On July 15th, the first of four public scoping workshops to determine changes to the Susitna Basin Recreation Rivers Management Plan was held in Talkeetna. There will be three additional public workshops this summer:
June 29, 12-2 p.m.; Robert Attwood Room (104), Robert B. Atwood Building, Anchorage
June 30, 4:30-6:30 p.m.; Wasilla Public Library
Aug. 2, 1-3 p.m.; Virtual meeting via Microsoft Teams; more login information on the project website at https://dnr.alaska.gov/mlw/planning/mgtplans/susitna-revision/.
The process to revise the management plan began shortly after Senate Bill 97 was introduced last year and would have repealed the establishment of the recreation rivers and their corridors as well as given broad authority to the State of Alaska to sell or lease large parcels of land for commercial or industrial development. SB 97 did not move forward but the state quickly took action to form a Recreation Rivers Advisory Board, a requirement if any changes are to be made to the plan. House Bill 120, a parallel bill running in the house this year also included the repeal of the establishment of the recreation rivers and corridors but the language was ultimately removed from the bill.
The process to revise the management plan comes at a time when the west Susitna basin is the focus of much discussion. Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority filed for dredge and fill permits with the Army Corp of Engineers for the West Susitna Access Road on May 24th. The industrial access road would be over 100 miles long and go from near Point Mackenzie to mining claims near Rainy Pass and is part of the "Roads to Resources" idea. Proponents of the road have stated that the road would allow for growth of industrial development in the area, giving access to additional mining, timber resources, oil and gas, and agriculture.
The combination of efforts to repeal the establishment of the recreation rivers and the plans for the West Susitna Access Road call into question the future of hunting and angling opportunity on public land in the West Susitna Basin. During this public scoping process hunters and anglers should use their voice to build support for keeping the recreation rivers and the corridors in public ownership and maintaining the strong emphasis the plan puts on habitat, and hunting and angling uses in the area. You can attend the scoping meetings in person, attend the virtual meeting on August 2nd, or answer a questionnaire on the recreation rivers here and find options for submitting public comment.