Take an interest in proposed Anan fee increase


August 16, 2023 | View PDF

Visitors to the Anan Wildlife Observatory currently pay a fee of $10 for a day’s visit to the popular bear viewing spot during the permit season of July and August. The U.S. Forest Service, which runs and maintains the observatory, has not raised the permit fee in almost 20 years and figures it’s time to charge more.

The additional income could go toward maintenance and improvements. No question the Forest Service has put a lot of money into improving the facilities at Anan over the years, including spending about $1 million to build a new upper viewing platform, which opened last year. Work also included new trail surfacing, and more spending is planned to rebuild the lower viewing platform at one of Wrangell’s prime visitor attractions.

The proposed Anan fee increase is one of about a dozen put out for public comment for cabins and other recreation sites throughout the Tongass National Forest. In addition to looking at future maintenance needs, the federal agency considered what it charges compared to other attractions in Alaska and decided it’s time for an increase.

The Forest Service has proposed raising the fee at Anan by $10 a year over four years, reaching $50 in 2027. The fee applies to the 60 daily visitor permits for guided tours and the dozen daily unguided permits allowed at Anan during the peak bear weeks.

Certainly, $50 doesn’t seem unreasonably out of line for a visitor who may spend a few thousand dollars on air fare, hotel and a guided tour to Anan. They would get prime access and great facilities to view the bears. But it may sound less affordable for a Wrangell family who wants to see the bears in their backyard but would have to pay $200 for a family of four.

Whatever your opinion of the proposed fee increase, you have until Sept. 30 to tell the Forest Service what you think. The agency could raise more than $120,000 a year with the higher permit fees. Do you think that is a good way to help pay for improvements? Too much? Too little? Or just the right size, as Goldilocks might say?

Or maybe you think there should be some lower-cost days for last-minute viewing opportunities.

Whatever your opinion, send them by email to SM.FS.TNFRecFee@usda.gov, or go online at bit.ly/3ItLeOe. Share it with the Forest Service. That’s how the best decisions get made.

— Wrangell Sentinel


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