Alaska Department of Fish and Game
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Special Area Management Planning
Since statehood, the Alaska State Legislature has designated 32 special areas across Alaska encompassing more than 3.2 million acres. These special areas include 12 game refuges, 17 critical habitat areas, and 3 wildlife sanctuaries. The ADFG co-manages these areas with the Department of Natural Resources. Within ADF&G, the Divisions of Habitat and Wildlife Conservation manage these areas according to specific statutory purposes generally related to conservation of fish, wildlife, their habitats, and the public uses of these resources. However, the legislature also recognized that other important uses of these lands exist and, in some cases, have specified allowable activities within these areas and have mandated that ADF&G develop management plans to guide the approval of activities and development so that they are conducted in a manner compatible with the purpose for each special area.
Currently, 17 of these special areas have management plans that guide the management of the area and the permitting of activities (land use permits) that may occur within the area. Individual area management plans can be downloaded from each area’s web page. Area pages can be accessed via the Special Areas Locator. Hard copies of the existing plans are also available at ADF&G offices. All of these plans are useful and meaningful, but many are challenging to implement as they are outdated and/or include language in the policies which is subject to interpretation. In light of Administrative Order 266 (Regulatory Efficiency Guidelines for State agencies), ADF&G plans to review the existing management plans and associated regulations and revise them as necessary to ensure that the special areas are managed for the reasons designated and the management plans and regulations are effective, efficient, and provide our biologists with the discretion to continue their success in evaluating activities to avoid, minimize, and mitigate impacts.
To prioritize the revision of existing plans and regulations, we have identified three phases of work. The first two phases will focus on specific management plans and their associated regulations; the third phase will address all remaining regulations in 5 AAC 95. (Links to 5 AAC 95 and AS 16.20 for each special area can be found on our Special Area Regulations page.) To efficiently complete this project, the goals and policies of the existing plans are the focus of the review, while other portions of the plans will remain generally unchanged. Each phase will culminate in filing a complete, adopted regulatory package consistent with the Administrative Procedures Act (APA).
The first phase will revise the plans and regulations for the Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge, Izembek State Game Refuge, McNeil River State Game Refuge and McNeil River State Game Sanctuary, Mendenhall Wetlands State Game Refuge, Minto Flats State Game Refuge, Tugidak Island Critical Habitat Area, and Yakataga State Game Refuge with the objective of completing this phase by December 2014. We plan to complete the 2nd and 3rd phases of the project by December of each of the following years. Once we have completed the review and revisions to the existing management plans and regulations, ADF&G will initiate the preparation of new management plans for the remaining special areas without plans.
During this first phase, we will also continue our efforts to finalize the management plans and regulations for the Dude Creek Critical Habitat Area and the five Bristol Bay critical habitat areas. However, as we had just initiated the planning processes for the Willow Mountain Critical Habitat Area (WMCHA) and the Susitna Flats State Game Refuge (SFSGR), and in order to prioritize the review and revision to the existing management plans and associated regulations, we are discontinuing and terminating the review and development of the WMCHA and SFSGR management plans.
As ADF&G moves forward with the special area management plan work, we will seek public input and collaborate with managing partners on the updates to these existing plans and the development of new plans. ADF&G will solicit input and provide an opportunity for informal comments on the existing plans and potential revisions, and will solicit formal comments under the APA. ADF&G may also hold public meetings and hearings to share information on the planning process and gather input. ADF&G encourages you to stay involved.
Contact Information for the Special Areas Planning Staff