Alaska State Refuges See Record Visitor Numbers for Golden Anniversary
(Juneau) – People came in record numbers to Alaska’s state refuges in 2010. Well over one million visits were recorded. Destinations such as Potter Marsh and Creamer’s Field reported from 12 to 17 percent more visits than in 2009.
“Seeing significant increases like this speaks to the viability and importance of our refuge programs,” said Joe Meehan, Lands and Refuge Manager for ADF&G. “It’s particularly rewarding and noteworthy because last year was our golden anniversary.”
Alaska’s state refuge program was initiated in 1960 when the Alaska State Legislature created the Walrus Islands State Game Sanctuary in Bristol Bay. Today there are 32 refuges, sanctuaries and critical habitat areas encompassing 3.2 million acres of valuable fish and wildlife habitat.
While the primary purpose of the state’s refuge program is to protect fish and wildlife habitats and their populations, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game is actively improving and promoting access to these areas so the public can use them in a way that maintains their wildlife values. Whether it’s digging clams, watching or photographing wildlife, picking berries, catching fish, hunting moose or waterfowl, or simply recreating in a natural area, the public is enjoying, in ever increasing numbers, the many opportunities available in our state wildlife refuge system.
“These areas provide important subsistence, recreational and commercial opportunities for Alaskans and visitors and I’m glad people are making the most of these areas,” said Meehan. He also noted that the commercial uses of these areas pump millions of dollars annually into the state’s economies and can have significant economic benefits to local communities.
Alaska’s state refuges are diverse and include well known sites such as the McNeil River, Walrus Islands and Stan Price sanctuaries; Creamer’s Field, Anchorage Coastal (which includes Potter Marsh) and Mendenhall Wetlands refuges; as well as lesser known sites such as the Palmer Hay Flats, Goose Bay, and Minto Flats refuges, and the Beluga Wetlands in the Homer Airport Critical Habitat Area.Potter Marsh, at the southern end of the Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge, continues to experience a significant increase since major upgrades were initiated in 2006. During 2010, approximately 130,000 visits were recorded by people enjoying the boardwalks and other facility upgrades. Likewise, the popularity of Creamer’s Field refuge in Fairbanks continues as approximately 88,000 visits were recorded in 2010 as people toured the historic farmhouse, walked the refuge trails or hunted its more remote areas.
More information on all 32 refuge areas including permitted activities and access locations may be obtained online at www.adfg.alaska.gov.