ANCHORAGE - A new strategic plan for the state Department of Fish and Game calls for increased emphasis on wildlife viewing, education and management of animals not sought as game.
The plan says the Division of Wildlife Conservation should continue to focus its traditional efforts on game animals that are hunted and trapped, but should expand its work in nontraditional areas.
"It is a change," said Doug Larsen, deputy director of the agency.
The change was spurred by funding. Two years ago Congress began giving states money to expand nontraditional wildlife management programs, he said.
Alaska has received $6.4 million over the past two years, part of which funded the new strategic plan, Larsen said.
Nationwide, an increasing number of people say they enjoy watching wildlife. A recent study by the U.S. Department of the Interior shows that Americans spent more on wildlife watching in 2001 than in 1996, while expenditures for fishing and hunting declined. The number of wildlife watchers also rose during the same period, while hunting and fishing participation fell.
The Division of Wildlife Conservation has programs in watchable wildlife, such as brown bear viewing at McNeil River State Game Sanctuary. The new funding will allow the state to provide more opportunities, and the strategic plan sets that out as a goal.
Money also will be spent on education, including helping teachers with wildlife-based curriculum and putting more information on the Internet. More attention will also be placed on the birds and animals that aren't considered game species.
The deadline for public comment is Nov. 1.