Keep wildlife as preserve's priority

Letter to the editor

Posted: Wednesday, May 19, 2004

A recent letter to the Empire unfairly attacked Gov. Hammond's editorial supporting protecting salmon habitat and banning eagle baiting in the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve near Haines.

Protecting salmon habitat inside the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve is not only a legislative mandate, it is smart management because salmon support more than the eagles. Healthy spawning and rearing areas for chinook, sockeye, chum and coho salmon provide tremendous economic benefit for all of us who depend on the commercial, sport and subsistence harvest of salmon.

Studies are ongoing, but damage done by high-powered commercial jet boat wakes on the Chilkat River has been documented. Wakes from large jet boats hit stream banks with 10 times the force of smaller boats. A March 12, 2004 Alaska Department of Fish and Game memo states: "It is a fact that these large boat wakes are disturbing critical salmon habitat." Pictures of Chilkat River erosion can be viewed at www.aptalaska.net/~lcc11/.

Regarding eagle baiting, in 2000, the resident preserve eagle biologist stated that feeding eagles air-injected herring changed their behavior: "I can say that the eagles at this nest appear to be habituated to being fed by this tour. As soon as the jet boat could be heard (before it was in sight) the eagles were flying towards the river. Once the boat was in view both the male and the female flew above the boat waiting for fish to be thrown." This habituated behavior is totally inappropriate in the eagle preserve, a place dedicated to protecting the world's largest gathering of bald eagles in their natural habitat.

The Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve is a spectacular, world-class resource. Eagles and salmon should remain the priority in managing the preserve.

Nancy Berland

Lynn Canal Conservation

Haines



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