DNR posts trespass notices on Kougarok Road cabins
By Peter Loewi
On June 15, the Department of Natural Resources posted notices of trespass on 10 camps on the Kougarok Road, a shock to some whose cabins had been there for decades. The 10 camps, cabins, and staging areas are spread out between mile 21 and 35, and mile 78 and 85.
Diana Adams, who has had her cabin in the same spot since 1988, said that the state told her she was lacking the paper permits required for the site. The 30-day trespass notice wasn’t that the cabin needed to be moved in the next 30 days, but that a plan is needed to ensure that buildings don’t fall into disrepair, she said.
“The state doesn’t want the cabin, they just want to make sure it isn’t used as dumping ground,” she said. Adams also said that DNR had been very helpful in walking her through the options.
Dave Charron, of DNR’s Division of Mining, Land, and Water, explained in an email to the Nugget that “these notices are a routine part of the DNR Division of Mining, Land & Water’s land management and regulatory duties, which includes administering state mining law. The sites had been identified as having unpermitted structures through staff’s field work and were physically posted all at once due to staff availability.”
DMLW has been in touch with all the impacted parties, continued Charron, and staff are “working with individuals to address a path forward based on their case specific circumstances.” In some cases, this means filing for a Land Use Permit through the APMA process, in others, it means removing the buildings and restoring the site. “In all cases, the Division recommends that individuals contact us as there are a variety of means in which uses of state lands can be considered, such as permits, easements and leases,” he wrote.
Nine of the ten structures were found to be on state mining claims, and it wasn’t specified what the status of the tenth was.
A factsheet from DNR regarding structures on mining locations notes that “a valid state mining location gives you exclusive possession of the locatable minerals only, not the land itself” and that “a mineral property owner has use of the surface only for those activities necessary for mining.”
One big question remains. If state land use regulations since 1970 have required that such camps have a permit or other written authorization from DNR, and mining law since 1985 had additional requirements, why did these camps go unnoticed?
“We don’t know what the impetus is,” said Paul LaBolle, chief of staff for State Representative Neal Foster. LaBolle and State Senator Donny Olson both said that at least half a dozen impacted constituents had contacted them trying to find out what was going on. Olson even said that one constituent who contacted him had had a camp at that site since before statehood. LaBolle said that he had spoken with DNR and received verbal confirmation that DNR isn’t trying to take action this season. Instead, he said, they’re just trying to get people into compliance.
One thing that both legislators’ offices were afraid of was a conflict over paper staking. When staking a claim, physical stakes must be placed in the corners of a claim along with information about the claim and the claimant. Only then can the paperwork be filed for and must be done within a certain timeframe. LaBolle explained that physical stakes take precedence over paper stakes if someone simply files for claims that they haven’t visited.
Olson said that the numerous miners who filed may have gone through all the proper steps in staking and filing, but it would be “completely unfair to the local people” if they were to lose their camps because they weren’t aware they weren’t in compliance.
According to the database viewable on the DNR Recorder’s Office’s website, 232 State Mining Location NTC / Certificates have been filed for in the last three months. Many of those are in the regions where the notices were posted, but the correlation between the filings and the notices is unclear.
DNR had not responded to a question regarding their correlation by press time.