not been able to find out either. For some reason DNR has not answered that question in my emails.

    This all came to my attention after seeing a post on here about the helicopter dropping in on hunters on the Rex Trail this year. After I started looking into that I also found out they are doing much the same thing in the KPUA (Knik Public Use Area).

    They have scheduled a public meeting to go over the proposed changes for KPUA at the gymnasium of the Butte Elementary School at 5:00 p.m., November 23rd, 2007. I suggest all users of state land attend this meeting and make your concerns known.

    The DNR is planning on closing the Rex Trail to all motorized traffic during the next hunting season until the ground has sufficiently frozen to limit the amount of damage done to the vegetative mat. They are also planning on requiring all off road vehicles to obtain a permit to use the trail once the ground is frozen.

    Neither of the DNR representatives I have spoken with has ever set foot on the Rex Trail or KPUA. They seem to take the word of a few people that come into their offices and voice concerns and believe what they are told. From there they start making changes and enforcing little known regulations.

    This vehicle permit requires a $100 filing fee that is non-refundable if you are not approved as well as the following:

    Pre-Permit Issuance Requirements: Prior to issuance of a permit, an applicant is required to submit one or more of the following:
    Use Fees - The use fee depends on the type of activity, length of use and the acreage authorized for use. Regulations under 11 AAC 05.010(e)(6)-(9) describe use fees for different activities authorized under land use permits.
    Performance Guaranty (Bond) - A performance guaranty is held by the state to assure performance and to pay for corrective action if the use of state land fails to comply with the requirements of the permit. The DMLW uses a bonding matrix to determine the amount of a performance guaranty. Acceptable types of performance guaranties include:
    a) Cash or check made out to the State of Alaska;
    b) Certificate of Deposit (CD) in the state’s name; or
    c) Corporate surety bond.
    Insurance - Insurance to protect you and the state from liabilities incurred through the use of state property.
    Survey - Surveys are generally not required for land use permits. Some authorizations may require a Global Positioning System (GPS) to determine the location of the project.

    There are currently no scheduled public meetings for the Rex Trail. As far as DNR is concerned it is an open and shut case, and we just have to deal with it.

    I apologize for my lack of writing skills. I am not the best at putting my thoughts to paper or a keyboard. Over the years I have used a variety of different modes of transportation to experience and enjoy Alaska. I see these changes and regulation enforcements as a threat to all of us not just certain user groups. My hope is that we band together and protect each others rights. If anyone else has any further knowledge on these subjects please let me know.

    Rob

  2. #2

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    I'm a conservative. And when it comes to the well being of our state lands, I'm going to stay conservative. It varies with the terrain, but there are lots of places that still wear the signs of vehicle traffic from the 50's. Do we want to pass on wilderness to our great grandkids or ruts? I can't be a liberal with the future of our state lands when so much private land is being shut off.

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    Member broncoformudv's Avatar
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    I do understand what you are saying BrownBear but what is wrong with keeping the trail systems open that have been in use the past 50 years? I do not want to see them expanded anymore than you do.

    I like to think we have been doing a good job balancing the use of our land and leaving it a wilderness. There needs to be more enforcement of keeping people in designated trails to keep this balance.

    What mean of transportation do you use if you do not mind me asking?

  4. #4
    Member tccak71's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by broncoformudv View Post
    I do understand what you are saying BrownBear but what is wrong with keeping the trail systems open that have been in use the past 50 years?
    I agree with you on this one. I don't understand why we are trying to limit (like what's being done in gmu 13; <1500lbs reg for ATV's) the big rigs, they're the ones that made and established the trails. The trails that are rutted should remain so. I wouldn't be against establishing a few MORE trails!

    Broncoformudv: Referring to your first post; how have you (we) been breaking the law? Are you talking about running a big rig >10,000 lbs, or are you talking about crossing "fish bearing streams?"

    Tim

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    Member JOAT's Avatar
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    DNR and other governmental land management agencies have been taken over by environmental activists. They get tons of organized petitions from environmental activist groups who want all public lands shut down for any and all vehicle access. These folks think that it is a crime against nature to leave a visible footprint in the woods.

    They never or at least rarely hear from the other side and usually only after a new rule/reg has been drafted and proposed. At this point it is usually too late as the agency managment has pretty much made up their minds to impose the restrictions. If they attempt to make any rule less restrictive or in favor of more access, the environmental groups have teams of lawyers on staff to immediatly file injunctions to stop the rule until a liberal judge can decide what we can and can't do.

    The internet has provided them with a massive machine where they have hundreds of thousands of "pro-environment" folks down in the "blue" states ready to fire off pre-formatted emails and faxes to said agency at a moment's notice. So when you get a dozen or even a hundred locals who call up to oppose the rule, the managers already have thousands of letters in support.

    What we have failed to realize until recent years is that the environmental movement from the 60's and 70's has been slowly infiltrating our universities, government agencies, and court systems. They have swayed public opinion against the "man made vehicles". The water was warmed slowly so we didn't even notice until it was too late. Now we are in a despirate fight for common sense land managment where the other side has firmly entrenched themselves within the system and we are left sitting out in the open as easy targets.
    Winter is Coming...

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    Member broncoformudv's Avatar
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    What you said is very true JOAT. I am not sure how we are going to stop this from happening in the future but I hope we can. I am amazed how many regulations are changed without public consent. Why should people non residents have any say on what goes on in Alaska? I for one do not influence anything that goes on in other states.

  7. #7
    Member sayak's Avatar
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    Default Too true!

    Quote Originally Posted by JOAT View Post
    ....
    What we have failed to realize until recent years is that the environmental movement from the 60's and 70's has been slowly infiltrating our universities, government agencies, and court systems. They have swayed public opinion against the "man made vehicles". The water was warmed slowly so we didn't even notice until it was too late. Now we are in a despirate fight for common sense land managment where the other side has firmly entrenched themselves within the system and we are left sitting out in the open as easy targets.
    Yes, agencies and departments that used to administer the land for the use of diverse groups are now under the heavy hand of the PC crowd, feminists and eco warriors with a mission: Man is the intruder and can only be tolerated on the land if he leaves no trace (and even that presence is tenuous). I have met many young folks with ultra-liberal leanings who are being educated in land management/outdoor recreation capacities. Gone are the old forest ranger types; replaced by the "you can't do this" crowd.

    We are in trouble folks, we need to rein in the rogues amongst us who ruin it for everyone else, and stand together for recreational hunting fishing and vehicle usage on public land, we will most certainly lose land access all over the country.

  8. #8

    Question Talked with DNR.

    Friends of mine, while hunting the Rex trail with track rigs and a wheeled rig (monster truck), were visited by the DNR helicopter and handed the flier anouncing the intentions to start enforcing the law that has been in existance.
    I called DNR and was informed that they were going to start enforcing the rule (next year) since the year-a-round residents on the trail were claiming they could not get in and out of the trail because it is so torn up. DNR stated that the other issue, besides the trail getting torn up, is the fact that in some spots the trail has gotten so wide from people trying to avoid a muck hole that you can't tell where the original trail is anymore. They were also very concerned with the fact that some of the big rigs were getting off the trail and running through the Spruce trees and knocking them down.
    They were documenting this with photographs taken from the helicopter. If you were buzzed or they dropped in, your rig was photographed. They went on to say that a permit is required for a vehicle over the 1500 #'s and that they don't issue permits to any of the residents or miners to use the trail other than when the ground is frozen and now users (hunters) are showing up with rigs as big or bigger than the local users are having to get permits for.
    I have hunted the Rex many times and have witnessed it countless times and even guilty of doing it myself (once or twice). When you get to a muck hole look on either side of it, there will be a ATV trail around it on either side of the real trail. The next time you come through, it will be even wider as the dry route made earlier gets to be a muckhole and someone tried to avoid it. This is seen easily before the first river. Continue on and there is less fourwheeler traffic but the evidence of the big rigs doing the same thing is clearly visible in some of the bogs. A few years back while hunting past the second river with big track rigs, we had a helicopter with F&G drop in and question us about the trail. They wanted to know if we had gone on the south side of the trail at all (which is illegal past the first river). The area we were at was by a bog so we asked them, "Where exactly is the trail?". It was so torn up from use and was 1/4 mile wide in some spots that they could not even tell us the true trail. They checked our licenses and left disapointed. They were looking to write a citation.
    I guess my point in all this is that by law, as written, some of us and maybe even all of us (only if we are honest ) ATV or Off-road vehicle users are guilty. Significant Rutting, Ground Disturbance???? This leaves a lot to inturpitation.
    If ATV use is shut down, the pressure by boat will increase significantly. (I hear the Kandik river is awsome). The big question, do we keep some areas open to ATV or Off-road vehicle use or do we shut it all down and allow no access other than foot? Where do we draw the line?

    P.S. Would like to trade 2000# ATV for a nice river boat!!!

  9. #9
    Member tccak71's Avatar
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    Default Spooky...

    This stuff scares me...how many other laws are on the books that may be enforced when the right pencil pusher comes along? This year parts of Nabesna Road are shut down for FOUR YEARS to do an environmental impact statement due to the same issue as the Rex, widening of the trail. I doubt that the Nabesna trails will ever be re-opened to ATV access. It is already restricted to ATV's less than 1000 lbs I believe.

    At a time when we should be convincing agencies to allow the development of more trails, we are potentially going to have another trail shut down over hunting season. I was skeptical of DNR issuing permits, sounds like its a lose-lose situation. What a bummer, as I am still considering buying my first 4 wheeler. (I do have a couple of Big Reds, but mostly ride them recreationally and not for hunting, but am looking at buying a 4 wheeler for more exploration and adventure options.)

    Tim

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    Member broncoformudv's Avatar
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    There is no if they do issue permits next year during hunting season. DNR has stated they will not issue any permits in 2008 for the Rex Trail till after the surface ground has frozen.

  11. #11

    Default Trouble indeed

    Agreed! The troublemakers among ourselves aren't helping at all, but there is a constant campaign to "parkify" public owned lands. We see it from the Feds (East Alaska Resource Management Plan) and the State like we are talking about here. It is also happening at the borough level, MatSu Borough is restricting use of motorboats at lakes, private airstrips, as well as motorized use of existing trails.
    "Management" by government can only be done by applying restrictions, ie. telling you what you can't do. If they want to restrict you to only using "existing trails" it will only be existing trails that they know about!
    If I had a motorized trail to my hunting area - I would GPS it, photograph it, write up a history of how long it has been in use, get it marked on a map (not just "goes over this hill" - a line on the map!) and give a copy to the State (DNR) and the Feds (BLM) if the trail went over Federal land.
    If they don't know the trail exists, at some point in the future - it will be closed.
    I highly doubt any agency will start publishing a book called "Trails of Alaska" that will lead the masses to your "secret" hunting spot.
    Do we have enough trails so everyone should be able to do what they need to and stay on trails? I think we probably do but there should be a mechanism in place to establish new trails (it would be a permitting thing I'm sure) within any Management Plan any level of government comes out with. There should also be allowances to leave the trail for game retrieval (not including permission to go plowing your buggy or ATV across the swamp) for valid hunters (not just subsistence hunters). To make sure that happens we need to all get involved with watching for activities that will lead to "management plans" and get active in the process.
    Join the Alaska Outdoor Access Alliance, join the AOC, join or start a organization for buggy owners, join the ATV club - get involved!
    When BLM came out with their East Alaska Resource Management Plan that included turning a 5 mile wide swath of land on both sides of the Denali Hwy into a "management area" their idea of "public notice to users" was one notice printed in the local Glenn Allen paper. You folks that go off that road hunting didn't even hear about it did you?
    When you see the sign that says you can't go here anymore - it is to late.
    Mike
    (pardon the rant please, but read what I said)
    Mike
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    There is a faster way off the mountain, might hurt a little though.

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    Member Chisana's Avatar
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    Mike,

    I thought BLM did a pretty good job getting the word out about the EARMP. I found out about it early enough to comment on the draft and I live a long way from the eastern interior. A quick check of the BLM website could have gotten a person on their mailing list and you would have received a CD containing a draft of the plan when it went out for public comment.

  13. #13
    Mark
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Echo View Post
    .......If I had a motorized trail to my hunting area - I would GPS it, photograph it, write up a history of how long it has been in use, get it marked on a map (not just "goes over this hill" - a line on the map!) and give a copy to the State (DNR) and the Feds (BLM) if the trail went over Federal land.
    If they don't know the trail exists, at some point in the future - it will be closed.....
    That is the best advice I've ever seen regarding public access. That is precisely how RS2477 rights-of-way have been legally established for the future by the state from federal intrusion.

    ...I highly doubt any agency will start publishing a book called "Trails of Alaska" that will lead the masses to your "secret" hunting spot.....
    Public information is public. I'm pretty good at finding it, too. They don't even need to publish it. I'll root it out.

    Even without publications I've had trails that I cut turn into atv superhighways, and in relatively short order, too.

    I'm learning how to build "stealth trails"........

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    Moderator LuJon's Avatar
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    The sad thing is that there are hundreds of alaskans that would volunteer time and prbably thousands that would donate money to do trail repair and they won't let us. Why not set up an on site or internet based Rex trail usage permit. Just go on line pay 15 bucks print your permit. You could even put in a "donate" button for trail repairs. But from everything I have read on the DNR they don't want to repair trails they just bend to the special intrest groups that want them all closed. Honestly I drive alot of trails around here and I almost never see widened/braided trails where there is a good central trail with a hard base.

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    Member broncoformudv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LuJon View Post
    The sad thing is that there are hundreds of alaskans that would volunteer time and prbably thousands that would donate money to do trail repair and they won't let us. Why not set up an on site or internet based Rex trail usage permit. Just go on line pay 15 bucks print your permit. You could even put in a "donate" button for trail repairs. But from everything I have read on the DNR they don't want to repair trails they just bend to the special intrest groups that want them all closed. Honestly I drive alot of trails around here and I almost never see widened/braided trails where there is a good central trail with a hard base.
    The problem with that is a lot of the muskeg areas can not be hardened. Getting water to run off a flat spot is pretty hard to do. You would have to route the trail through a new area that had a good bottom to it. In order for this to happen a lot of these trails would have to go a long ways to get around trouble spots and on good ground again. Even then during rainy years similar problems would occur.

    This is a picture taken from a DNR helicopter this year that was sent to me from a DNR employee. In it you can clearly see the are of muskeg and the ribboning of the trail as people have tried to find solid ground around it.
    Attached Files Attached Files

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    Member JOAT's Avatar
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    I'm not sure exactly how, but the Caribou Hills Cabin Hoppers is authorized by the powers that be to do trail repair and widening in the Caribou Hills recreation area near Ninilchik. They have a very knowledgable guy on the board who even got Federal grants for trail maintenance. They keep track of all man hours that club members put in to remove fallen trees, groom, and do other trail maintenance and the club gets money back from the grant for all that labor to cover costs (labor is volunteered, money goes to maintaining equipment).

    Also, all of the major Caribou Hills trails have been documented on USGS maps over the last few years with proper names and everything, so they would have a very hard time shutting them down now. The point is that a group can save trails and fix trail damage if they know how to work the system. I believe the guy who worked the system for this club was working for borough government for many years, so he knew the insider secrets.

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  17. #17
    Member broncoformudv's Avatar
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    I am not familiar with the Kenai Peninsula but believe it is on Federal land and BLM controls it. BLM is all for people maintaining trails DNR is not very supportive. You have to fill out permits and pay for them just to ask to do repairs.

    Having all trails properly documented and the complete historical use of them is a major step in the right direction.

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    You might contact the NRCS to see if they can help. I know they provide expertise and planning. Even help get grants to help cover the costs of this type of thing. They work with the State very well...

    http://www.ak.nrcs.usda.gov/

  19. #19

    Default The old sure cure for maintaining trails

    through muddy areas is corduroying them which doesn't fall under the "Generally Allowed Uses" so unless we can change DNRs ways on it the only thing we can do is haul loads of gravel to build a base.
    I know the MatSu Trails Council does trail work, a lot of it in conjunction with the borough, but they have to get permits from DNR to do work on the state owned land. I have not tried to get permission for a group of individuals to work on a trail, might well be an enlightening experience!
    Mark, I hear you about trails getting popular all of a sudden. IOf course, if I was looking for a place to hunt and saw you bringing out a monster rack, I just might sniff my way back where you got it too :-) Point is, if the gov comes out with a map with your trail on it for everyone to see - at least your trail will be open.
    Mike
    Mike
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    There is a faster way off the mountain, might hurt a little though.

  20. #20
    Mark
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Echo View Post
    ....Mark, I hear you about trails getting popular all of a sudden. IOf course, if I was looking for a place to hunt and saw you bringing out a monster rack, I just might sniff my way back where you got it too :-) Point is, if the gov comes out with a map with your trail on it for everyone to see - at least your trail will be open.
    Mike
    That's true, and even the old trails I cut and/or used that aren't good hunting anymore are still great riding, especially for the nearly 50 weeks of the year that moose hunting isn't going on.

    I'm a bit hesitant to broadcast this, but I learned another little secret: required permits aren't the end of the world.

    1) They tend to keep lots of other folks out

    2) Once you start getting permits, the government will have a more difficult time later banning you ("you allowed me before, and I can prove it"). The folks who never saw an access restriction they didn't like would rather just ban us from access altogether, but they can't legally do so in many cases. So the "permit" process is instituted. Then I go get the permit. Other people avoid the bureaucracy and go to the unregulated areas with the hordes, and I have a great time.

    3) Combine an area that requires a regulatory permit with a logistical obstacle that you can surmount, and you've found an area that you'll have all to yourself.......

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