Thomas Welte of Industrial Refuse Inc. watches Bob St. Onge of Pacific Alaska Forwarders Inc. load bear-resistant garbage cans onto an Industrial Refuse trailer last month. Pacific Alaska donated shipping for the cans, which will be distributed to customers in Kenai at a deep discount.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
The city of Kenai got a little safer Thursday as the Wildlife Conservation Community Program officially kicked off at the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center.
“This is a real community program,” said Larry Lewis, wildlife technician with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, and the person primarily responsible for the organization of the program.
As Lewis explains it, it is a community program because it is a citywide cooperative effort involving municipal, state and federal agencies, businesses, nonprofit organizations and citizens.
The goals of the program are safer neighborhoods for people and wildlife, better stewardship of wildlife resources through education, and less time spent dealing with nuisance wildlife by Fish and Game personnel, as well as by Alaska State Troopers and city police departments.
The program is based on a pilot program implemented by the Alaska Audubon Society and Fish and Game, funded through a grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service geared toward reducing bear problems in two subdivisions within Kenai.
“We had a lot of problems in the Valhalla Heights and Shaginoff subdivisions,” Lewis said.
For two years, property owners within these subdivisions were provided free garbage pickup if they agreed to use bear-resistant garbage cans that were supplied to them.
“During those two years, there were no calls to (Fish and Game) or the Kenai Police Department regarding negative interactions with bears within the project area,” Lewis said.
This is the same success rate that Lewis is hoping Kenai will have with the Wildlife Conservation Community Program a big part of which also revolves around residents using bear-resistant garbage containers.
“I’m glad to say we’re at a point where people can start calling and ordering the equipment,” Lewis said.
The bear-resistant garbage containers come in three sizes 32 gallons, 68 gallons and 95 gallons.
“Right now we have a total of 395 cans, but we will use the money from sales of these, and that given from ConocoPhillips, to buy more,” Lewis said.
ConocoPhillips gave $38,000 that was combined with $90,000 in grants from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to purchase the cans. The Kenai Peninsula chapter of Safari Club International oversaw the administration of the money.
Lewis said the bear-resistant garbage containers which normally retail for $250 are available for purchase through Industrial Refuse or Alaska Waste at a cost of $50 for people living within the city of Kenai and roughly $190-$200 for those living outside the city.
In addition to the containers, Lewis also used Thursday afternoon to discuss the educational components of the Wildlife Conservation Community Program.
He explained that more than 5,500 copies of the publication “Living in Harmony with Bears” were mailed out.
“We sent a copy to anyone with a post office box or a mailing address so no one can say ‘I didn’t know,’” Lewis said.
Signs will also be erected in key locations around the city as part of the program, and the graphic art of Lynlee Arbuckle a freshman at Kenai Central High School was chosen for the signage.
Arbuckle, along with her art teacher Sandra Lewis, received a certificate of appreciation for her efforts at the kick-off event.
“I’m very proud of her,” Sherrie Arbuckle, Lynlee’s mother, said. “She’s always drawing and painting at home and I’m happy to see her appreciated for something she enjoys doing.”
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