Refuge Offers Permits for Rafting On Upper Kenai River

Shaylon Cochran

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           The Kenai Wildlife Refuge is accepting applications for commercial use permits for scenic rafting on the river.  But the process to get commercial permit from the Refuge can be highly competitive.

            The commercial permits in question are few in number; just two will be issued by the Refuge for guided tours between the Russian River Confluence and the Refuge boundary and Skilak Lake.  Ranger and Permitting Specialist Rick Johnston says this is to preserve a balance within the Refuge.

            "It's already kind of a croded area," says Johnson. "We would like to moderate it a little bit."

            The competitive process is there to ensure the best applicants are offering services within the boundaries of the Refuge.  This has been the process since 1997, the year after a redrafting of the Upper Kenai River commercial Visitor Services Management Policy.

            Johnson says the system is basically set up like a resume' system. He says the permits have become much more detailed and specific over the years, with one commercial venture operating under as many three different permits for different activities on different parts of the refuge.

            The permits being issued for next year will be good for five years, and the permit holders will then be up for automatic renewal for an additional five years.  Renewals are automatic in theory, there are reasons why a permit might be revoked, like a wildlife violation or similar transgression, but Johnson says those are pretty few and far between, as are the offerings for the permits themselves.

            "Most people around here are pretty good eggs," he said. " They get the permit and they let us know if they're not using it anymore."

            A prospectus for guided sportfishing/scenic rafting is available to pick up at the Refuge headquarters.  Proposals must be submitted by November 1st.  Selection will be completed by February of next year and the permits issued in May.

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