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Vehicle crossings in Snow River drainage restricted to protect salmon

Posted: Tuesday, September 04, 2001

SEWARD (AP) -- Hunters who travel through the Snow River drainage each autumn in search of moose will have to leave their all-terrain vehicles behind.

The south fork of Snow River has a small run of silver and red salmon and the state Department of Fish and Game doesn't want vehicles disturbing spawning beds or washing out fingerlings.

While the move is not intended to deter hunting, some hunters don't like the idea of making their way through the country on foot or with horses. The main point of access to the site is from a highway pullout near Mile 13 of the Seward Highway, adjacent to the Grayling Lake trailhead.

One local hunter, Jim McCracken, said the area is not used just for hunting moose but also for berry picking and gathering firewood.

McCracken, who serves on the local fish and game advisory board, says there's been no damage from vehicles over the year and he says the issue could eventually end up in court.

''Some of us are going to have to do something,'' McCracken told the Seward Phoenix Log.

In addition to the crossing restriction, the U.S. Forest Service plans to limit summer vehicle access to the lands in the Seward Ranger District. Users enter the public lands through the river drainage.

Snowmachines will be allowed in winter, when critical fish habitat is protected by ice and snow, said Dan Lentz, who oversees recreational use of Seward District lands.

Stewart Seaberg, an area habitat biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game said he has seen vehicle tracks at multiple crossing points along the river. The vehicle restriction is intended to protect fish habitat, not limit hunting.

''We are all in favor of moose hunting,'' Seaberg said. But the vehicle use cannot continue. ''We don't see an easy way out of it.''

Tom Lowy, a state Fish and Wildlife Protection officer, has been enforcing the vehicle restriction since moose hunting season opened Aug. 20.

''It has been going on for years and years,'' he said of the vehicle crossings. ''Now I am the bad guy because I am going to enforce it.''



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