October 22, 2003
A day-use permit of $10 will be required from July 5 to Aug. 25 beginning in 2004. During this period, visiting hours at the site will be from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
The new permit system, along with newly established viewing hours, will help reduce visitor impact on the area where each summer thousands of people flock to watch black and brown bears feed on pink salmon.
There are several important reasons for the changes.
"We need to sustain and protect the bears, other wildlife and fish," said Wrangell District Ranger Chip Weber. "We also want to provide a quality, safe and enjoyable experience for visitors. Establishing a daily capacity will help eliminate those peak days when people feel crowded. Professional-guided groups and the general public will still be allowed, but limiting the daily number of visitors will provide for a safe and enjoyable outing for everyone."
Weber said one of the reasons for establishing the visiting hours was to ensure bears have a time during each day when they can fish without being disturbed by humans.
Opportunities will remain for daylong visits for those who prefer extended stays at Anan, and available short-notice permits will provide flexibility for local community members.
Weber said the district is working with experts to devise a first-come, first-served reservation system that will work for all users and is expected to be in place by March 1, 2004.
"We will be seeking feedback from all user groups to make the process of getting a reservation and permit as simple and effective as possible," he said.
The Forest Service decided on the cost of the permit fee through public input.
"During public meetings, we heard that the price of a permit was going to be of concern to people, especially to local people who are used to being able to visit the site without paying a fee," Weber explained. "We feel that we must at least charge enough to cover the costs of dealing with the permit system, without charging such a high price that it discourages people from visiting the site."
"Our goal is to have any funds that are collected in excess of what it takes to administer the reservation system to be reinvested back into the site, similar to the Pack Creek bear viewing area on Admiralty Island," said Weber.
There will be 64 day-use permits issued per day based on a site-specific capacity analysis. Four of the permits each day would go with the Anan Bay Recreation Cabin and could only be purchased and used by people staying there.
Forest Service officials said although there is value to allowing some growth in the total number of visitors during a season, problems associated with the daily peaks and surges in the number of people at the observatory at one time was the motivation behind initiating a permit system. The focus of the capacity analysis was on limiting those daily peak events. The outcome is a daily maximum of 64 visitors.
A portion of the limited day-use permits will be allocated for current commercial operators, so they can continue to provide the array of services the public enjoyed prior to beginning the limited day-use permit system.
The District also is currently accepting proposals for providing other commercial guided, transported and outfitted services to the Anan Wildlife Observatory. Proposals must be received at the Wrangell Ranger District by Nov. 3. The address is: Chip Weber, District Ranger, P.O. Box 51, Wrangell, AK 99929. Selection of successful applicants is anticipated by Dec. 1. Commercial operators can get a copy of the "Guided Tours and Transporting/Outfitting Prospectus" by calling the Wrangell Ranger District at (907) 874-2323.
"I expect there will be a period of adjustment to the new permit system," said Weber. "People will have to do a little more planning before visiting Anan. In the long run, I believe people will accept and enjoy the change because it will protect visitor experience while limiting any undesirable effects on wildlife."
Bear activity at Anan occurs from approximately June 15 to Sept. 15; however, no limits will be placed on visitation outside the primary viewing season of July 5 to Aug. 25.
Forest Service officials also want to remind visitors that during the peak July and August season, interpreters will still be on-site to provide current information on bear safety, trail conditions and bear activity.
According to Forest Service officials for visitor safety, some special cautions and restrictions are necessary.
Close encounters with bears using the Anan Trail can occur and visitors should use good trail behavior such as talking or making noise along the trail to alert bears of their presence, staying in tight groups, and not approaching the bears.
Public safety restrictions required by the Forest Service at the site from June 15 to Sept. 15 include: Areas off the Anan Trail and beyond the immediate vicinity of the Anan Bay Cabin are closed to foot traffic; no food, including beverages other than water, is allowed on the trail or at the Wildlife Observatory; no dogs are allowed at Anan; no camping outside the Anan Bay Cabin; and fishing from the shore is allowed at the Anan trailhead only all other off-trail areas accessing water are closed during this time.
For more information about
the Anan Wildlife Observatory, contact the Wrangell Ranger District
at (907) 874-2323 or visit the Tongass National Forest web site
Source of News Release: