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.