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Board of Game to consider trap setback proposals for Homer area trails

A skier from the Kachemak Nordic Ski Club trails at McNeil Canyon Elementary. Proposed 100 yard trapping setbacks would apply along mapped ski club trails.
Sean McDermott
A skier from the Kachemak Nordic Ski Club trails at McNeil Canyon Elementary. Proposed 100 yard trapping setbacks would apply along mapped ski club trails.

The Alaska Board of Game will be meeting in Soldotna later this month to consider proposed changes to hunting and trapping regulations around the Kenai Peninsula — including several for the Homer area.

KBBI’s Sean McDermott spoke with Kathy Sarns Irwin, a long-time Homer resident who hopes a few key compromises can help trappers and trail users more safely share the area’s most popular trails.

To learn more about Homer-area trapping setback proposals numbers 146 and 147, or submit comments to the review board, visit the Alaska Department of Fish and Game website. Public comments are due by this Friday, March 3.


KATHY SARNS IRWIN: I've been here for quite a number of years. I am a coach for junior Nordic and I’m also an adult coach on the ski trails. I'm also involved with the Friends of Kachemak Bay State Park, putting in and clearing the trails over there.

I got involved with these proposals because I was on a ski with a Kachemak Nordic Ski Club group — we were on a snow machine trail — and two dogs got trapped that day, not that far off the trail. And it was a pretty traumatic event for everybody.

Then I found out that part of the three-year process of proposals was coming right up. So there was a group of concerned citizens — we're not organized — but I am representing a group of unorganized, concerned citizens in Homer.

We have lots of multi-use trails here and in the Homer area, and outdoor recreational use has increased tremendously. There’s way more bikers, skiers, snowshoers, hikers and snowmachiners that are out there with their pets and their children.

SEAN MCDERMOTT: With multi-use trails around Homer, and different groups on these trails, why do you think it's important to make changes or reconsider existing trapping regulations?

SARNS IRWIN: Trapping has been a traditional, often a family sport people have been doing for years and years here.The trapper I'm working with has been trapping here 50 years and his dad trapped here. He knows that things have changed since the 1940s and 50s, where they could trap anywhere, and there was nobody out on fat bikes or skiing or hiking, necessarily out on these trails.

But now, with more people and more people getting out, there's just more interactions. For example, at least eight pet dogs have been trapped, right on or near public multi-use trails in the Homer area since last spring.

It's upsetting for everybody involved, you know. The trapper doesn't want to be trapping dogs either. So this was proposed by a trapper who said he would love to have some guidelines, so that everybody knows where the traps are along these trails, and he came up with a 100-yard setback, 100 yards from the trail on either side. And we came up with this proposal and it’s just for the most popular mapped trails.

MCDERMOTT: So where have you proposed changes? And what does that look like? And if they get passed, where and when would they take effect?

SARNS IRWIN: Well, first of all, the Board of Game review these things, and they've got lots of other proposals to go through. And it's only if they approve it will take effect.

There has not been good luck in the past with any kind of proposals regarding trapping so far, but we're going to try because this seems like a good compromise. And there have been trappers involved with this proposal, who agree that something needs to change with the 21st century, just with the most popular trails that are used the most by the most people.

And some of those are the ski trails that are mapped. And then there's some other trails that are south of Caribou Lake. That includes where some of the races are on bikes and skis and snowshoes.

I want to emphasize again, how we're trying to work with the trappers here. This is not an anti-trapping thing at all. At all. It's like I said, it's a family tradition for some people. It's time to work together on this so everybody can use the trail.

Sean is a photographer and writer originally from Minnesota, and very happy to now call Homer home. His work has been published in Scientific American, Grist, HuffPost, Undark, and Granta, among others.