February 16, 2011
“Seeing significant increases like this speaks to the viability and importance of our refuge programs,” said Joe Meehan, Lands and Refuge Manager for ADF&G. “It’s particularly rewarding and noteworthy because last year was our golden anniversary.”
Alaska’s state refuge program was initiated in 1960 when the Alaska State Legislature created the Walrus Islands State Game Sanctuary in Bristol Bay. Today there are 32 refuges, sanctuaries and critical habitat areas encompassing 3.2 million acres of valuable fish and wildlife habitat.
While the primary purpose of the state’s refuge program is to protect fish and wildlife habitats and their populations, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game is actively improving and promoting access to these areas so the public can use them in a way that maintains their wildlife values. Whether it’s digging clams, watching or photographing wildlife, picking berries, catching fish, hunting moose or waterfowl, or simply recreating in a natural area, the public is enjoying, in ever increasing numbers, the many opportunities available in our state wildlife refuge system.
“These areas provide important subsistence, recreational and commercial opportunities for Alaskans and visitors and I’m glad people are making the most of these areas,” said Meehan. He also noted that the commercial uses of these areas pump millions of dollars annually into the state’s economies and can have significant economic benefits to local communities.
Alaska’s state refuges are diverse and include well known sites such as the McNeil River, Walrus Islands and Stan Price sanctuaries; Creamer’s Field, Anchorage Coastal (which includes Potter Marsh) and Mendenhall Wetlands refuges; as well as lesser known sites such as the Palmer Hay Flats, Goose Bay, and Minto Flats refuges, and the Beluga Wetlands in the Homer Airport Critical Habitat Area.
Potter Marsh, at the southern end of the Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge, continues to experience a significant increase since major upgrades were initiated in 2006. During 2010, approximately 130,000 visits were recorded by people enjoying the boardwalks and other facility upgrades. Likewise, the popularity of Creamer’s Field refuge in Fairbanks continues as approximately 88,000 visits were recorded in 2010 as people toured the historic farmhouse, walked the refuge trails or hunted its more remote areas.
In the Ketchikan area, there are a variety of refuge sites. The Brown Mountain Road is a well-maintained 4½-mile gravel road that gradually ascends from sea level to just below alpine. Blue grouse can be viewed along the road and from the roadside pullouts as well as Sitka black-tailed deer and black bears in the spring and early summer. The Brown Mountain Road ends at the Dude Mountain Trail. This steep one-mile trail ascends 1,200 feet to the 2,848-foot peak of Dude Mountain, and provides additional viewing chances and good views along the way.
Deer Mountain looming 3,000 feet over downtown Ketchikan offers the opportunity to view mountain goats on the Deer Mountain Trail, especially if you take the time to scan the slopes with binoculars. There are also blue grouse and willow ptarmigan in the alpine. Sitka black-tailed deer and black bears come to higher elevations on Deer Mountain in the spring and early summer to feed on early-season plants
Ketchikan Creek flows through Downtown Ketchikan and fills with spawning salmon each July and August. The planks of Ketchikan’s famous Creek Street are a good spot to watch salmon swim upstream. Other areas in the Ketchikan area offering Hyder, Misty Fjords National Monument; Settlers Cove State Recreation Site and the Ward Lake Area.
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