HAINES - A Haines tour operator is appealing a state order banning the baiting of eagles for observation purposes within the Alaska Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve.
Department of Natural Resources commissioner Pat Pourchot will decide the appeal filed by River Adventures owners Duck and Karen Hess.
The tour operators assert the operation is protected as a traditional use as described in state law. River Adventures began commercial jet boat tours on the river in 1973, according to the appeal filed by the couple.
They also said tossing out food to attract eagles does no harm.
"There is simply no negative impact to the eagles or their habitat from periodic feeding," they wrote in the appeal. "There exists no present conflict with other user groups as a result of the feeding."
The appeal also alleges the state's decision wasn't made through proper rule-making procedures. The state should have consulted the preserve's advisory council, held public hearings and studied the impact of feeding eagles before banning the activity, Duck and Karen Hess wrote.
State Parks Director Jim Stratton said the company's tour business likely is protected as a traditional use, but eagle baiting is not.
"They've had a permit from us for years and I really don't see where we could deny their permit to operate where they've been operating for years," Stratton told the Chilkat Valley News. "They can continue to do their tours - they just can't throw bait in the air."
Pete Panarese, Division of Park's chief of field operations, said the state has grounds to regulate the activity.
"We're managing a commercial use," he said.