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Deal will protect valuable Alaska wetlands
Anchorage Daily News


July 11, 2005

ANCHOR POINT, Alaska - Conservation groups are putting the last touches on a deal to protect private beach and estuary land at the mouth of the Anchor River, where hundreds of fishermen and overnighters camp every weekend during salmon season.

The scenic berm of gravel, sand and grass, part of an old Anchor Point homestead, has been open for free-form camping for years. The nearest outhouse is a mile away, in an adjacent state recreation area. But that doesn't seem to discourage scores of recreational vehicles, tents and small cars with towels covering the windows.

Efforts by the private owners to police the camping always ended in failure. No-trespassing signs inevitably ended up in campfires. But efforts to sell the land to the state were no more successful.

Last year, owners of the two parcels took steps to subdivide the land. The Kenai Peninsula Borough balked, noting that most of the property was incredibly high-value wetlands, where salmon smolt gather and migratory birds stop. Such wetlands did not lend themselves to construction of recreational homes.

The property owners said their main goal continued to be to put the land in public ownership.

"I've always said that from Day One," said Lacy Brunetti, whose husband, Paul Mutch, inherited the family homestead on the beach.

This summer, a new set of land appraisals has resulted in a signed purchase and sales agreement for the 46-acre Mutch property with the Nature Conservancy and a local group, the Kachemak Heritage Land Trust. Negotiators say a similar negotiation over the second parcel on the beach is near completion.

Together, the deal will involve 64 acres of land. Total cost is going to be more than $450,000, said Kenny Powers, director of protection for the Alaska chapter of the Nature Conservancy.

Most of the money will come from a federal wetlands-preservation grant that passed through the state Department of Fish and Game to the Nature Conservancy, Powers said. But a local fund-raising campaign is going to be necessary to raise a matching share.


Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service,

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