The state Division of Parks has lifted the moratorium on new commercial tours in the Alaska Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve. The move to accept new permit applications comes with completion of revisions to the bald eagle preserve management plan.
The plan was adopted by Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Pat Pourchot on Friday.
Southeast parks regional director Bill Garry said two commercial tour applications - one to conduct photo tours along the highway and a second for Chilkat River canoe tours - that were pending when the moratorium went into effect will be decided before next spring.
The moratorium was put in place during September 2000 while the state revised the 1985 eagle preserve management plan.
Jim Stratton, director of the Division of Parks, said the freeze on new tours was needed while planners assessed possible impacts of tour growth.
"This action is necessary to allow a fair and reasonable study of the existing conditions for the purposes of reviewing and amending the preserve's management plan. The original plan was written in 1985 before commercial tours were bringing people to the preserve in current numbers.
"The plan did not contemplate the possibility of such tours developing, nor does it address how to manage high numbers of visitors," Stratton wrote in announcing the moratorium.
Major revisions include area limits dividing the preserve into motorized and nonmotorized portions for large-scale tours, and restrictions on use of personal watercraft, often known by the brand name Jet-Skis, in the preserve.
Area and seasonal restrictions on large-scale motorized tours near the Kelsall confluence will be based on results of last summer's jetboat wake study. Fish and Game Department biologist Ben Kirkpatrick said the study, conducted by University of Pennsylvania hydrologist David Hill, is due to be released within the next few weeks.
New tour preserve permit applications are made to the Parks Division. Applications are reviewed by the Alaska Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve Advisory Council.