Daily Rules, Proposed Rules, and Notices of the Federal Government
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Katmai National Monument, originally designated in 1918 and subsequently expanded by four Presidential Proclamations, was enlarged and re-designated as a National Park and Preserve by the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) in 1980. Brooks Lodge was established in the 1950s on the north side of the lower Brooks River as a world-class recreational rainbow trout and salmon fishery and a premier recreational destination. In subsequent years, the Brooks Camp Area has become a high-quality bear viewing location due to the large population of brown bears that feed on the abundant salmon at Brooks River. The Brooks Camp Area currently receives up to 15,000 visitors annually. In addition to its abundant natural resources, the Brooks Camp Area also contains an internationally significant concentration of cultural resources, with cultural remains spanning a 4,500 year period and comprising some of the largest and most important prehistoric cultural sites in Alaska. It is a designated National Historic Landmark (NHL) and elements of the NHL have been nominated as a Cultural Landscape.
The record of decision following the 1996 DCP/EIS called for the relocation of facilities and infrastructure in the Brooks Camp Area to the south side of the Brooks River. The reasons for the proposed relocation were to protect natural and cultural resources, including prime brown bear habitat, and to improve visitor safety by reducing the potential for bear/human encounters. This proposal helps facilitate the phased relocation of NPS and concessionaire operations to the south side of the river, by providing a safe and dependable means of access across the river, and to the Brooks Camp Area via floatplane.
Currently, visitors to the Brooks Camp Area arrive by floatplane on the north side of Brooks River. The start of Valley of 10,000 Smokes bus tour is on the south side of the river, as are three heavily used bear viewing platforms that overlook the Brooks River, some NPS housing and maintenance facilities, and concessionaire maintenance operations.
Providing dependable access across the Brooks River will improve safety and facilitate traffic flow for access to current and future facilities.
The existing floating bridge is the only way the river can be crossed by visitors and employees. In 2007, the NPS devoted considerable time and personnel (2,690 hours) to visitor safety at the floating bridge to minimize bear-human encounters. Over the past five years, the total number of bears regularly using Brooks River has ranged from 43 to 70, which represents more than double the number of bears from 1988-1992. The Brooks Camp Area is visited by as many as 300 people per day at season peak. A new bridge and boardwalk would allow bears to move and use preferred feeding areas without encountering visitors and staff at ground level. In addition, the existing floating bridge is past its life expectancy and frequently requires repairs due to damage by bears, storms and high water events, and river current. Erosion control and annual rebuilding are necessary to keep the current access trail intact.