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Wolverine Creek Area Planning
Management Committee Charter
In the last five years, demand for sport fishing and bear viewing has increased significantly at Wolverine Creek, a tributary to Big River Lakes in the Redoubt Bay Critical Habitat Area (RBCHA). The abundance of salmon during early to mid summer attracts both bears and people to the small cove joining the lake and creek. As use of the Wolverine Creek area by people and bears increases, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) is taking a more active role in managing the area so that anglers and bear viewers can continue to enjoy this resource.
In an effort to involve the public in the management of the Wolverine Creek area, ADF&G will provide a forum for citizens to discuss and agree upon voluntary management guidelines and assist ADF&G in managing the area. All interested parties are encouraged to participate in these meetings; however, to maintain stability and consistency, a steering committee, the Wolverine Creek Management Committee (WCMC), will be created.
The purpose of this charter is to guide the development and implementation of management guidelines. The charter provides some background information about the Wolverine Creek area; outlines WCMC’s purpose and objectives; identifies expected outcomes and products; describes available resources, constraints, and parameters for the WCMC; and presents methods for evaluating the process.
The RBCHA, located 80 miles southwest of Anchorage on the west side of Cook Inlet, was established in 1989 and encompasses 268 square miles of mostly coastal wetlands and tidal mudflats of the Big River drainage. Sockeye and Coho salmon spawn in the Big River Lake system. Brown and black bears feed on migrating salmon along Wolverine Creek and in the shallow waters at the creek’s outlet on Big River Lake. Brown and black bear densities are estimated to be high in the RBCHA and bear populations are considered to be stable or slightly increasing.
Visitor use at Wolverine Creek increased slowly from approximately 500 people annually during the early 1980s to approximately 2,000 people at the end of the 1990s. However, visitor use has grown considerably in the past 3 years, and approximately 9,055 people (not including guides) visited Wolverine Creek during summer 2002. Visitors in 2002 generated an estimated $2.7 million for commercial guiding and air taxi businesses. In comparison, the McNeil River State Game Sanctuary received 175 visitors in 2002. Brooks Falls in Katmai National Park received approximately 6,500 visitors (not including guides) in 2002. Up to 180 visitors per day now visit Wolverine Creek during the heavy use period of early-June through late July, with as many as 100 people present at one time.
The majority of visitors access Wolverine Creek through the roughly 20 commercial air taxi services, commercial sport fishing guides or commercial lodges from Anchorage, Kenai, Soldotna or Homer. A 16-bed lodge operates on a private inholding within RBCHA located about a mile from Wolverine Creek.
Approximately seven percent of the visitors to Wolverine Creek arrive in private aircraft. In 2002, 13 commercial operators and seven private individuals obtained Special Area Permits from the department to store approximately 48 boats on Big River Lake.
As recreational use at Wolverine Creek increased, conflicts among visitors and between bears and visitors increased. Specific concerns that have arisen from visitor use at Wolverine Creek include food-conditioning of bears; displacement of feeding bears during summer; negative impacts to fish and wildlife habitat; maintenance of a high quality recreational opportunity; public safety; and user conflicts. Sustaining fish runs and bear numbers has not been a management issue in the past.
For the past four years, ADF&G has actively managed the Wolverine Creek area to maintain public access and improve opportunities for fishing and bear viewing in a high quality environment. Seasonal staff have been stationed in the area between mid-June and late July to stop food-conditioning of bears, minimize displacement of feeding bears, and reduce adverse effects of visitors on wildlife habitat. On-site staff interact with guides and visitors and serve as informational and educational resources for the continued public use and enjoyment of the area. In addition they have monitored boat and aircraft use of the area and encouraged guides and visitors to comply with management guidelines.
As a result of ADF&G’s presence, and with the cooperation of many users, there has been progress in minimizing negative impacts to bears and habitat. However, ADF&G continues to receive complaints from visitors to Wolverine Creek. In addition, increasing numbers of visitors raise concerns about the sustainability of this unique area.
Although ADF&G has the option of pursuing regulations to
preserve and protect the resources of RBCHA, the agency prefers to work with
the users of the Wolverine Creek area to cooperatively develop and implement
voluntary management guidelines. These guidelines will specify management
actions aimed at maintaining fish and wildlife populations and their habitat,
as well as maintaining public access and opportunities for fishing, hunting,
trapping, wildlife viewing, photography, and general recreation in a high
WCMC Purpose & Objectives
The purpose of the WCMC is to assist ADF&G in the development and implementation of management guidelines for the Wolverine Creek area. The guidelines will reflect relevant biological and social information and knowledge.
The specific objectives of the WCMC are:
1) To review the existing management guidelines and suggest changes as appropriate, adhering to the goals and policies provided by the Redoubt Bay Critical Habitat Area Management Plan and appropriate statutes and regulations. The WCMC will consider, at a minimum, ways to: prevent food-conditioning of bears; minimize displacement of bears in summer, adverse effects of visitors on fish and wildlife habitat, and conflicts among visitors; and maintain high-quality recreational opportunities and public safety.
Measurement of Success: consensus is reached on management guidelines appropriate for visitors to Wolverine Creek.
2) To devise workable strategies to implement the management guidelines and agree to putting them into action. According to reports from returning guides and visitors, the departments’ management actions have reduced conflicts among visitors and between bears and visitors. However, not every user complies with the voluntary guidelines, especially when department staff is not monitoring the area.
Measurement of Success: consensus is reached on strategies for cooperatively managing Wolverine Creek area.
3) To ensure public support for the management guidelines by involving the public in cooperatively managing the area. The key to success in this project is building a partnership that includes ADF&G and users of the Wolverine Creek area.
Measurement of Success: a management partnership between ADF&G and users of Wolverine Creek area is maintained.
Expected Outcomes and Products
The WCMC is expected to work cooperatively with ADF&G to develop and implement management strategies for the Wolverine Creek area.
The WCMC is expected to use a consensus-building process to form decisions. Consensus is defined as an agreement reached by identifying the interests of all of the concerned parties and then building a cooperative solution that maximizes the satisfaction of as many of the interests as possible. Each member enters the process with the intention of working cooperatively with other committee members to reach consensus decisions on actions supporting the conservation and management of the Wolverine Creek area. In some cases consensus may not be possible. In these cases, committee members will document the points of disagreement in a minority report. However, it is expected that the facilitator and committee members will work diligently to reach consensus on even the most difficult issues.
Each WCMC member is responsible for communicating with his or her constituents throughout the process. In addition, WCMC members will be encouraged to participate in any local community outreach efforts coordinated by ADF&G.
WCMC Composition, Resources, & Parameters
WCMC will be a peer-selected group representing the following interests: on-site guide with fishing emphasis (one member), on-site guide with bear viewing emphasis (one member); air charter business owners (two members, one from the Kenai Peninsula and one from another area); recreational users (two members, one from the Kenai Peninsula and one from another area); area lodges (one member).
Several people will provide professional support and assistance to the WCMC as it works with ADF&G to develop and implement Management Guidelines to manage the Wolverine Creek area. Lisa O’Brien, a neutral party, will facilitate meetings and assist in the development of the management guidelines. ADF&G staff from Habitat, Sport Fish, and Wildlife Conservation divisions will attend each WCMC meeting and will provide fundamental biological and management information. Cindi Loker, ADF&G planner, will coordinate the process and serve as technical advisor to the WCMC on planning issues. In addition, Cindi will coordinate any communication and public outreach efforts and provide logistic and administrative support. Any requests for additional resources will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
ADF&G will support the WCMC for two years at which time the committee’s effectiveness will be evaluated. It is anticipated the WCMC will meet three times during the first year and twice during the second year of the project. WCMC meetings will alternate between the Kenai Peninsula and Anchorage. If necessary, WCMC members may be reimbursed for actual expenses. The WCMC will begin work in November 2002, and all work is to be completed by June 2004.
WCMC members will limit the scope of their work to assisting with the development and implementation of management guidelines for the Wolverine Creek area. This area is located within the RBCHA which is specifically defined in the codified hunting regulations as the Redoubt Bay Critical Habitat Area located in Game Management Unit 16B. All applicable statutes and regulations must be considered prior to making any modifications to the existing guidelines. The WCMC will not consider eliminating hunting or fishing in the Wolverine Creek area. ADF&G supports the Board of Fish and Board of Game as the appropriate public venues for consideration of proposals of this nature.
Issues peripheral to the primary objectives of the WCMC will be put in the “parking lot” to be revisited after the guidelines have been revised and agreed upon. These issues will be addressed by the WCMC if time and resources permit and the WCMC agrees by consensus to do so.
The WCMC process will be evaluated by ADF&G and the WCMC to determine its effectiveness per management objectives for the area. Indicators of the success of WCMC process include:
- No food conditioning of bears
- Displacement of bears during summer is minimized
- Negative impacts to fish and wildlife habitat is minimized
- Recreational opportunities in a high-quality environment are maintained
- Public safety is promoted
- Conflicts among visitors are minimized
A variety of tools can be used to measure these items, including:
- Reports from committee members at the post-season meeting
- Survey or anecdotal information from ADF&G on-site staff regarding the number of users, the number of conflicts, the number of bears, fish counts, etc.
- Input to ADF&G from other users
In addition, the WCMC will be asked to evaluate elements of the process (e.g., Was it fair? Was it effective?) after the two year period is over. If the staff and public determine that the process is successful, ADF&G will explore ways to continue. If not, other management strategies will be pursued.
Wolverine Creek Management Committee Membership
The following WCMC members agree to the provisions of this charter:
Air Charter Representatives
Recreational User Representatives
Bear Viewing Guide Representative
Sport Fishing Guide Representative
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P.O. Box 115526
1255 W. 8th Street
Juneau, AK 99811-5526