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New book highlights Pack Creek brown bears

Posted: Thursday, November 27, 2008

The brown bears of Admiralty Island are legendary and the ones that frequent Pack Creek are no exception to that rule.

The Friends of Admiralty Island, a local nonprofit with 350 members established in 1997, has published the new book "Pack Creek Bears & The Legacy of Stan Price" to highlight the significance of the area and the man that helped bring attention to one of the world's premiere bear-viewing sites.

"Stan Price is an incredible piece of our history, and we wanted somehow to capture that," said K.J. Metcalf, president and co-founder of Friends of Admiralty Island. "And we also wanted to kind of highlight the uniqueness of the bears at Pack Creek. Over the years there has been a number of efforts to open part of that to bear hunting, and we thought that maybe this is a way to explain the value of the bears for viewing."

Price spent 33 years living at Pack Creek, beginning in 1956, and he has become synonymous with the world-class bear-viewing destination. Following his death in 1989, the state of Alaska established a sanctuary at Pack Creek in Price's name.

Metcalf, who worked as the first ranger of Admiralty National Monument, said the area located southwest of Juneau has given thousands of people the opportunity to view brown bears in their natural habitat.

"A substantial kind of local market has evolved for independent travelers to take them out there," he said. "They're not the cruise ship passengers, but just the folks that come into town and have heard about Pack Creek and want to go out there. It seemed really important to protect that aspect of the tourism industry."

The Friends of Admiralty Island is hoping the new book will help shed some light on the area to further protect the habitat and encourage sound management. The group has advocated having tideland areas added to the Stan Price Wildlife Sanctuary to have more consistent management by the state government.

"To manage the uplands one way and the tidelands in a different way when the bears go back and forth and utilize all of it, isn't really good management strategy," Metcalf said. "So it just makes sense to incorporate these areas."

Legislation had been introduced last year to do just that, but it never made it out of committee, he said.

"We would like to take another run at that to include all of these tidelands," Metcalf said.

The catalyst for creating the book came about in 2007 when filmmaker Luisa Stoughton died. Her husband, filmmaker Joel Bennett, had suggested making donations to the Friends of Admiralty Island in her name as a way to further publicize the value of the Pack Creek bears.

"We thought the book was kind of a fitting way to do it," he said.

While relatively small, the $10 book is packed with bear images by local photographers John Hyde and Skip Gray. And along with information detailing the storied life of Stan Price and his "unofficial" homestead at Pack Creek, the book also provides numerous essays, scientific information and a timeline of the area. The project took about a year to complete and is available in local bookstores.

Metcalf said Pack Creek plays a special role in Southeast Alaska.

"Pack Creek is such an incredibly special area, and it's worthy including these tidelands into the sanctuary."

• Contact reporter Eric Morrison at 523-2269 or eric.morrison@juneauempire.com.



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