What does wilderness mean to you?

 

Kachemak Bay State Wilderness Park was established as Alaska’s first (and only) state wilderness park back in 1972. Back then, both the public and the Alaska Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation drew a sharp distinction between Kachemak Bay State Park (KBSP) and the adjoining Wilderness Park (KBSWP), where more restrictive management practices and policies were favored to protect wilderness values. Although Alaska State Park’s definition of wilderness differs (for good reasons) from that of the Wilderness Act, which only applies to federal lands, the Wilderness Park was established to protect “unique wilderness values” so that the area would be “unaffected, except in minor ways, by what takes place in the non-wilderness around it, … where development of man-made objects will be strictly limited and depend entirely on good taste and judgment so that wilderness values are not lost.” For the most part, this is interpreted to mean no development — no trails, no signs, no cabins. Understandably, State Parks did not choose to inhibit access to either KBSP or the adjoining Wilderness Park. Current regulations allow aircraft landing in some places within KBSP and the Wilderness Park and these regulations don’t differentiate between fixed-wing or helicopters. 

At question now is whether a new heliskiing operation, Kenai Heli Ski based in Seldovia, should be allowed to operate a commercial heliskiing operation in KBSP and the Wilderness Park. I argue that allowing a commercial heliskiing in the Wilderness Park is not “good taste and judgment.”

Wilderness means different things to different people. What does it mean to you? Public comment on this topic is being accepted through Nov. 19. For more information, contact Pam Russell at 714-2471 or pamela.russell@alaska.gov. 

Chuck Lindsay

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