If you have been to the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve in Haines, you may feel the same frustration I do at the controversy going on there right now. An attempt is being made by one tour operator to change permitting regulations to allow eagle baiting. This company wants to throw herring from their boats thus encouraging eagles to perform for pictures, habituating wild eagles to the sound of their jet boats.
The preserve shelters the largest concentration of bald eagles in the world. The Chilkat River supports the most significant run of coho in Southeast Alaska as well as ample habitat for sockeye and chinook salmon. Former Gov. Jay Hammond, along with other Alaskans, worked hard to protect this habitat for eagles and salmon.
Tourism activities are - and should be - allowed in the preserve, but only when they have minimal impact on eagles and eagle habitat. It is possible for commercial operators in the preserve to conduct tours in a way to have a minimal effect on eagles and their habitat. The 14 other operators who take people to the preserve have proved this. They do not find it necessary to manipulate wildlife to ensure good viewing.
Changing existing regulations that protect this magnificent area would be a big mistake. Let's keep the preserve wild for our visitors, all Alaskans, future generations and the eagles.
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