Kenai National Wildlife Refuge

Proposed regulation revisions would change access and hunting opportunities on the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. John Morton, retired refuge supervisory biologist, Rick Johnston, retired refuge law enforcement officer, pilot and ranger, and David Raskin, president of Friends of Alaska Refuges, talk about what the changes would mean on the refuge. Click here to read the proposed changes and comment by Aug. 10.

Jenny Neyman/KDLL

Several popular trails closed after being damaged by the Swan Lake Fire last year are reopening to the public.

The Skyline Trail, which takes hikers up a steep mile to the tops of the Mystery Hills, and Hideout Trail, which takes off from near the eastern entrance of Skilak Lake Road, are now open again. Fuller Lakes Trail has been open this year up to the lower lake, but closed up to the upper lake. That upper part is now open as well. All three trails are popular but were closed due to extensive damage during the fires in 2019.

Alaska Division of Forestry

The first ghost of the Swan Lake Fire showed up on Tuesday east of Soldotna.

With big wildland fires that burn deep into the terrain, pockets of hot material can remain, even into the next year. These hotspots can then ignite and cause a secondary burn, called a holdover fire.

Jenny Neyman/KDLL

A federal rule change is in the works that would increase hunting and access opportunities on the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.

The modification of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rules would more closely align state and federal regulations on national refuges in Alaska, following a 2017 Trump administration order.

The new rules were published in the Federal Register on Thursday and are open for public comment for 60 days. The changes would allow hunting brown bears over bait on the refuge. Trappers would no longer need to get a refuge-specific permit, which requires a seldom-offered orientation class. The discharge of firearms would be allowed along the Kenai and Russian rivers from Nov. 1 to April 30. There would be more access for snowmachines, ATVs and utility vehicles on ice-fishing lakes and there would be more allowance for bikes and game carts.

Rick Green, special assistant to the commissioner of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, says the state sees this as a rightful return to state management of wildlife.

“Unlike most other states in the union, Alaska is one of the only ones that the federal government steps in and manages wildlife when it’s really a state’s rights issue,” Green said.

Morel season just about to heat up in Swan Lake burn

May 14, 2020
Jenny Neyman/KDLL

Last year, the Swan Lake Fire took away a lot of opportunity for outdoor activities across the western Kenai Peninsula. But, like many wildfires, it leaves behind a gift: morel mushrooms.

“After wildland fire, you end up with the conditions that are kind of ripe for welcoming morel mushrooms. We’ve had really large fires on the Kenai Peninsula in the past that have been very productive with morels,” said Leah Eskelin, park ranger for the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge

Morels, which grow across northern climates and have conical, brown caps, are highly sought after by mushroom hunters. Why? They can’t be bought commercially, and they’re delicious. They’re also notoriously hard to find.


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