YOU WON’T BE ABLE TO USE YOUR ATV WITHOUT WRITTEN APPROVAL
By ROB CORBISIER
Ballot Measure 1 decimates off-highway access. Even after sounding the alarm among my own friends, many people who read the initiative do not understand that Ballot Measure 1 creates a de-facto prohibition on using an ATV or 4×4 to access hunting and fishing grounds.
Under current Alaska law, it is a criminal offense to operate a wheeled vehicle in an anadromous water without first notifying the Commissioner of ADF&G, and receiving written approval. Those bodies are listed in the Catalog of Anadromous Waters Important for the Spawning, Rearing or Migration of Anadromous Fishes. AS 16.05.871(a), (b), (c); AS 16.05.881; AS 16.05.901(a).
ADF&G issues General Permits to cross anadromous streams in many of our popular off-highway areas, such as Jim Creek, in specified locations. See e.g. http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/static/license/uselicense/pdfs/iv_0001_gp_knik.pdf.
A person crossing any anadromous water, outside of a General Permit, is required to obtain a permission through the notification process prior to crossing or risk a criminal conviction and potentially vehicle forfeiture.
Ballot Measure 1 generalizes the wheeled vehicle prohibition by requiring a permit before initiating any activity that may “obstruct, pollute, disturb, or otherwise alter anadromous fish habitat.” The initiative dramatically expands the anadromous areas by creating a legal presumption that “a naturally occurring permanent or seasonal surface water body, including all upstream tributaries and segments, is anadromous fish habitatif it is connected to anadromous waters” or connected to marine waters. It goes on to define “anadromous fish habitat” as “a naturally occurring permanent or intermittent seasonal water body, and the bed beneath, including all slough, backwaters, portions of the floodplain covered by the mean annual flood, and adjacent riparian areas, that contribute, directly or indirectly, to the spawning, rearing, migration, or overwintering of anadromous fish.”
Since nearly every water in Alaska drains into either the ocean or an anadromous stream, or otherwise contributes “indirectly” to fish habitat, the expansion of what the new “anadromous fish habitat” will include is difficult to fathom. It makes prosecuting someone for violating the new law easier since a person’s simple negligence can result in a conviction. Because anyactivity that disturbs a stream will be prohibited, Ballot Measure 1 applies just as equally to fording a stream on foot, or riding on a mountain bike.
There is no exemption in Ballot Measure 1 for wheeled vehicles, even if the activity is for legitimate hunting/fishing/subsistence activities. We should not expect ADF&G to grant a general exception for motorized off-highway activities in the regulations (which themselves cannot be predicted given the vagueness of Ballot Measure 1).
Responsible motorized outdoorspeople are already familiar with the anadromous waters catalog and make sure to cross either within a General Permit, or cross above the documented anadromous location. With Ballot Measure 1, any wheeled or tracked outdoorsperson who fails to get a permit prior to taking game on the other side of a creek that drains into a documented anadromous stream will need an individual permit to go through the creek to harvest that game.
When I think about the trails that I regularly use for hunting and recreating, every single one has at least some minor seasonal trickle that ultimately drains to a currently documented anadromous stream. Ballot Measure 1 will make those of us who enjoy Alaska’s great outdoors using wheels subject to its expansive permitting requirements, or it will simply make us criminals.
Either way, it will eliminate off-highway access as we currently know it.
Rob Corbisier is the past President of Alaska Extreme Fourwheelers, the state’s oldest 4×4 club, and a life-long Jeep owner. He was an Assistant DA from 2007-2012, and a Special Assistant to Gov. Frank Murkowski. As an environmental and natural resources attorney at Reeves Amodio in Anchorage, his firm represented Stand for Alaska – Vote no on One in APOC Case No. 18-03-CD.