We had a town meeting on Aug. 28 in Wrangell to discuss the possibility of a 12-person limit for private-party gatherings on the Stikine River.
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The United States Forest Service personnel that were in attendance answered questions and listened to our concerns, but we can not now sit back and hope that was enough. We need to keep up the pressure by way of letter writing, discussions and e-mails to make sure our voice is heard and our goals are achieved.
If this is passed then the concept of enforcement arises. How in the world can there be a fair and consistent enforcement of this insane law? It will be discretionary and up to each individual officer. When a group meets, whether by design or spontaneously, who decides who can stay or go? What about families with more than 12 in the immediate family? What distance must groups stay apart from each other to not be considered one group? And many other details like this would muddy an already pristine environment.
There is something special that happens to us when we take that turn and are officially "up river." There before us is the wilderness that we crave, the adventure we seek and the peace that heals. Some may believe the river is an escape. Not true. It is our reality. It is where we go to connect to what really matters in our world - not bills, school, work or hassles, but life. The river is our connection to the power of nature and God's hand in that. It is our connection to our family and friends that creates our motivation to unite. It is a slice of our great state of Alaska that we consider our own and protect it. It is a portion of this country that symbolizes the extraordinary people who forged this land through the centuries.
ANILCA will be "tweaked" until we are no longer able to go up and enjoy the river, as we have done traditionally and historically for hundreds of years with our families, unless we put a stop to this.
There is a petition starting in Wrangell for local signatures. If there are people outside Wrangell who would like a copy to pass around their towns please e-mail me and I will send one of to you so that you may add your name and voice to the cause of Protecting our Rights on the Stikine River.
No one respects, protects and embraces the Stikine River like our communities of Wrangell and Petersburg, but this is more than a local issue - this is a statewide issue that all Alaskans should be concerned about. What happens here can easily happen to your special places, too.