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Alaska’s Congressional Delegation Introduces Avalanche Protection Act

Washington, D.C. - Alaska's Congressional delegation, Congressman Don Young, Senator Lisa Murkowski, and Senator Mark Begich, have introduced the Federal Land Avalanche Protection Act.  H.R. 4407 in the House, and S.2907 in the Senate, this legislation establishes a coordinated avalanche protection program in order to reduce the risks of avalanches on Federal lands and mitigate their effects on users of those lands, neighboring communities, and transportation and utility corridors.  

"Avalanches are responsible for multiple fatalities every year, and this bill will provide the tools necessary to minimize the occurrence of these tragic accidents," said Rep. Young.  "In the past 20 years, there has been an average of 13 deaths per year due to avalanches in the United States, and about $500,000 worth of property damage per year.  There is a significant risk to clean-up crews on public highways and railways and also lately to snow-machine users who are gaining the ability to go into steeper and steeper terrain.  In the whole country, Alaska has the highest total and per capita number of deaths due to avalanches, and still we are the only state that does not have a statewide government-funded avalanche program.  This bill is about providing safer measures to all of our Nation's at-risk communities."

"Alaskans are all too familiar with the dangers of avalanches. Whether skiing in the backcountry, or driving down one of our major highways in the winter, virtually everyone has seen or heard about the impacts of a road closure or a tragic death," Sen. Begich said. "This bill will help with prevention, education and mitigation, all designed to keep the public safe in Alaska and across the country."

"Every year avalanches claim dozens of lives," said Sen. Lisa Murkowski. "As more and more Americans hike, ski and snowboard in the backcountry, it's vital that we do more to reduce the risk of major avalanches."

Under this legislation, the Secretary of Agriculture, acting through the Chief of the Forest Service, shall establish a coordinated avalanche protection program to:
  • Identify the potential for avalanches on Federal lands and inform the public, including users of those lands and other potentially affected parties, about the probability of such avalanches and their potential adverse effects on neighboring communities and on transportation and utility corridors.
  • Carry out ongoing research regarding the causes of avalanche development in order to improve forecasting of avalanche events.
  • Reduce the risks of avalanches on Federal lands and mitigate their effects on users of those lands, neighboring communities, and transportation and utility corridors.

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