KNWR Facilities Manager Art Tovar and Refuge Biological Tech Todd Eskelin check out their snow machine before heading on to the Refuge areas that have been recently opened for public use.
Deputy Refuge Manager Jim Hall has announced that portions of Kenai National Wildlife Refuge (KNWR) are open to snowmachine use effective as of Christmas Eve 2006. All traditional areas of the Refuge are opened, but closed areas include the Headquarters Area on Ski Hill Road, Skilak Loop Special Management Area, the Swanson River and Swan Lake Canoe Systems, the Wolf Lake Pipeline corridor, and areas above timberline, except Caribou Hills.
New snowmachine users in the area should contact the Refuge for a map and regulations before they go afield. Hall advises that much of the areas to be opened have adequate snow cover for safe snowmachine travel; however, some areas still have less than 12 inches of snow which makes rocks and stumps potentially dangerous. Hall also cautions that some Refuge water bodies may not be safe to cross with snowmachines.
According to Todd Eskelin, KNWR Biological Technician, the most common mistake that snowmachiners make is to go out above timber line and unknowingly enter into Refuge areas that are closed, which can result in fines, “Law enforcement officers are out patrolling, mostly for public safety, but also to protect the areas of the Refuge that are biologically sensitive areas where snow compaction may be harmful,” cautioned Eskelin, “Your best bet is to scout the area your interested in then stop by our headquarters where you can speak to someone about the area and check out the map we have here,” he said.
Art Tovar, KNWR Facilities Manager, says the Caribou Hills are a very popular area for snow machining but advises any one heading out to review maps, “You want to review maps to know the location of rivers and lakes in the area. We’ve had a pretty hard freeze, but there might be some overflow areas and some rivers that are not frozen, as a rule of thumb if you start seeing water spray, you better speed up and get out of that area,” Tovar told the Dispatch. He also suggests snowmachiners be mindful of wildlife, “If you see a baby moose be cautious because the mama might be right behind it, and as far as safety gear remember to have a GPS, an emergency blanket, fire starter kit, high energy food, a flashlight and some spare dry clothing or even a sleeping bag. Remember many of the areas are out of cell phone range and we recommend to go out in pairs, it’s always safer if you have a breakdown to have a backup machine that can get you safely home,” added Tovar. For more information contact the Refuge at 262-7021, online at
http://kenai.fws.gov, or visit the KNWR headquarters on Ski Hill Road in Soldotna.
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