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Thread: Last Call on Upper Kenai River Camping Restrictions!

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    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Default Last Call on Upper Kenai River Camping Restrictions!

    Do you like to camp along the upper Kenai River? Your rights to do so in a campsite of your own choosing is about to be restricted / prevented! The Kenai National Wildlife Refuge is considering a proposal that would restrict camping to no more than three days in the same place, camping only in designated campsites (there are currently no designated campsites on the upper Kenai River), and no camping within 100 yards of the river.

    While this site support efforts to maintain riparian salmon habitat, including shoreline vegetation, we also recognize that most or all of the gravel bar campsites currently being used present little or no threat to shoreline vegetation. These restrictions have the potential to severely restrict or even eliminate camping along Southcentral Alaska's most popular salmon fishery. Public comments are being taken until July 20th. At the present time, the KNWR site shows only seven public comments! Make your voice heard by visiting the link right now, and commenting online. http://www.regulations.gov/#!documen...2014-0003-0001

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    Member cod's Avatar
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    Thanks for the heads up, Mike.
    Yet another land grab by the govt. It's their land, not ours, you know.
    Camping on the gravel bars is a long standing tradition and hurts nothing. I hope people send comments to stop this nonsense cuz they're not going to stop this kind of stuff. It will only get worse till we rid ourselves of these beaurocrats.
    Your sarcasm is way, waaaayyyyyyyy more sarcastic than mine!

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    Member 4merguide's Avatar
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    When it comes tho the Feds.......imo, public opinion means little to nothing. Saw it first hand when it seemed like 99% of the people stood up against the subsistence issue here on the Kenai.

    The Refuge is gonna do what the Refuge wants to do regardless. That's probably why there's only been 7 public comments.....people figure why bother.
    Sheep hunting...... the pain goes away, but the stupidity remains...!!!

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    Mike, I think part of this is in response to camps being set up for the sockeye fishery and the long term degradation of the area as a result. Not sure but I heard that human waste issues, cutting of vegetation, fire pits, and other activities were causing others to complain and the refuge evaluated it and took action. Maybe my information is wrong but usually when something like this happens it is in response to the poor behavior of some group. I do not think they are doing this to eliminate use but to respond to it. If you know more on this I would be interested in hearing it.

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    Pointless or not, I commented on it. I nearly gave up though, as it took 10 tries to click in the "I agree..." box.

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    Don't you know, restricting access is the trend, not accommodating use. By their own lack of adequate management and facilitation they themselves created the very opportunity to restrict users. All it takes to motivate them is a few complaints and bad apples. Funny though, try to motivate them to open up more access and use opportunities and see how far that gets you. We see it time and time again, and as a result we are losing access to our lands as we speak.

    Remember when we went through this when the KNWR re-did the Swanson River/Swan Lake access? Where 20 vehicles used to park, they made new designated parking for 10. And if you park elsewhere you get a ticket. And while they were at it, they took it upon themselves to go outside the scope of the Plan and use the overburden from their job to block a dozen other accesses along the road. This forced parking on the road where, you guessed it, they issue tickets. These were accesses spread out miles between designated parking spots put in with the original road back in the 50's. They weren't harming a thing.

    I'm ok with a 3-day limit. And I will admit there are some issues that need facilitation. However, I am in total disagreement with designated camping spots 100 yards from the river (I've seen that tactic on the Swanson/Swan Lake ordeal - you better ask how many and where are they). The Feds obviously forgot that a big part of why the refuge was created was for use - enjoyment and recreation. Designated camp spots 100 yards from the river not only restrict, but in some areas eliminate that use.

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    A few observations....

    The primary purpose of National Wildlife Refuge lands is for fish and wildlife conservation. That is the #1 priority on all NWRS lands and waters, nationwide, as outlined by the National Wildlife Refuge Improvement Act of 1997, which the Alaska Delegation strongly supported (at the time it was Don, Ted and Frank).

    The second most important purpose is wildlife-dependent recreation. That would include activities such as hunting, fishing, bird watching, and environmental education, since they depend on having abundant fish and wildlife populations present.

    All other uses are a lower priority. Camping would fall into this category. Thus, the restrictions on camping are likely due to adverse impacts on the #1 and #2 priorities. Nerka is likely spot-on in his assessment.

    There are exceptions to these priorities, mostly due to pre-existing easements and rights-of-way. On the Kenai Nat'l Wildlife Refuge, oil drilling is a good example of a prior easement. In our part of the world (PNW), cattle grazing was a big issue on NWRS lands, but it has since been phased out, due to it being a low priority.

    It is correct that the Federal Subsistence Board voted to allow subsistence fishing on the Kenai and Kasilov Rivers. However, all the Federal representatives present voted AGAINST the proposal to allow subsistence fishing. The State rep, and the Alaska Native reps voted in favor. So if you are concerned about subsistence fishing on the Kenai Rv, don't blame the Feds. The Feds didn't want it. It was the State and local reps who wanted it. And they got it.

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    Just talked to someone at the refuge and for the area downstream of Skilak Lake what is going on is what I suspected. With the king fishery down more people are fishing sockeye in this area and setting up long term camps. Not sure if it mostly guide operation or not but the long term camps are not being taken down and human waste and other issues are increasing. Next, this area at the outlet is a high bear use area because of the sockeye spawning and in the last few years there have been bears attracted to these camps on the river bank and they have been killed in defense of life in property. So moving the camps to designated areas and back from the river is to reduce bear/human interaction and safety of fisherman along the banks. I do know that tagging data on bears showed between 50-60 brown bears are close to the river when the sockeye are spawning.

    I will check some more on this and see if there are other issues.

    I did notice in the new regulations the opening of access to airplanes for some areas of the refuge so it is not one sided here.

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    Yes, I had heard guide operations were targeting the upper river sockeye. I guess some guide outfits were even hiking their clients up to the falls at Russian River. I do not believe these areas should support commercialized guiding. If reducing bear/human interactions is the goal, I doubt moving a camp a few hundred feet will do it, nor do I believe we should manage our public land based on bear interactions.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cohoangler View Post
    A few observations....

    The primary purpose of National Wildlife Refuge lands is for fish and wildlife conservation. That is the #1 priority on all NWRS lands and waters, nationwide, as outlined by the National Wildlife Refuge Improvement Act of 1997, which the Alaska Delegation strongly supported (at the time it was Don, Ted and Frank).

    The second most important purpose is wildlife-dependent recreation. That would include activities such as hunting, fishing, bird watching, and environmental education, since they depend on having abundant fish and wildlife populations present.

    All other uses are a lower priority. Camping would fall into this category. Thus, the restrictions on camping are likely due to adverse impacts on the #1 and #2 priorities. Nerka is likely spot-on in his assessment.

    There are exceptions to these priorities, mostly due to pre-existing easements and rights-of-way. On the Kenai Nat'l Wildlife Refuge, oil drilling is a good example of a prior easement. In our part of the world (PNW), cattle grazing was a big issue on NWRS lands, but it has since been phased out, due to it being a low priority.

    It is correct that the Federal Subsistence Board voted to allow subsistence fishing on the Kenai and Kasilov Rivers. However, all the Federal representatives present voted AGAINST the proposal to allow subsistence fishing. The State rep, and the Alaska Native reps voted in favor. So if you are concerned about subsistence fishing on the Kenai Rv, don't blame the Feds. The Feds didn't want it. It was the State and local reps who wanted it. And they got it.
    I don't think that's correct. The Act doesn't prioritize anything that I'm aware of. Rather the System was created so conservation and wildlife-dependent recreation went hand in hand...neither without the other...

    "The System was created to conserve fish, wildlife, and plants and their habitats and this conservation mission has been facilitated by providing Americans opportunities to participate in compatible wildlife-dependent recreation, including fishing and hunting..."


    Also, I don't believe uses are prioritized either. The use just has to be a "compatible use" of "wildlife-dependent recreation", which camping easily falls into....

    "The term 'compatible use' means a wildlife-dependent recreational use or any other use of a refuge that, in the sound professional judgement of the Director, will not materially interfere with or detract from the fulfillment of the mission of the System or the purpose of the Refuge."


    "The terms 'wildlife-dependent recreation' and 'wildlife dpendent recreational use' mean a use of a refuge involving hunting, fishing, wildlife observation and photography, or environmental education and interpretation."


    http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/PLAW-10...-105publ57.pdf

    http://www.fws.gov/refuges/policiesa...420_index.html

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    Fun - I think we're saying the same thing, although I may have overstated the case. Wildlife dependent recreation is dependent on having healthy populations of wildlife. Obviously. So the wildlife needs to be there first, and once they are present and healthy, wildlife dependent recreation can be successful. It may not be a specific legal priority, but in practical terms, the wildlife have to be there before you can have wildlife dependent recreation.

    But I disagree that camping is wildlife dependent. It's likely that anyplace you can camp in Alaska is suitable for wildlife, but that is not the case in many Refuges in the L-48. As such, camping would not normally be considered 'wildlife dependent'.

    I would also add that one consideration trumps them all - public safety. If campers and bears are in conflict, as they may be on the Russian River during the sockeye run, the safety of the campers (and the bears), is paramount. And since the Feds can't regulate the movement and habits of the bears, they have to focus on the campers. So they do.

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    I though that the prospect of getting eaten by bears whilst sleeping was one of the things that made camping fun...

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    That would be a form of wildlife dependent recreation........

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cohoangler View Post
    Fun - I think we're saying the same thing, although I may have overstated the case. Wildlife dependent recreation is dependent on having healthy populations of wildlife. Obviously. So the wildlife needs to be there first, and once they are present and healthy, wildlife dependent recreation can be successful. It may not be a specific legal priority, but in practical terms, the wildlife have to be there before you can have wildlife dependent recreation.

    But I disagree that camping is wildlife dependent. It's likely that anyplace you can camp in Alaska is suitable for wildlife, but that is not the case in many Refuges in the L-48. As such, camping would not normally be considered 'wildlife dependent'.

    I would also add that one consideration trumps them all - public safety. If campers and bears are in conflict, as they may be on the Russian River during the sockeye run, the safety of the campers (and the bears), is paramount. And since the Feds can't regulate the movement and habits of the bears, they have to focus on the campers. So they do.
    Camping is considered a wildlife-dependent recreation. The rules and regulations regarding camping use in our Refuges can be found in the Code of Federal Regulations, Title 50, Chapter 1, Part 36, Subpart E, Section 36.39. Our Refuges are vast with almost no road access. Folks aren't going to enjoy much wildlife-dependent recreation like hunting and fishing without camping - for example it takes over a week to adequately canoe one of our Refuge's lake systems, and sometimes days to pack out a moose.

    Conflicts with bears are part of recreating in Alaska. It is never safe. So public safety is a relative term. Moving campsites 300 feet is not going to change that anymore than moving the jogging path or my home 300 feet (where I've encountered more bear conflicts than camping in the Refuge). What moving campsites 300 feet will do, is eliminate a lot of camping.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Funstastic View Post
    Camping is considered a wildlife-dependent recreation. The rules and regulations regarding camping use in our Refuges can be found in the Code of Federal Regulations, Title 50, Chapter 1, Part 36, Subpart E, Section 36.39. Our Refuges are vast with almost no road access. Folks aren't going to enjoy much wildlife-dependent recreation like hunting and fishing without camping - for example it takes over a week to adequately canoe one of our Refuge's lake systems, and sometimes days to pack out a moose.

    Conflicts with bears are part of recreating in Alaska. It is never safe. So public safety is a relative term. Moving campsites 300 feet is not going to change that anymore than moving the jogging path or my home 300 feet (where I've encountered more bear conflicts than camping in the Refuge). What moving campsites 300 feet will do, is eliminate a lot of camping.
    Not going to get into this with you Funstastic but just saying what the refuge indicated and it makes some sense. They said that moving back 300 feet will bring bears to the campsites at designated locations and not on the river bank where fisherman are concentrated. That 300 feet provides a zone of non-human attractants but I will check to see if there are other reasons. Maybe they want a 300 foot riparian buffer

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    Quote Originally Posted by Nerka View Post
    Maybe they want a 300 foot riparian buffer
    Touche! Well played Nerka......

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    The new regulation would allow you to stop anywhere along the river and camp, as long as it is 100 yds from the river. Designated sites would likely not be 100 yds from the river and those sites would need some improvements. The problem is FWS doesn't designate any sites in the proposed rule.

    I believe the issue that the FWS is trying to resolve with the proposed camping closure is human waste along the river, and not so much bank erosion or bear-human conflict. This regulation would have some effect in that manner, but it won't stop day users, both private and guided, from pulling over do their business. Campers are more likely to properly dispose (bury) their waste than most day users imo and from what I've seen along the river. I've not seen the mentioned long term guide camps in the refuge.

    Rather than completely shutting down camping along the river in the refuge, I'd like to see some appropriate and enforceable regulations for all users that will have notable positive effects.
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    Quote Originally Posted by DannerAK View Post
    The new regulation would allow you to stop anywhere along the river and camp, as long as it is 100 yds from the river. Designated sites would likely not be 100 yds from the river and those sites would need some improvements. The problem is FWS doesn't designate any sites in the proposed rule.
    That's the part I'd like to see changed. I have a problem if the designated sites are too few and not adequate size for current use. I've seen them do this before as a way to reduce/restrict access. Also, pushing camping back 100 yards eliminates a lot of camping because there isn't always 300 feet available, nor may it be sufficient terrain for camping. Again that reduces/restricts access.

    Quote Originally Posted by Nerka
    Maybe they want a 300 foot riparian buffer
    I wouldn't be surprised! Maybe then my great grand kids can get their camping/fishing/bear encounter on TV.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Nerka View Post
    Not going to get into this with you Funstastic but just saying what the refuge indicated and it makes some sense. They said that moving back 300 feet will bring bears to the campsites at designated locations and not on the river bank where fisherman are concentrated. That 300 feet provides a zone of non-human attractants but I will check to see if there are other reasons. Maybe they want a 300 foot riparian buffer
    Awesome! Totally brilliant! Moving camps off river banks will keep bears from traveling the river banks, and eating fish! Instead, they will devote their time to raiding camps! Why didn't I ever think about that???

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    willphish4food, do not be so judgemental when all the facts are not known.. As I said I even need to get more information but I know that from the tagging studies the bears stay off the river for most of the day and come out at night. So moving the camps back 300 feet may provide an area for normal bear activity and the camps further from the area they use. Not saying this is what USFWS thinks as I did not get into specifics but I know the tagging data was pretty interesting in this regard.

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