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Contact: Barbara Cellarius, 907-822-7236
Copper Center, AK- The National Park Service will hold public hearings on Tuesday, January 8, 2013, on two proposed changes to State of Alaska hunting regulations for Wrangell-St. Elias National Preserve along with closure of the Soda Lake Trail to the subsistence use of off-road vehicles (ORVs). The proposed changes to hunting regulations would prohibit taking brown bears over bait stations and shorten the seasons for hunting wolves and coyotes.
These proposed wildlife take restrictions are based on recent changes to State hunting regulations. Those changes included allowing the taking of brown bears over bait stations in three game management units, which included portions of three National Preserves. The proposed prohibition reflects the NPS concerns about the dangers of food conditioned bears as well as the potential impact to the natural abundance, behavior, distribution, and ecological integrity of brown bear populations. The State has also extended the hunting season for wolves and coyotes into the summer in several areas, including several National Preserves. The NPS is proposing to prohibit the take between May 1 and August 9 because it is the period when wolves and coyotes are denning and raising offspring and their pelts have little trophy or economic value.
Wrangell-St. Elias is also proposing to close a degraded portion of the Soda Lake trail to ORV use by rural residents engaged in subsistence uses now that a newly constructed re-route provides alternative access to the same area. The re-route is a sustainable trail that is open to both subsistence and recreational ORV use.
The hearings are the first step leading to the potential implementation of restrictions in the annual Superintendent's Compendium, an annual compilation of temporary closures and similar restrictions. After taking into consideration public comments, the National Park Service may include hunting restrictions and the trail closure in the draft Compendium, which will be released on January 15. The text for all of the Alaska compendiums will be posted on http://www.nps.gov/akso/management/compendiums.cfm. A 30-day public comment period will also be held for the draft compendiums, with a final compendium expected to go into effect on April 1, 2013.
The Wrangell-St. Elias Preserve hearings will be held on Tuesday, January 8, 2013, from 4 to 5:30 PM at the Slana Community Corporation Building in Slana, and from 7 to 9 PM at the Tok School in Tok. Other national preserves which are affected by these proposed changes are holding separate public hearings. Additional information may be obtained by calling park headquarters at 907-822-5234.