Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks
Eagle residents, upset about National Park Service law enforcement in the Yukon Charley Rivers Preserve, have voiced their concerns in a letter. Members of the Yukon River community’s city council have written to the Park Service, Alaska’s Congressional delegation, Governor Parnell and state legislators, about what they call a heavy handed approach of Park Rangers who enforce Coast Guard regulations on the Yukon River. Park Service rangers enforcing boat registration and safety regulations resulted in some confrontations and arrests this summer. Eagle City Council member Don Woodruff says the agency is stepping out of bounds to harass boaters.
Woodruff says the actions have destroyed 20 years of good relations between the Park Service and the regions small group of local residents. The letter accuses the agency of bringing in military trained rangers who violate local’s subsistence rights guaranteed under the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act. It challenges federal authority on the river’s navigable waters, and asks the state attorney general to join an action to prohibit Park Service law enforcement on the Yukon River, suggesting the job would be better handled by state sanctioned village public safety officers. Woodruff says an intermediate step would be to at least base Park Service officials in Eagle.
Woodruff says the community is also pushing for establishment of local committee that would regularly meet with Preserve mangers to talk about issues. Fairbanks based Yukon Charley Superintendent Greg Dudgeon says he’s only seen unsigned email copies of the letter and will not comment on the issues it raises. He says the agency is awaiting the result of a court case involving a Central man arrested by Park Rangers during a boat safety check on the Yukon this summer.
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