McNeil River Special Access Permits
Selection Criteria

The selection criteria for McNeil River Special Access Permits have been established to assure that only highly qualified projects receive these permits. Projects that are clearly in the best interest of the State of Alaska, the management of the McNeil River Sanctuary, the management and conservation of the sanctuary resources and/or the overall efforts in bear conservation will be selected.

The four categories of Special Access Permits for the McNeil River State Game Sanctuary are: Scientific, Educational, Media and Commissioner's. There are specific criteria for each of the categories and applicants are encouraged to apply under more than one category if relevant.

There is an application fee of $60 per person (3 person maximum per application).

General Criteria for Selection of All Special Access Permits

Recipients of Special Access Permits must demonstrate:

  1. the project will provide benefits to wildlife conservation in Alaska, to the McNeil River Sanctuary, and/or to bear conservation and management; and
  2. the project objectives may best be accomplished at the McNeil River Sanctuary rather than another location.

The McNeil River Special Access Permit review panel sets high standards. This means that some Special Access Permits may not be allocated. Letters of endorsement from recognized institutions and authorities strengthen applications.

Criteria for Scientific Special Access Permits

In addition to the above General Criteria, the following criteria will be used to evaluate and select permit applicants for scientific purposes:

  1. The applicant's visit to the McNeil River Sanctuary will contribute to the scientific knowledge or conservation of bears; and/or
  2. The applicant's visit to the McNeil River Sanctuary will increase understanding of ecological or behavioral processes existing at McNeil River; and, this knowledge will enhance visitor satisfaction or help preserve the characteristics making the sanctuary valuable to people, bears, or other wildlife.

Criteria for Educational Special Access Permits

In addition to the General Criteria, the following criteria will be used to evaluate and select permit applicants for educational purposes:

  1. That knowledge gained at the sanctuary by educators or representatives of educational institutions will further the objectives for which the sanctuary was established (see Sanctuary Purpose on the "Permit Overview" page); and/or
  2. The applicant is a manager of proposed or existing bear viewing facilities who requires first-hand experience with the features that have made the McNeil River program successful. Generally, visitors who receive Special Access Permits on this basis should be the actual in-field managers of the facilities. Less consideration will be given to administrative and support staff for such facilities.

Criteria for Media Special Access Permits

  1. Applicant's work in an area of public or artistic media, or communications demonstrates a record of high quality productions that make significant and scientifically accurate contributions to public knowledge of natural history topics. Samples of previous work demonstrating this level of competence will strengthen the application; and
  2. There are public policy issues concerning the McNeil River Sanctuary about which the public and policy makers deserve first-hand, objective information from print, television or other media reporters. Special consideration will be given to applicants whose projects will have the greatest circulation. Applicants should demonstrate their willingness to share their projects by attaching letters of agreement from each outlet or media type that will be using their projects.

Criteria for Commissioner's Special Access Permits

Commissioner's permits may be issued at the discretion of the Commissioner of the Department of Fish and Game. Examples of categories for which the Commissioner will consider issuing permits include, but are not limited to, the following:

  1. Elected or appointed officials who are, or are likely to be, involved in a legislative or regulatory decision on issues affecting the sanctuary.
  2. Individuals who have provided, or intend to provide, significant financial or other types of support to wildlife conservation in Alaska and/or to the McNeil River program.
  3. Honoraria designed to recognize highly significant contributions to wildlife conservation, education, viewing or similar programs, or for humanitarian reasons.
  4. Staff of the Department of Fish and Game when the granting of such permits is deemed necessary or desirable for improving policy decisions or administrative support for the program or in recognition of outstanding service to the Department.

Sanctuary Purpose

The McNeil River State Game Sanctuary was established by Alaska State Statute (AS 16.20.162) to:

  1. Provide permanent protection for brown bear and other fish and wildlife populations and their habitat, so that these resources may be preserved for scientific, aesthetic, and educational purposes;

  2. Manage human use and activities in a way that is compatible with paragraph (1), and to maintain and enhance the unique bear viewing opportunities within the sanctuary; and

  3. Provide opportunities compatible with paragraph (1), for wildlife viewing, fisheries enhancement, and fishing, for temporary safe anchorage, and for other activities.