McNeil River Special Access Permits
Application Overview

Most visitors to the McNeil River State Game Sanctuary obtain Viewing Access Permits through the lottery program described on the previous pages. However, a few permits are available through our Special Access Permit program. This program is available only to individuals that have a special need to visit the Sanctuary. These needs may include (but are not limited to) scientists, land managers, educators, public or artistic media representatives, filmmakers, or others acting in an official capacity and who would benefit professionally by visiting McNeil River. These permits will only be issued to individuals whose work will benefit the McNeil River Sanctuary and/or the general efforts to conserve bears.

Access to the McNeil River Sanctuary using these permits during the period of June 7-August 25 is granted by the Commissioner of the Department of Fish and Game following the review of the proposals by the McNeil River Permit Review Panel. Generally, no more than 10 permits (each valid for a 4-day period) may be allocated for scientific, educational and media purposes; and no more than 5 permits (each valid for a 4-day period) are generally allocated for Commissioner's permits.

Applications for Special Access Permits in the Scientific, Educational and Media categories are accepted starting September 1 and must be received by 5:00 pm on December 1 for permits for the following summer. The application procedures and permit selection criteria are described on the following pages. Please refer to these criteria when submitting your permit application and proposal.

All Special Access Permit applications may include up to three people and must include a non-refundable application fee of $60.00 per person. If selected by the Commissioner of the Department of Fish and Game to receive a Special Access Permit, there will be a use fee of $225.00 for each Alaskan Resident ($525.00 for each Non-Alaskan Resident) listed on the permit application.

Please complete this application and return it with your proposal. Your proposal and supporting documentation should:

  1. clearly describe the details of your request,
  2. address why your activity needs to be conducted at the McNeil River State Game Sanctuary, and
  3. describe how your proposal would benefit the McNeil River sanctuary, the sanctuary's resources, the State of Alaska, and the overall efforts in bear conservation.

If you are applying under the auspices of an organization or agency, please submit a cover letter on your organization/agency letterhead. Letters of endorsement from recognized institutions and authorities will strengthen your application as will submittal of past works (if applicable).

Your application packet will be reviewed by the McNeil River Permit Review Panel. The panel will make its recommendations to the Commissioner who will make the final decisions. You will be notified whether your application was approved (generally by February 15). If you have additional questions, please call the McNeil River Sanctuary support staff at 907-267-2189 or e-mail us at

Remember these important dates:

  • September 1 - Application period opens for the following calendar year
  • December 1 - Applications for following year must be received
  • Mid/Late February - Permit selection notification begins
  • April 15 - Permit payment is due