ANNUAL PASS TO PARKS

The annual pass to visit Utah's state parks is now available through the Utah Division of Parks and Recreation.

Permits purchased before Dec. 31 are $70 and increase to $75 beginning Jan. 1. Utah residents 62 years and older may purchase a Senior Adventure Pass for $35, which offers the same benefits.

Passes allow the cardholder and up to seven guests in the same vehicle and day-use access to most state parks, with the exceptions being This Is The Place Heritage Park and the Davis County Causeway fee at Antelope Island State Park.

The pass does not cover overnight camping or golf fees.

They can be purchased at any state park, region office, online at www.stateparks.utah.gov and the Department of Natural Resources, 1594 W. North Temple in Salt Lake City. For more information call 801-538-7220 or 877-UT-PARKS.

REFUGE'S HOLIDAY HOURS

During the holiday period, the visitors center at Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge west of Brigham City will be closed Dec. 22, 24, 25, 29 and 31 and Jan. 1. It will be open Dec. 26, 27 and 28 from noon to 5 p.m.

The center will return to normal hours on Jan. 2.

DEDICATED HUNTER PROGRAM

On Jan. 2, those interested in applying to Utah's Dedicated Hunter program can start submitting applications.

The program allows for a cap of 10,000 hunters. At this time, there are only about 3,000 spots available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Those joining the program can hunt all three general deer hunting seasons — archery, rifle and muzzleloader — in the region of their choice. In return, they must pay a program fee and spend time helping on wildlife conservation projects.

To join the three-year program, hunters must complete an online wildlife conservation course and submit your application online. The DWR is not accepting mailed-in paper applications this year.

For information visit www.wildlife.utah.gov/dh or call 801-538-4700.

SEE ELK BY SLEIGH

The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources is now offering sleigh rides into the midst of a herd of elk at Hardware Ranch. At last count there were more than 600 elk at the ranch.

Rides are available five days a week.

The rides last from 20 to 30 minutes. They wind through the center of the elk herd and make occasional stops for photographs.

During the rides, drivers share the history of the ranch and explain why the elk behave like they do.

In addition to the sleigh rides, the ranch also operates a visitors center. The center has interactive wildlife displays and staff who can answer questions.

Rides will run through March 17. The ranch is open Monday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m., and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The cost is $5 for those 9 and older, and $3 for those 4 to 8.

The ranch is located 17 miles east of Hyrum at mile marker 22 on SR-101 in Blacksmith Fork Canyon and is about 115 miles north of Salt Lake City.

For information call 435-753-6206 or visit www.hardwareranch.com.

VOLUNTEER AWARD

Jack Rensel, a volunteer with the Ogden Nature Center, is the recipient of the 2007 Wasatch Outdoor Volunteer Award presented by REI.

This award was created to draw attention to the crucial role of volunteers.

Rensel, a retired wildlife biologist with the Division of Wildlife Resources, is past chairman of the center's board of directors and has helped guide at the center for more than 30 years.

He is also actively involved with land management and is responsible for much of the restoration work on center's property.