Interesting to say the least.
Anglers' access to Alaska streams is focus of bill
HOUSE: Gara seeks voluntary easements from landowners.
By MIKE CAMPBELL
A bill aimed at guarding angler access to fishing streams passed the Alaska House on Tuesday.
House Bill 144, by Rep. Les Gara, D-Anchorage, and nearly 30 co-sponsors, aims to warn the public if access to popular fishing streams is threatened. The Department of Natural Resources will be required to report annually on its efforts to maintain or expand stream access.
It passed with 38 yes votes. It now goes to the Senate.
"Although the state is charged with maintaining fishing access, it has historically done little -- even as fishing stream access has started to disappear," Gara said.
He pointed to 7 miles of privately owned property along the banks of three popular rainbow trout waterways -- Montana Creek in the Mat-Su, Anchor River near Homer and the Salcha River in the Interior.
A 2006 report by Jason Graham of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game noted that 17,468 feet of riverbank was not accessible on Montana Creek.
"People are allowed to fish those coveted areas today but may not be in the future unless easements are purchased from those willing to sell them to the state," Gara said. "We're trying to be proactive. Once access is lost, it's too expensive to buy back."
Gara's bill aims to negotiate voluntary fish access easements from landowners before development, when purchases are more affordable and voluntary easements are possible. At the same time, he stressed that to take private land is unacceptable.
"The issue is becoming significant," said Bob Churchill, former president of the Alaska Flyfishers Association. "I've seen more postings. Public access is often the critical issue in Alaskans being able to enjoy our resources." The bill does not have a Senate sponsor yet, according to Gara's office.