The Alaska House of Representatives passed House Bill 144, sponsored by Rep. Les Gara, D-Anchorage, which would require the Alaska Department of Natural Resources to submit an annual report on its efforts to maintain and enhance public access to fishing streams. The bill is designed to improve access to fishing spots within the state.
“We’re trying to be proactive. Once access is lost, it’s too expensive to buy back,” said Gara. “In places like Wyoming and Montana, the state hasn’t tried buying back fishing access until it’s too late, and then the access is damaged or the costs are too high.”
The bill aims to negotiate voluntary fish access easements from landowners before the lands are developed, when access purchases are affordable. It also aims to increase property values.
“It’s better to know you can fish a whole stream than just fish the 50 feet in your backyard,” Gara says.
He asserts that taking someone’s private land is not acceptable, but the state should pursue voluntary easement agreements so fishermen and their families can still access Alaska’s public fishing waters.
”Protecting and enhancing public access to the hunting, fishing and recreational uses along the state’s waterways is of primary importance to many people and a wide variety of user groups,” states Ricky Gease, executive director of the Kenai River Sportfishing Association. “This legislation ensures that these areas will remain open for the public.”
Bob Churchill, former president of the Alaska Flyfishers Association, states, “In my experience as a member of a fish and game advisory committee, Alaska Subsistence Council and Board of Game, public access is often the critical issue in Alaskans being able to enjoy our resources as allowed in Article 8 of the constitution.”