Wrangell Sentinel -

 
 

USFS seeks Anan management input

 

The U.S. Forest Service is seeking public input on its management plan for the Anan Wildlife Observatory.

The Wrangell Ranger District is seeking public input regarding an update to the management plan for the Anan Wildlife Observatory.

According to Outdoor Recreation Planner Dee Galla, the Forest Service is looking ahead to the next decade at the observatory, located 35 miles southeast of Wrangell.

“We need to revise the plan for the next 10-year planning period,” Galla said. “The new plan needs to address several items that have changed from when the current plan was developed. In the past ten years, several conditions have changed in the tourism industry resulting in an increased demand for availability for commercial operators to provide for more clients. Over those same ten years, some local residents have become disillusioned with going to Anan due to the difficulty they currently have in trying to obtain a reservation on the days they would like to go.”

Galla added that site conditions have changed at the observatory in that time; black bears have become more habituated and are closer to the deck and in view much more than they were in earlier years, and the habituated brown bear population appears to be increasing – leading to more confrontations with the large creatures.

“Nearly (if not) all of our habituated brown bears are sows,” she added. “Those bears’ female offspring become habituated. This all results in many more human-bear encounters on the trail, especially with brown bears; and much closer proximity to both brown and black bears at the viewing deck. This planning effort seeks to address some of the concerns we have received from the public while maintaining a world-class wildlife viewing experience.”

The proposed action is to allocate up to a maximum of 60 percent of the visitor capacity to the commercial sector for guided nature-based viewing on National Forest System lands at the Anan Wildlife Observatory during the 52-day high use season of July 5 through Aug. 25.

The current maximum group size for commercial groups is 10 clients and 2 guides.

The new plan will manage both guided and non-guided visitor use via a “Persons At One Time” plan rather than the current “persons per day” capacity to provide what Galla calls a “higher quality, less crowded, visitor experience.” The PAOT for the viewing deck at Anan is 40.

“To accommodate room for economic growth without increasing the potential for crowding, the site will be managed on a split shift,” Galla added. “The days will be split into morning and afternoon shifts, with 40 passes available for each shift each day. This equates to a total visitor capacity of 4,160 for the high use season with 2,496 of those visits allocated to authorized guides.”

The Forest Service will prepare an Environmental Assessment for the project that will display the alternatives considered, and disclose the environmental impacts of each alternative. Based on the analysis documented in the environmental assessment, Ranger Bob Dalrymple will decide whether or not to implement the proposed action as described or to select a modified alternative based on input from interested and affected parties. Dalrymple’s decision will be documented in a Decision Notice and made available to the public.

Public input or comment is due by Feb. 25 and all comments should be delivered or sent to Dee Galla at P.O. Box 51, Wrangell, AK 99929, or emailed to comments-alaska-tongass-wrangell@fs.fed.us.

 

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