U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Sabine Poux/KDLL

The decision by Federal Judge Sharon Gleason to uphold Obama-era regulations in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge comes amidst a months-long effort by the state and hunting advocates to change those regulations, as well as a concurrent effort to keep them in place.

This summer, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed changes to existing refuge rules that include allowing hunting brown bears over bait and remove trapping setbacks from trails and trailheads, among others. The service is currently sifting through the tens of thousands of comments it received in response — most in opposition.

Sabine Poux/KDLL

Nearly 70 people weighed in on proposed changes to Kenai National Wildlife Refuge regulations during a series of public hearings last week. That’s on top of more than 44,000 written comments the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has received on the matter to date.

Most who testified spoke in opposition to the proposal, taking particular issue with changes that would permit brown bear baiting where black bear baiting is already allowed and reversing restrictions on trapping by trailheads. Those who spoke in favor advocated aligning state and federal refuge policies on hunting in the refuge.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service presentation

The third in three hearings about proposed Kenai National Wildlife Refuge changes has been canceled with no explanation.

An outpouring of concern for proposed refuge regulation alterations — which would change how the refuge handles trapping and bear baiting, among other policies — prompted the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to hold a public hearing. The service added two additional hearings when space for public comment filled up. 

Around 115 commenters were slated to speak at last night’s hearing, held on Zoom, though only 22 ended up showing up to testify — two in favor of the rule changes and 20 against. Dozens of others attended the meeting as listeners.

Sabine Poux/KDLL

A public hearing on proposed Kenai National Wildlife Refuge regulation changes has been extended over three days, due to hundreds signing up for a slot to comment.

From Monday to Wednesday, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is holding hearings on proposed changes to refuge policies that would open the refuge up to trapping without a federal permit, allow for hunting brown bears over bait in areas where baiting is already allowed for black bears, and allow for the discharge of firearms along areas of the Kenai and Russian Rivers in the fall and winter, among other changes.

Fish & Wildlife Service

Construction to the Salamatof Boat Launch in Soldotna will start Monday.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will fortify the underwater cables that hold the concrete piers of the launch in place, in addition to building a better turnaround area, so users can launch their boats without having to back out.

They’re also going to improve the parking area, says Matt Conner, visitor services manager for the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.

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