During the 2020 hunting season, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game increased the bag limit of caribou for the Fortymile caribou hunt to meet their harvest objectives. Possibly spurred by an increase in hunter participation during COVID-19, land closures in another hunting unit and an increase in the caribou bag limit, the Fortymile caribou hunt saw a heavy influx of hunters from around Alaska, especially around the Steese Highway and in particular on the Pinnell Mountain Trail, which restricts the use of off-road vehicles.
The Fortymile caribou herd ranges across Eastern Interior Alaska and into the Yukon Territory, providing ample hunting opportunity for both Alaskans and non-residents in some incredibly remote parts of Alaska, as well as road-accessible hunts near a handful of Alaskan communities.
The Steese Highway, north of Fairbanks, Alaska, is one of the more popular hunting access points. The Pinnell Mountain National Recreation Trail departs the Steese Highway at Twelve Mile Summit and heads north along alpine ridgetops and the boundary of the BLM’s Steese National Conservation Area before rejoining the road at Eagle Summit, 27 miles later. The trail and a 50-foot buffer on either side is non-motorized. However, the area surrounding the trail is open to OHV use managed by the BLM and the state of Alaska.
The damage to the trail from illegal use was significant in some parts – ruts, damaged vegetation and potholing. In an effort to conduct outreach and organize a repair effort for the trail, the BLM Eastern Interior Field Office convened a meeting with members of the public, state agency staff, Alaska BHA, Resident Hunters of Alaska and others. On June 5, 6 and 26, the BLM held volunteer trail repair days starting at Eagle Summit off the Steese Highway. Newly elected Alaska BHA Events Chair Michael Willis coordinated a volunteer group of BHA members who drove nearly 100 miles northeast of Fairbanks to participate.
Alaska BHA looks forward to working with the BLM, state agencies and members of the public to conduct outreach, education and contribute to creating better management solutions to prevent this kind of damage in the future.
Backcountry Hunters & Anglers is the voice
for our wild public lands, waters and wildlife.