Tuesday, January 26th, 2021
9 am on Zoom
881 8225 4004
February 3, 2020
Jason Lux, Chief Ranger
Katmai National Park and Preserve
Re: Comments on 2020 Compendium
Katmai Service Providers, Inc is a group of business operators that hold a CUA for Katmai National Park and Preserve. We currently have 55 paid members in our organization. We have looked at the 2020 proposed Compendium and have the following comment.
With regards to 36 CFR 13.1242 Katmai Service Providers is strongly opposed to the proposal in the 2020 Compendium relating to closures of access to the Brooks River corridor at any time during the 2020 summer season of June 8 through October 31. Our members rely heavily on accessing public lands in support of our business ventures which include fishing, sightseeing, bear viewing, and enjoyment of the Park resources. As professional guides we know that safety is paramount in operations and do not take lightly the responsibility of keeping our clients safe while enjoying the unique setting that Brooks offers with close proximity to brown bears. Rather than closing the river corridor to access we suggest a method of higher education as an alternative and thus the new river corridor permit to gain access to the river seems like the best option as opposed to a closure of access. In the same breath, it seems as though the NPS would want to find a way to keep the Brooks River Guide program intact since that takes the burden of having to put every guided angler through the bear school as well as the river permit program. Another alternative would be to allow access to the river corridor if the visitors are accompanied with a guide that is responsible for the visitors, thus putting the burden on the guide. The NPS could set a ratio of say 1 guide per 3 visitors as the minimum ratio in order to not need a river permit. If a group were at a 1 guide and 4 or more visitors (anglers, bear viewers, or photographers) they would be required to all go through the river permit speech.
Access is of utmost of importance to our businesses. We strongly encourage the National Park Service to look at other means of ensuring safety, managing people and bears, and protecting the resource prior to utilizing closures as a remedy.
Katmai Service Providers is also strongly opposed to the elimination of the Brooks river Guide Program. This program ensures that all guides participating in the program have completed enhanced education of safe operations, resource protection, proper fishing behavior in bear areas, and avoidance of bear/human conflicts with regards to operating inside the river corridor by completing an annual online test. By eliminating the BRGP, will now be losing that enhanced education for the guides in this program and now having their education at the level of a day use visitor through the bear school video and talk. This seems as if we are taking a step backwards in the overall goal of having better safety practices for those visiting the park that are utilizing the fishery through a guide service. We encourage the National Park Service to reconsider this maneuver and find a way to keep this program in place. If the NPS finds there are users that are not operating safely or in compliance after participation in the Brooks River Guide Program, then that guide should be prohibited from continuation of being a member of the BRGP for the remainder of that season. We do not see throwing out the entire program because some guides or operators are not living up to the standards that NPS expects from participants in the BRGP.
Please take the time to consider these comments and give them some serious thought. Katmai Service Providers has owners and operators that have decades and decades of experience in operating not only at Brooks but throughout the Park area and in dealing with wildlife.
Thank you for your time.
President, Katmai Service Providers, Inc
Previous Meeting Agenda
9:00 am -
- Call to Order
- Election of Officers and Board
- Budget review
- Proposed 2019 Katmai National Park Compendium No Changes
- 2019 Katmai Park CUA Stipulations/Inconsistencies between Parks
- Bear Viewing Guide Excellence Certification progress & direction
- Site Specific Protocol benefits and Moraine/Crosswind
12:00 - Break for Lunch
1:30 pm -
- Meet with the Katmai Park Superintendent Mark Sturm (Telephonically)
and Concessions Management Specialist Robert Maupin (in Person). We hope to hear about the status of the Back Country Management Plan.
- Discussion with Nelli Williams of Trout Unlimited regarding current events of the Pebble Mine Project.
- Disscussion common frequency for Katmai/Lake Clark/Kachemak Bay other than 122.9 (suggested by Tom Soderholm of Smokey Bay Air).
If you are a CUA holder in Katmai National Park, we would like to see you at the meeting! It is crucial that we have a strong organization to collectively take on these issues and ensure our voice and concerns are heard.
If there is a particular item you would like to see addressed at the next Katmai Service Providers meeting, please e-mail your comments and suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org
New Election of Officers & Board of Directors. We are as always interested in active participation from our members. If you would like to serve as an officer or a director, please attend the meeting and volunteer, or if you know a member you think would be good, please nominate them to the position. We need your support to be effectitive.
Emergency Response Questionnaire Link
We are currently compiling another list of equipment & expertise to make an emergency response plan in the event of potential emergencies in Katmai Park. We want to keep this list as current as possible, so Please click here to be included.
Best Practices for Viewing Bears on the West Side of Cook Inlet and the Katmai Coast
2020 Annual Meeting
On Jan. 28, Katmai Service Providers working group members Brian Kraft, Dave Bachrach, Jerry Jacques, Rolan Ruoss, Carl Donohue, Jo Murphy, and Mike Norman arranged an informal round-table meeting with Katmai Park staff, Superintendent Mark Sturm, Concessions Specialist Robert Maupin, Regional Chief of Public Services Kelly Chang, and Chief Ranger Jason Lux on Jan. 28. The discussion highlighted our concerns about potential management reactions to increasing use at Brooks, KSP’s interest in amending the regulation language that prohibits “Continuing to occupy a position within 50 yds of a bear that is using a concentrated food source, including, but not limited to, animal carcasses, spawning salmon, and other feeding areas is prohibited.”
Those individuals also represented the Park Service at the afternoon session of the annual KSP meeting. The following is a brief rundown of both meetings.
Superintendent Sturm expressed concerns about Brooks visitation doubling in last 10 years. He relates that Brooks’ aging infrastructure is taxed to the max (sewage, power, campground, etc.) and he invites our ideas and suggestions for maintaining a high quality visitor experience as visitation increases. KSP pointed out we had done a survey in which almost all responding members said their clients still reported a very high level of satisfaction. While recent numbers are high, historically in 2006/2007 they were equally high (see chart on pg. xx, in the forward to “At The Heart of Katmai”
( npshistory.com/publications/katm/at-the-heart-of-katmai.pdf ). The Park and KSP agree that the reported numbers are somewhat inaccurate, due to double counting, etc., but the increasing trend is undeniable. According to the Park Service planning documents from the 1990’s, Brooks was built for peak use of 220-260 visitors per day (Mark was not sure where those numbers came from). There were some days in July 2019 when there were over 600 users, which is the maximum that can be moved through the viewing platforms and allow everyone to get their minimum time on the platforms. KSP members expressed concern that the Park’s web cams increase visitor attraction to Brooks and the Park’s online materials communicate that July is the best time to see bears at Brooks. Part of the solution could be to encourage other times as well.
Supt. Sturm expanded that as the Park implements more restrictive management at Brooks they should anticipate a spillover of visitors to other sites in the Park, and the planning process must be updated to address those expected trends. We all agreed that a Brooks management plan would need to be different than a backcountry/coast plan.
The Park Service additionally will be changing the management of visitors in the Brooks River Corridor in the 2020 season. They propose two solutions: 1) closing segments of the river to visitor access when there are large numbers of bears present, and 2) implementing a new permitting system for access to the river. We were disappointed to hear that the Park will not keep the Brooks River Guide Program (BRGP) in place for the 2020 season. Supt. Sturm said that BRGP has not delivered the hoped-for higher level of performance by guides and their clients. The proposed new permitting system is intended to assess visitors’ skills and abilities to access the river with bears present, maximizing safety for visitors and minimizing impacts to bears. The new system will apply equally to guided and unguided users, although Supt. Sturm suggested that features of this permitting could include prior experience in the river, or accompaniment by a guide. He will try to get out some scoping info by the end of February. He invites comments from commercial operators.
Katmai Service Providers formally objected to this or any closure. We were in favor of the permitting system if it would help avoid an actual river closure. Mark offered it may be possible to close smaller sections of the river and asked advise on which sections would be the most practical. He indicated there are getting to be more instances of people who do not have the experience to be in close proximately to bears getting themselves in trouble and there is no way to say some can access but not all, nor to make private groups require guides. Several things were suggested by KSP members such as Developing an on-line program and minimum clothing list (chest waders) but many suggestions were shot down as not being possible due to nationwide park rules. It was suggested inside the KSP group that if the closure was to be stopped it would take help from ADF&G’s ANILCA specialists www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=access.anilca as well as potentially Murkowski, Young, & Sullivan. alaska.gov/CongressDelegation.html
Brooks River Guide Program has been discontinued. The program was available for sportfishing guides to test on materials presented by the park service. After completing the test, the guide was issued a badge and were allowed to bypass the mandatory video & bear talk presentation from the park service. The main reason sited was poor guide performance by a few guides, although there were admittedly many good operators. The bridge now makes it easier for folks to get to the orientation, and Mark said it was a lot of work for a small subset of users. He indicated that next year or in the future it may be possible to bring the program back and suggested KSP might be able to figure out how to make it easier and less expensive if guide performance levels went up. Solutions to morning congestion at the orientation include the park service shortening the length of the orientation and a possibility of having an additional orientation location at the Brooks Lake end of the river. Due to budget cuts there are no district rangers to cover orientations so this could be challenging. A potential solution would be to staff the second location only from 7:15-9:00 a.m. which may be possible with current staff. Superintendent Sturm indicated it would cost the park an additional $25,000.00 + housing to have staffing at both Brooks & Naknek Lakes. KSP President Brian Kraft indicated there was a meeting with the sportfishing industry in March and he would suggest possibly trying to cover funding. Safety is an issue in Easterly wind days if sportfishing groups all have to complete the orientation at its current location. To hike down to get the permit is a three-mile round trip and not feasible for many clients. It was recommended that if we decide to “self-tax” or all just decide to contribute a flat amount towards the $25,000 that it come through Katmai Service Providers written to the NPS so that they are dealing with one entity rather than a bunch of individual lodges and operators.
The following from Brian;
The closure will include the river and 50 yards on either side This closure will be 100% at the discretion of the NPS. They are anticipating times in July and then September/October. Additionally, NPS is proposing a “Permit” that would be issued to each individual to access the river corridor. This permit would allow NPS people to “size up” those that want to walk in the river. The premise being that there are people access the river corridor that should not be doing so because of their lack of mobility or lack of being properly dressed (waders). Although this does not really apply to our lane in the sport fishing arena, we are feeling the effects. NPS states that too many people are in the corridor that simply pose to great of a risk of having an encounter with bears. KSP is strongly opposed to this proposal for closing access to the river at any time. We also put in comments that those that are with a guide and a ratio of 1 guide per 2 anglers are allowed to access the river without this special new permit. We were told this is not allowed since the NPS must treat all users of the Brooks River Development Area equally—meaning general public and CUA holders on the same level. There is a possibility of moving towards special treatment for CUA holders in the future but that will take some work and time. I recommend that you send in your public comments on this as well.
NPS has already stated they will be looking into using the KSP body of work for the licensing of bear viewing and fishing guides in bear areas. The voice of KSP is strong and we have seen results from throwing our collective weight behind issues
Your participation in these issues listed below and other issues would be appreciated. There is allot of work that takes time—writing a check is the easy part. It would be nice to have more sportfishing lodge operators involved on the Katmai Service providers. There are times when we have relatively little to talk about other than Pebble, which at times is plenty of work on its own, but then there are times such as now where it seems like there are many different issues to be aware of that have impacts on our businesses that take up a tremendous amount of time. We are stronger when we fight these issues together.
On another issue KSP is attempting to work with the Park to ammend 36 CFR 13.1206, Wildlife distance Conditions, which is the regulation regarding “a bear using a concentrated food source”. “Continuing to occupy a position within 50 yds of a bear that is using a concentrated food source, including, but not limited to, animal carcasses, spawning salmon, and other feeding areas is prohibited.”KSP has hired attorney Brent Cole to look at some word changes in the CFR and we have met with Don Perrin who is with the ADFG in the department that coordinates with NPS on access and laws. The State is on our side on this issue and we are trying to establish a Park wide protocol which provides the opportunity for guides and people to hold their ground and actively discourage bears from continuing to encroach on human space. We are looking to amend this CFR under letter (d) (3) In compliance with a written protocol approved by the Superintendent. www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/36/13.1206 Exceptions are allowed for individuals: 1) engaged in a legal hunt, 2) on a designated bear viewing structure, 3) in compliance with a written protocol approved by the Supt., or, 4) or as otherwise directed by a Park employee.”
This effort is in response to the park services rule on continuing to occupy a location closer than 50 yards from a bear that is “Best Bear Viewing Practices”
Last year KSP offered up the opportunity for members to participate in a “working group” that was a smaller group of members that would take on issues and have more frequent meetings with NPS personnel in order to address these issues prior to our annual meeting. If anyone is interested in joining the work group please send an e-mail to email@example.com
Current Katmai Service Providers officers
President: Brian Kraft
Vice President: Dave Bachrach
Secretary/Treasurer: Jo Murphy
Board Member: Rolan Ruoss
Board Member: Van Hartley
Board Member: Jerry Jacques
Board Member: Carl Donohue
2018 Annual Meeting
Thanks to all who attended the Katmai Service Providers annual meeting Tuesday, January 30th, 2018 in Anchorage.
Compendium: not much new in Katmai National Parks compendium. The only new item involves easing of restrictions at Brooks Camp resulting in less tickets issued. The NPS is proposing to adopt a policy that requires individuals who fail to comply with wildlife distance conditions, food restrictions or lawful orders from NPS personnel to repeat the NPS approved bear orientation in lieu of receiving a ticket. Goal of new policy is to reduce the number of tickets issued. Members were in agreement that it would be a good policy. We were impressed that the park service already has the 2018 stipulations available online. It was very beneficial to have them available at the meeting, as past superintendants have used the stipulations as a tool to control CUAs. In the past, we were unaware of changes until we received our permits. No changes to steps this year.
There was a brief discussion on Hallo Bay. Less traffic in 2017, probably due to good access to bears coast wide. The only problem involved aircraft parking on beach. KSP suggests common courtesy in parking your aircraft higher and straighter on beach. Suggest common courtesy to avoid field conflict and foster cooperation.
Discussion regarding a bear viewing protocol at Cross Wind Lake/Moraine . The current protocol at geographic harbor was brought up in comparison, rules appear in compendium:
(d)(4) With in the area designated as Geographic Harbor, at the outlet of Geographic Creek, wildlife viewing within 50 yards of a bear utilizing a concentrated food source may only occur from the designated site at the outlet of Geographic Creek, under the limits of the following protocol, which applies from April 1 through October 31:
1. All viewers must consistently utilize the same identified site (see Maps C and D)
2. No food is allowed at the viewing site (except water)
3. No camping is allowed at the viewing site
A subcommittee was formed to look at making recommendations to the park service, contingent on KSP member approval. Brian Kraft formally requested a bear viewing protocol at Cross Wind/Moraine from Park Superintendent Mark Sturm.
There was a lively discussion of the Lake and Peninsula Borough’s land use application. Do they have a legal right to charge user/access fees since they do not own the land? Brian checked with attorney Brent Cole and it is probable. The Lake and Pen Borough requires businesses to obtain a business license, guide license and pay bed taxes in addition to a land use permit. Process of obtaining permit is very invasive. Some question as to the mandatory/voluntary nature of the permits. According to Susan Edwards, Lake and Pen finance director it is voluntary but she has not sent it out in writing yet. Some members have been fined $500 for not obtaining a permit while others were told by the borough that it is a voluntary permit. It may take a letter from KSP to get the matter on the agenda of the next meeting of the Lake and Pen borough.
Guide Certification: In the spring of 2016, our members voted in favor of forming a KSP Bear Guide Certification. A subcommittee is currently working on a Bear Viewing Guide Excellence Program which will be available online through the KSP website. The liability issue was discussed with members agreeing that KSP’s monetary liability is limited. We will need to add a well-crafted disclaimer. KSP wants to be in front of park service on guide certification as it will likely be a requirement in future. We see it as a tool to avoid conflict and issues in the field and as a marketing tool. For this season the goal is to make materials available with a 20-30 question test to present to the full membership prior to the 2018 season. The program will be expanded in the future to include video training exhibiting safe field interactions. Eventually the program will support different levels of excellence which will require documented field time. If anyone has any suggestions or video they would like to submit to the subcommittee, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org
Protection of Bristol Bay was a topic. House Bill 199: Louise Stutes’ bill for use of science-based standards to protect salmon habitat. Would be long-term if passed.
Stand for Salmon collected enough signatures to get their initiative on the ballot. Similar to but more restrictive than HB199 and could be overturned by legislature after 2 years if passed.
Both should be supported to protect Bristol Bay.
After lunch we were joined by NPS superintendent Mark Sturm and newly appointed concessions management specialist Robert Maupin. There has not been a concession management specialist for a couple of years. Robert also handles Aniakchak, Lake Clark and Kenai parks. He is working out of the Islands and Ocean Visitor Center in Homer. Any problems with permitting will by handled by Robert.
The NPS will be reviewing the Backcountry Wilderness Plan and will be going public with scoping materials in April. The park service is asking for community support and ideas to respond to: over utilization, unsafe practices, and competition. KSP members suggested that by April we will be too busy to properly respond and asked if materials could be available by March. He will try to do so. There will be 2 opportunities for public comment followed by a third comment period to comment on the comments. A research project will be conducted by Clinton University and University of Kansas on how visitation occurs. They will be gathering data for 2 to 3 years with the final document published in 4 to 5 years. In charge of research management for the study is Troy Hammon. Superintendent Mark Sturm will not be going to the coast during the 2018 season but will have many researchers and rangers on the coast. Jason Lux is the chief ranger. Members identified problems at Brooks Camp: 1. rangers holding people on platforms in excess of 3 hours because of bears being within 50 yards of exit route; 2. rangers hollering and running when bears approached people returning to aircraft. Brian Kraft indicated we would all like to work together with enforcement and not in an adversarial way. One of KSP’s mission statements is to foster cooperation between users without excess regulation.
Michael Link executive director of Bristol Bay Fisheries Collaborative, a non-profit division of the Bristol Bay Economic Development Corporation was in attendance . The organization wants to ensure world-class fishery management versus sustainable fishery management in Bristol Bay. The ADFG budget was cut by 30% between 2011- 2016. The shrinking budget meant fewer assessment projects, which led to less information to manage the fishery. BBFC is working with the department and is dedicated to raising funds for fishery management. BBFC raised $680,000 in 2017, with the money going into the state fisheries budget. They have eliminated cost-recovery fishing which is controversial and inefficient. They are raising money for: test fisheries in Port Moller, Ugashik, Igigig and Kvichak; the Alegnak counting tower; post season aerial surveys in the Kvichak and Naknek drainages; and for a portion of the Nushagak sonar project and the coho and pink sonar project extension. They are working with ADFG to reinstate projects back into the budget which are in everyone’s interest.
What can you do? Make your concern known, financial contributions, help send a message to the government and legislature that you care about keeping a world class management system for the Bay salmon fishery. Your pledge is matched 1:1 by BBFC to manage ADFG expenditures. To find out more http://www.bbsri.org/bbfc
Nelli Williams, Alaska director of Trout Unlimited brought us new Pebble Mine news. History: in 2017 26,000 Alaskans and over 1 million people nationwide came out against the Pebble mine because Bristol Bay is a world class resource (as recognized by Trump administration in January.) Pebble has submitted their mine plan to the Corp of Engineers and is expecting a 3-5 year permit process which will include public meetings and hearings. Their plan includes a deep water port at Makdedori, an 88 mile road, an 18 mile long ferry crossing, 222 culverts, 8 bridges, supporting 35 round trip dump truck loads per day. Ferry crossing is less than 1 mile from McNeil border. They estimate moving 1.2 billion tons of material which could potentially turn into 11 billion tons (3 times larger than Ft Knox.) Pebble has gone from admitting a production life of 20 years to multi-generational and fully expects the state to fund the infrastructure. The open pit mine will be over 1000 feet deep and a mile wide at the headwaters of the largest sockeye salmon run in the world. Billions of gallons of wastewater would be discharged each year into the Koktuli River and Upper Talarik Creek. More that 99% of comments (over a million total) submitted to the EPA were in opposition to the mine. The current permit is in the public comment phase. More information can be found here: https://aws.state.ak.us/OnlinePublicNotices/Notices/View.aspx?id=188476
Other things you can do: thank Governor Walker for supporting the Bristol Bay Fishery. Ask that he move forward on a state solution; sign on to letters supporting fish habitat permitting reform; work with Trout Unlimited on NHPA; write a thank you note to Scott Pruitt at the EPA (email@example.com)
2017 Annual Meeting
Compendium changes: not many changes this year. Tripod restriction on the platforms at Brooks. KSP members in favor of the restriction but would like to see closure dates mirror the trail closures at Brooks which are June 15-August 15.
New Park stipulations: there were a lot of new stipulations last year and we wanted to ask the new superintendent if he wanted to make new stipulations this year. The superintendent has the authority to place anything in the compendium, which was formed to implement rules in an emergency. Lengthy discussion ensued on some of the stipulations. There are some stipulations we would like to see removed such as the human waste stipulation and the monthly reporting stipulation. The monthly reporting is not a problem for everyone but impossible for some operators who do not have internet access until the end of the season. Another problem with reporting is that some clients are being double and tripled reported as per person fees are being doubled and triple paid.
Lionel Maye of Grand Frisson discussed the problem of the human waste removal stipulation pointing out that it is impractical. A better solution is to bury human waste. He added that the chemicals used to process waste are bad for the environment. Additionally, waste is a bear attractant, which is a safety issue.
Progress on restrictions on more heavily used areas of the Park:
At KSP meeting last year we proposed the Park service implement a site-specific protocol at Moraine/Cross Wind Lake such as the one that exists at Geographic Harbor. Overall the Geographic protocol works well the only issue has been natural erosion. We have requested of the new park superintendent the new protocol be pursued.
Bear Viewing Guide Certification:
Last spring a vote was taken to see if KSP should develop a training program with test and if there should be a certification. Members voted in favor of both. Members agreed that it is a huge undertaking and a sub committee was formed to review benefits, liability, cost, and content. Volunteering for the sub committee were: Brian Kraft, Rolan Ruoss, Mary Norman, Dave Oberg, Chaad McBride, Dave Bachrach and Jo Murphy. Members felt it would be best to keep the course simple. There was discussion of whether participants should be KSP members. It was decided the best approach would be a moral code or code of conduct. It was agreed the best practices document would be part of the basis of the course. Some KSP members remembered superintendent Diane Chung suggesting participants passing such a course may have some latitude with the 50 yard rule. Since the February meeting it has been decided to implement the certification in three stages over three years. A goal was established to create a code of conduct to set a standard for bear viewing guides within 60 days as the first stage of the bear viewing guide certification. At this time the code of conduct will be a performance document for guides. In order to qualify to sign off on completion of the code, participants would need to be a KSP member. Current KSP members would not be required to sign off on the code of conduct, the program will be completely voluntary. This would not be a certification KSP would encourage the park to require for all guides at this time, but could be used as a basis for certification in the future should the park service at some point require guide certification. After completion the document would be e-mailed to KSP members for approval.
The purpose of the code of conduct would be to create consistency among operators, as well as a high standard of safety, and an enhancement of customer enjoyment. We feel it is important that all operators understand that our actions have an impact on bears. In addition, signing off on the code of conduct would be a marketing tool. There is a hope that commercial operators participating in the program would earn more trust from the Park Service.
In addition, we would like to create a handout for bear viewing etiquette which we can carry in the field and offer to both private individuals with limited knowledge and other CUA’s who may not be as experienced. This handout would be refined to a small document with key points that are easy to read. The intent of the handout would be to foster cooperation among guides as well as the unguided public in an effort to reduce stress on bears. It would be an initiative to help self police activity at bear viewing locations.
Since the program will be a “Good Samaritan” effort and completely voluntary, the liability of providing the Code of Conduct should be minimal.
For the first stage of the project the costs will be low. We can use our existing web site until such a time we might provide a true certification process. Providing such a certification will be a much more in-depth process which participants feel may take 2 or 3 years to complete. As a basis for the Code we will be reviewing two documents at our next meeting. They are “Best Practices for Bear Viewing on the West Side of Cook Inlet and the Katmai Coast” created by a joint effort of ADF&G and the National Park Service which was a process involving a large amount of public comment, and “Commercial Bear Viewing Association of British Columbia’s Best Practices Guidelines”.
New Park superintendent Mark Sturm joined us. He has been working for the Park service since 2002 on the East Coast, and in Arizona and Colorado primarily in natural resources. Prior to that time he was a private sector forestry consultant for 6 years.
Our new president, Brian Kraft, asked for some clarification on Park policy regarding human waste management. Does it need to be removed from the field? Does the policy apply equally to private trips and all CUAs? Superintendant Strum will look into it but he believes that all waste is required to be removed from the field. Mark then talked about the government hiring freeze and how it affected Katmai staff. There is a new chief of interpretation: Cathy Bell. And a new chief ranger: Jason Lux. A district ranger was also hired at Brooks, which is a permanent full time position. The hiring freeze is holding up the positions of pilot, wildlife biologist, maintenance/equipment operator and administrator assistant. Brenda Coleman will be retiring in April and Lisa Fox has left the regional office. Kelly Chang will be our contact for concessions. We can expect the paper/permit process to be slow until the freeze is lifted.
There will be a visitor use research project underway on the coast and Lake Clark this summer. This study is being done in anticipation of developing a Back Country Management Plan which will be a multiyear planning process. The research will focus on high use bear viewing locations and will be in partnership with a university. It will also be focusing on the quality of visitor experience. Rolan Ruoss asked how they would be selecting the survey staff. Will they have field or Alaska experience with bears? The concern is that they may interpret their short observations in a different and possibly inaccurate way than observers with more years of field experience with bears. Superintendant Sturm assured us that they will be asking that the contractor be professional from a science point of view and he will keep our concerns in mind. Rolan suggested that our collective commercial experience is available and Mark assured us that we will have ample opportunity for input on the study results. Dave Bachrach asked if the visitor surveys from three years ago were going to be used. Mark was aware of the surveys but not sure where the final report is, but said they would use it as well as any other resources available.
Brian Kraft raised the topic of Crosswind Lake being identified by the Park as needing some new, possibly more restrictive management process. Mark said he will review the current situation and consider if the current policies are working. He also indicated that he wanted to keep things as they are for his first year and then look at possible changes after that time is up. The monthly reporting requirement and the difficulty of making the monthly report was brought up. Sonny Peterson asked if it could made voluntary for the operators that are remote and too busy to make a monthly report. Mark said he would look into it. He stated that there was some value to having monthly reporting but he understood the shortness of the season also made it difficult for operators.
Rolan Ruoss explained the issue of state tidelands vs national Park service management authority (Geographic Harbor) and how it impacts us. And who, in fact, has authority over the tidelands. He asked if he could get an official opinion from the federal side so we could have some idea if we will be risking a violation for operating below the high tide that the Park ranger might think is prohibited. Mark said he will look into it.
Mark intends to get out to the field to see things in person once or twice this season and asked us to be on the alert for invasive plants. Invasive plants were one of his former specialties and he wants to be proactive.
Mark also reminded us if there is any accident in the Park, the first contact should be with the Park service and under no circumstance should the equipment involved be removed before contact is made.
Park service staff left the meeting and discussion continued briefly about the human waste issue.
Van Hartley raised the issue of the Park requiring multiple CUA’s to pay user fees for the clients that are utilizing multiple CUA’s on a single day. Van and Chris Klosterman confirmed that Tom Betts confirmed to them that each CUA that serves a client that day is required to pay a use fee, even if there are multiple payments on the client that day. Dave Bachrach says we should press the Park on this issue and get them to justify this multiple charge policy.
Dave Bachrach brought up the issue of Lake and Penn Borough charging operators taxes for client days.
John from Katmai Land stated that ATIA executive director, Sarah Leonard, is proposing levying a 1% tax on visitor industry to fund their budget. The proposal may be found online.
Dr Sam Snyder with Trout Unlimited spoke on the Pebble Mine issue:
With the Trump administration it is hard to know how the EPA will participate in Pebble permitting. Pebble still has some major permitting and planning hurdles that will be very expensive and they will need to attract a major funding partner. In 2010 over 80% of Bristol Bay tribes asked the EPA to intervene on their behalf. 98% of Bristol Bay residents who commented on EPA’s 204C opposed the mine. They achieved a restriction on the permit to protect the watershed. A 2014 statewide initiative passed by 65% majority of Alaska voters to block Pebble Mine. Pebble filed a series of three lawsuits against the EPA. The first was dismissed, another alleging EPA improperly withheld documents has been resolved, and the EPA and Pebble have stayed the case and are seeking settlement on the third. The next status update is expected in March 2017. At the state level Pebble filed an application to renew their misc land use permits to continue storing exploratory material on state owned land in Bristol Bay. After hearing from 1000 Alaskans the State of Alaska delayed a decision until March 2017.
In addition, Pebble still needs to attract a major investor to provide funding of $200-$300 million to secure the Federal Clean Water Act permit, NEPA requirements and dozens of state permits. Getting through the permitting process will take at least 4 years. Permit processing will require multiple state and national comment periods. Pebble must also be approved by a vote in the state legislature.
Sam said the fight is back on. Trout Unlimited has ramped up their efforts. The effort inside the state is very important. The governor’s office is being pressured by both sides of the fight. The Walker administration appears to be on the right side of the issue. We do not know yet who the new EPA Region 10 administrator will be.
People are encouraged to help by staying informed on Trout Unlimited’s website www.tu.org and Facebook page; making a donation; talking to our legislators; getting your friends involved and writing a letter to the editor (Trout Unlimited will be happy to help.)
Facts from Trout Unlimited:
-Over 40 million sockeye salmon returned to the rivers of Bristol Bay for the last three summers
-For thousands of years, the waters have supported regional Alaska Native subsistence cultures that still thrive today
-The salmon in Bristol Bay sustain 14,000 full and part time jobs and $1.5 billion a year economy
-Over 50% of the world’s wild sockeye salmon are from Bristol Bay. If you eat “Wild Alaska Salmon” anywhere in the U.S. there is a good chance it is from Bristol Bay
-Northern Dynasty Minerals is currently the sole investor in the Pebble Limited Partnership, which is a junior Canadian company that has never operated a mine before.
Previous topics of discussion were:
In the Katmai National Park Superintendents Compendium there are some significant changes regarding camping restrictions at Moraine/Funnel Creek. Most KSP members supported the camping restriction, and Sonny Peterson suggested a site specific protocol might be useful for this confluence area. Overall KSP supports site specific protocols for bear viewing but not for sport fishing.
There are also changes in the Compendium for the protocol site at Geographic Harbor to be adjusted annually to accommodate changes with the beach caused by the river. It was also suggested by the Park Service the area be marked with a sign. KSP members support enlarging the area to encompass the whole area on the North side of the river, thus eliminating the need for an annual review. The sign idea was not supported.
Management changes at Hallo bay include a "No Entry" for Nursery Rock in the back meadow. Another problem recognized by both Park Staff and KSP members is crowding in the sedge meadows. A portion of our next meeting will be dedicated to discussing how we can reduce conflicts with users and stress on bears because of increased use at Hallo Bay. The Park Service has recieved complaints od viewers displacing bears and monopolizing areas. Any of us who have been using Hallo for years can see the increase in human activity is having an effect on the bears.
The Park Service believe a human waste problem exists at Hallo Bay, Swikshak Bay, Geographic Harbor and Crosswind Lake.
There was discussion on the Brooks River Guide Program. Because of conflicts last year all Bear Viewers must do the Orientation Class, anyone with a fishing pole is considered a sport fisherman who may be covered under the program.
A new CUA Stipulation is being considered that Operators must provide and clients must read a Bear & Aviation brochure.
The Park Service is requesting the FAA provide guidelines for airplane use at Hallo Bay. They want common frequency formalization.
There was a discussion on Bear Viewing Certification. The Park Service is considering requiring an on-line test as a requirement for guides. They would like to see a guide certification in place. KSP President Sonny Peterson is looking into insurance requirements and legal issues if KSP was to form a certification. KSP member John Rogers proposed the 50 yard rule be eliminated. He suggests the rue is antiquated and current viewing guides have no need for the rule. Superintendant Diane Chung responded that she would not consider eliminating the 50 yard rule until the was a guide certification in place.
KSP's Emergency Response Survey was discussed. We all recognize the best First Responders are our fellow commercial operators on our standard operating frequencies. The information we are compiling can be useful to the Coast Guard, State Troopers, National Park Service, and individual Operators in their training programs.
It was pointed out several times at the meeting that KSP is a place for operators to meet, discuss issues of common interest, and to resolve potential conflicts among ourselves before going to Park Management. When dealing with difficult issues we can be more constructive and effective as an organized voice
In the past several years KSP has developed a positive working relationship with Katmai Park management. We can build on this good start by increasing the involvement of our current members and by attracting new membership. To this end we have changed the associate membership. Associates will now be voting members, still do not have to be IBP holders, and the cost for this class of membership is now $100.00 annually.
The Pebble Mine was discussed. Attending members felt as a group we should state our opposition to destroying watersheds. One of the reasons KSP was started was for resource protection. We would like to do this in a positive way. There is no doubt the leech pond will sterilize the area. Members felt compensation for loss of revenue for traditional business's in the area needs to be discussed from the beginning. If you want more information on the pebble mine, check out www.bristolbayalliance.com Brian Kraft is very informed on this issue. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
Brian gave us an update on the Pebble Mine issue. He's been working with Trout Unlimited, local lodges, and Bristol Bay communities to inform the public about the potential risks to the fisheries from the proposed mine development, and asks everyone to consider writing letters to the EPA and calling legislators. Nellie Williams from Trout Unlimited also attended our meeting - her email below lists resources and a sample letter. Please take time to read the material and write letters if you are concerned.
Nelli Williams of Trout Unlimited
Thanks again for the invite to the KSP annual meeting. It was nice to get face time with folks again….seems like many are, for the most part interested in helping. I was glad to see we got seven new signees to the Sportsmen’s EPA letter. I thought there would be a couple things that might be of interest (as follow up) for the KSP members that were (or were not) at the meeting.
1. The TNC Risk Assessment SummaryT
2. The Sportsmen’s Letter to the EPA. We currently have 66 AK guiding operations, lodges and other businesses signed on. If anyone else wants to sign on they can email me their Name/Title, Business, City/RiverSample letter (for talking points on letters to EPA/Begich/Murkowski)
3. Sample letter (for talking points on letters to EPA/Begich/Murkowski)
4. If anyone wants to receive monthly sportsmen updates on Pebble again have them send me their Name and Email and we’ll get them on the list.
Brian Kraft requested that, in instances of field violations of Park rules, initial enforcement actions and citations be directed toward individual guides, and then if a repeat pattern of violations develops, toward the CUA holder. That will focus some responsibility for daily conduct on the guides and not unfairly penalize the CUA holder for the actions of careless employees. Lisa said that although that concept is not written into Park policy, that is currently the approach that Chief Ranger Neil Labrie employs.
Brad Garasky Of Hallo Bay Lodge attended our meeting. Brad reported on a meeting organized in Homer last spring among commercial operators who guide bear viewing tours to Hallo Bay. The meeting was a constructive effort to coordinate commercial activity and reduce impacts at this busy site, with the intention of avoiding future regulatory actions by the Park Service. Brad said some voluntary changes in field operations were agreed to at the meeting and were generally followed through the season. Lisa Fox encouraged the operators to keep working together to resolve issues as a much better approach than asking the Park Service to regulate activity.
If you have not completed your emergency response survey, please do so as soon as you can. We will be condensing this info and making it available to members, the National Park Service, Alaska State Troopers and US Coast Guard in the next month or so.
If you would like to comment on the type of Superintendent you would like to see in Katmai Park, stop in to the park service and see the Regional Director, Marsha Blasic, or her assistant Vic Knox. Make sure you call before you stop in to the Anchorage Office, as you will need someone to let you in the door with the heightened security at the Park Service. We are trying to keep all our comments in a positive nature.
Officers and Board :
• President: Brian Kraft (Alaska Sportsman Lodge)
• Vice President: Dave Bachrach
• Secretary/Treasurer: Jo Murphy (Sea Hawk Air)
• Board Member: Jerry Jacques
• Board Member: Rolan Ruoss (Sea Hawk Air)
• Board Member: Van Hartley (Branch Air)
• Board Member: Carl Donohue
All major issues will be voted on by the general membership.