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Outfitter/Guide Use of Wilderness Lakes Environmental Assessment Released


March 28, 2005

Sitka, Alaska - In an effort to address the ever-increasing public demand for more recreational opportunities on National Forest System lands, the Forest Service is set to release the Decision Notice to an Environmental Assessment March 28 concerning certain outfitter and guide activities in the South Baranof Wilderness area near Sitka.

The Forest Service will issue five-year special-use permits, or temporary one-year permits, to allow commercial outfitter and guide use, employing floatplanes for access, at specific lakes within the South Baranof wilderness area. The authorized season will run from May 1 to September 30. Up to four clients, with the pilot as guide, will be allowed to fish and hike for up to eight hours on lakeshores. According to the Forest Service, a total of 100 floatplane landings and 400 service days of guided use will be authorized per year through 2010 at 16 lakes in the area.

"One of our primary goals is to promote the development of high-quality recreation and tourism opportunities on the Tongass National Forest without adverse impacts on natural resources," said Sitka District Ranger Carol Goularte. "Because of the remote and rugged nature of Southeast Alaska, outfitter and guide services provide one of the few ways many forest visitors can safely access and experience the Tongass wilderness."

This decision provides for public use of the wilderness in accordance with the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act provisions for motorized and non-motorized access and travel. It also addresses the need for a diversity of opportunities for resource uses that contribute to the local and regional economies of Southeast Alaska.

"After carefully reviewing and considering public comments we received on the issue, we're confident the selected alternative effectively addresses the needs of forest users with minimal adverse impacts on wilderness character, solitude and wildlife," said Goularte.

The Tongass National Forest encompasses 16.8 million acres in Southeast Alaska. It has nearly
6 million acres of designated wilderness, 150 cabins and 600 miles of trails for tourism and recreation, approximately 11,000 miles of saltwater shoreline and more than 1000 islands. More than 90 percent of the Tongass is wild, unroaded and undeveloped.

In accordance with the Code of Federal Regulations, the decision is subject to appeal. Appeals must be filed within 45 days of the date that the legal notice is published in The Daily Sitka Sentinel, the newspaper of record, which is planned for March 28.

Copies of the South Baranof Wilderness Fixed Wing Aircraft Lake Landings by Outfitter and Guides EA will be distributed to interested parties. People also can get copies of the EA at the Sitka Ranger District at 204 Siginaka Way, Sitka, Alaska 99835 or call (907) 747-4219.



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