Wolf Song of Alaska News

Board of Game Asks for More Protection of Tangle Lakes Region

Stefan Milkowski / Fairbanks Daily News-Miner / April 6, 2008

JUNEAU - The Alaska Board of Game is asking Gov. Sarah Palin to strengthen wildlife protection measures in the Tangle Lakes region west of Paxson.

In a letter to the governor, board chair Cliff Judkins wrote late last month that supporters of making the area a wildlife refuge had presented "compelling testimony" about the area's value to wildlife at the board's spring meeting in Fairbanks.

He noted the board lacked the authority to preemptively protect any area, and he called on Palin to catalogue the wildlife resources of the area and start discussions among state agencies about how to ensure the wildlife is protected.

"We recognize the potential for mineral extraction in this area and in associated mineral leases," he wrote, "but we remain convinced the long-term value of maintaining wildlife habitat far outweighs the potential benefits of possible development projects known at this time."

In a telephone interview Friday, Judkins said the board wasn't looking to halt mining on the state-owned land.

"We just want to make sure the mining and wildlife people get together" and ensure that mining doesn't have a negative impact on the caribou herd, he said.

The 227,000-acre Tangle Lakes Archeological District straddles the Denali Highway between Cantwell and Paxson. It is on the National Register of Historic Places and has hundreds of archeological sites. It is also along the migration route of the Nelchina Caribou Herd and is used heavily by hunters.

Efforts to protect the area have grown in recent years as mining companies have spent millions of dollars exploring the area's mineral resources.

Wyn Menefee, chief of operations for the state's Division of Mining, Land and Water said Friday that such requests weren't unheard of. He said he hadn't yet seen this one and couldn't comment other than to say the state would probably be reluctant to cut off mining in the area because of its high mineral potential.

The Department of Natural Resources is responsible for issuing mining permits, he added, but the Department of Fish and Game already has the opportunity to review permits and comment on them.

Judkins said he has not yet heard back from the governor's office about the Board's request.

For more news from the capital, visit www.newsminer.com/weblogs and look for Capital Focus.
Contact staff writer Stefan Milkowski at 388-6141.

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