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Bill Protecting Public Access To Fishing Streams Passes Legislature

Today Representative Les Gara’s legislation to ensure future public access to Alaska’s fishing streams, House Bill 144, passed the Senate.  It now goes to the Governor.  The bill passed the House last year with a vote of 38 Yeas, and today passed the Senate by a vote of 20 to 0.

“We want to protect fishing stream access for this and the next generation.  In other states you have to pay access fees, into the thousands of dollars, to fish a stream.  We don’t ever want that to happen in Alaska,” said Rep. Les Gara (D-Anch.), an avid fisherman and fishing writer.  The legislation will inexpensively promote access to important fishing streams by encouraging voluntary land trades or purchases with willing landowners so Alaskans have public easements to travel to and along fishing streams that will otherwise be lost over time.  According to the Department of Fish and Game, prized roadside streams including Montana Creek, the Anchor River and the Salcha River, which Alaskans fish for trout and grayling, have between one and three miles of land that, when developed, will no longer allow for public access so fishermen can fish up and down those streams.  Other streams face the same potential fate.

“By working cooperatively with interested landowners now, we can make sure Alaskans have access to our great fishing waters for generations to come,” said Rep. Les Gara (D-Anchorage).

In some states significant public access has already been lost.  For example, in Montana public access is greatly impeded along the Ruby River, a noted trout stream, as well as along 180 miles of the Missouri River.  Montana is known for waters that cannot be accessed unless large fees are paid to lodge owners or ranchers.  

“As we have seen recently in several western states, stream access cannot be taken for granted.  Annual reporting by DNR on Alaska stream access will go a long way towards assuring stream access for future generations,” said Mark Huber, President of the Alaska Fly Fishers Association.

House Bill 144 is supported by the Alaska Fly Fishers Association, the Alaska Sportfishing Association, the Alaska Outdoor Council, and the Kenai River Sportfish Association.

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