- Associated Press - Friday, July 7, 2017

KENAI, Alaska (AP) - Fishermen on Alaska’s Kenai River will have to keep an eye out for private property, as an Alaska Native corporation has stepped up its efforts to protect its riverfront lands.

Cook Inlet Region Inc., which is a major land owner along the Kenai River, has erected signs letting the public know where its privately owned property is and asking people not to use the undeveloped land to fish without a permit.

Corporate Communications Director Jason Moore said staff members have noticed a lot of habitat damage on the properties, which make up about 7-8 percent of the riverfront property between the mouth and the border with the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.

“(People are) dumping trash, cutting down wood, hurting the streambank, damaging the habitat . there’s a host of issues there that people just aren’t treating the property with much respect,” Moore said. “This is private property just like any other private property.”

Some of the areas exhibited fairly significant damage late last year, with trees cut down for firewood and weeds cut back from the bank or trampled, the Peninsula Clarion (https://bit.ly/2swMAi8 ) reported Wednesday.

There are several reasons the corporation wants to restrict access and damage to the land, one of which is liability for injury or accidents on private land, Moore said.

“Liability is a big issue, and most of the use is along the streambank,” he said. “That’s where we’re seeing much of the damage, if you will, and I think that’s when you look at the habitat problems, that’s the most risky areas for that damage too.”

Though staff members won’t perform regular patrols, they’ll check in periodically and will call the troopers to enforce laws against trespassing if necessary, Moore said.

One group the corporation will rely on to spot any abuse is the fishing guides, Moore said. Guides have dropped clients off on the banks in the past, and the corporation asked for them to keep an eye out for damage to the land.

The enforcement doesn’t mean private individuals can’t use the land - they just have to obtain a permit. Cook Inlet Region Inc. has a land permit available for recreational users for free through its website. Commercial users, including guides, can obtain commercial permits. Access is based on dates and users are asked to respect the corporation’s land use policies, according to its website.

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