Input sought for plan

Fish and Wildlife looks to improve refuge issues

Posted: Friday, November 25, 2005

While many identify the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge’s Skilak Wildlife Recreation Area as an area that abounds with opportunities to see wildlife, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is attempting to make it even better.

“We’re beginning the planning process to identify issues and propose actions to improve wildlife viewing, photography and interpretation opportunities in the Skilak Wildlife Recreation Area,” said Rob Campellone, planning team leader with the Division of Conservation Planning and Policy.

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Skilak WRA is a 41,780-acre area that encompasses approximately 3 percent of the entire refuge, the bulk of which falls between the Sterling Highway and Skilak Loop Road.

The area is dotted with both large and small lakes with the remaining area covered by tiaga forest of white and black spruce mixed with birch, aspen and other hardwoods. Most of the 200 species of wildlife found in the KNWR use the Skilak WRA for at least a portion of their life-cycle, according to the Fish and Wildlife.

“We’re excited about the project,” Campellone said. “The refuge’s Comprehensive Conservation Plan done in 1985 provided an overall management direction and identified this area be managed for wildlife viewing and other forms of wildlife-dependent recreation. But, this project steps-down to create a management plan with a lot more detail.”

According to Campellone, various ideas already have been proposed, including implementing spotting scopes to view wildlife from a distance, constructing “blinds” for photographing and viewing wildlife unobtrusively, developing additional trails into wildlife areas and habitat enhancement projects to draw wildlife into specific areas.

“Public input is very important,” Campellone said. “These are the public lands, and so they should be involved in the planning process. Also, local people are often the most familiar with an area, so it’s good to hear their ideas, suggestions and concerns.”

In order to obtain the public’s input, there will be a series of public “scoping” meetings to provide a forum for recognizing public and agency concerns that will help guide development, Campellone said.

The first meeting is from 6 to 8 p.m. Monday at the Kenai River Center in Soldotna.

There also will be a meeting from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at the Community Hall in Cooper Landing and from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regional office in Anchorage.

Questionnaires also are available and public comments in the form of written letters and electronic mail will be accepted.

“We’re hoping to get some specific suggestions that can be folded into the step-down plan,” Campellone said.

For more information, contact Rob Campellone at (907) 786-3982 or by e-mail at kenai_plan@fws.gov.

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