Howard Delo

It’s summer in Alaska. That means road construction projects virtually everywhere you drive. For example, if you’re not familiar with the back roads of Palmer, just trying to get from Point A to Point B through town can be “interesting,” to say the least. There’s another road on that east side of the Valley that has been closed this summer for a major upgrade – the Maud Road Extension Project. The good news is that this project is scheduled to be completed around August 1!

This project improves 3.3 miles of important road access to the Knik River Public Use Area and will provide improved access for hunters, trappers and wildlife viewers as well as recreational shooters using the shooting range. Many other users including anglers and sight seers will also benefit from the improvements.

According to Mark Burch, the Special Projects Coordinator for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G), Division of Wildlife Conservation, the project cost was approximately $1,250,000. The money came primarily from Wildlife Restoration Program dollars (Pittman-Robertson funds) matched by ADF&G hunting license fees and included a contribution from the Alaska Department of Natural Resources (ADNR), Division of Mining, Lands and Water, using State of Alaska general funds. Pittman-Robertson funds are comprised of taxes on firearms, ammunition, and archery equipment and are used to support public access to wildlife resources.

Burch stated that the project was a cooperative effort between the ADF&G, Division of Wildlife Conservation; ADNR, Divisions of Mining, Lands and Water; and ADNR, Division of Parks & Outdoor Recreation, who designed the project and managed the construction contract. The road expansion lies on a 17B easement through land owned by Eklutna Inc., who were very supportive of the project, and he expressed thanks to the US Bureau of Land Management who consented to closing the road during construction.

Some of the work involved in the extension project included improved turn around and enlarged parking for trucks and trailers at Jim Lake, a new culvert at McRoberts Creek which will ensure uninhibited anadromous fish passage for many years to come, as well as numerous other culverts to allow drainage and road protection along the entire length of the extension.

Once the project is completed, the ADNR Division of Mining, Lands and Water will provide ongoing maintenance to keep the improvements in good shape.

Access to the shooting range has been denied with the road closure, but once the road reopens in early August, access will reopen to hunters and recreational shooters. With several species’ hunting seasons opening on August 10th, the ability for many hunters to check their sights and get in some shooting practice will be appreciated. I personally have never shot at this range, but I have visited it a couple of times while on a salmon habitat tour of the area and another time while in the area for some small game hunting. I probably shouldn’t say this, but I was impressed at how neat the shooting grounds were and how respectful the shooters using the range while I was there were to each other.

I volunteer as a range safety officer at the Upper Susitna Shooters Association at Mile 94 on the Parks Highway and their operating procedure requires an RSO to be on site or no shooting is allowed. The Maud Road shooting range functioned very well for having no formal management, like RSO’s, on site. I’m thinking maybe peer pressure from educated and safe shooters, using a “word to the wise” to correct any mistakes, intentional or otherwise, appears to be working. I’m glad to see that. It would only take one stupid or ignorant action to lose the great shooting opportunity which currently exists there.

On an entirely different note, a recent news release announced that the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms praised Kentucky Congressman Thomas Massie for reintroducing legislation aimed at repealing the Gun-Free School Zones Act and replacing it with the far more sensible Safe Students Act.

This act would allow teachers to carry firearms for self-defense and the defense of students in emergencies. History has demonstrated that the Gun-Free School Zones Act, which was sponsored by then-Senator Joe Biden, has failed to accomplish its purpose. In contrast, the Israeli schools, where teachers are armed with firearms, haven’t had a problem. Common sense and training can solve a lot of things! If passed, this act could have significant impacts on Alaska’s schools.

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