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Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge Discovery Trip – May 25-28

Join us for our next Refuge Discovery Trip as we explore Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge Discovery Trip over Memorial Day Weekend, May 25-28.

We will canoe into the watery, bird-rich wilderness of this border refuge.   Friday morning we will meet refuge staff at their headquarters in Tok to learn about their challenges and the marvelous resources of this migratory bird corridor.  Then we will move on to the refuge’s Deadman Lake Campground (pictured below) and set up camp for a night and check out the Hidden Lake Trail and the old Seaton Roadhouse.  Saturday we will visit the Tetlin Refuge Border Visitor Station, meet their Native staff, and learn how they share their perspective and culture.  Then we will launch the refuge canoes on Desper Creek for a short, easy,  3 hour paddle to a campsite amidst numerous lakes, perfect habitat for nesting waterfowl and warblers.  We will camp two nights which allows us ample time to explore the surrounding lakes.  We will paddle out Monday morning.   

More details, the cost, and the registration form will be available after 
April 1  The trip limit is 12 and the minimum age is 16.  You must be a current Friend to participate but you can join here

Tetlin is a wild, rich land of  rivers and lakes, caribou, wolves and lynx, and is a principle flyway for migratory birds.  Some of the best lynx research in the world is being conducted there.  This Refuge showcases it’s rich cultural heritage at their border visitor center anchored by two Native cultural teachers from the Native village of Northway.  For more information about the Tetlin Refuge check out their webpage or on Facebook.

Questions about this awesome opportunity to experience the wilds of this refuge in the company of Friends and refuge staff? Please contact Poppy Benson, Outreach Coordinator:
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3rd Annual Art in the Arctic Report

The 3rd annual Art in the Arctic show was held on March 8, 2018 at VENUE. Seven local artists were featured including Randall Compton, Lindsey Copelin, Sandy Jamieson, Lynn Larsen, Klara Maisch, Jennifer Moss, and David Personius. In celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act,  this year’s show connected the public with the significance and history of Wild and Scenic River designation, especially within national wildlife refuges in Alaska. Artwork will remain on exhibit until the end of March. 
Art in the Arctic is co-hosted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management,  WildLandscapes International, the National Wildlife Refuge Association, and the Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuges.  

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2018 March Membership Meeting

Please join us on Tuesday, March 20, for the Friends membership meeting.
Call in a few minutes before 5pm: (866) 556-2149, code :8169747# 

Special Guest: Kristine Sowl, Yukon Delta NWR
“The importance of the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta to shorebirds and recent efforts to obtain population estimates”

Kristine will present on the population estimates derived from the 2015-16 PRISM surveys and discuss how these may change some of the continental population estimates for several shorebird species.

Kristine Sowl
is a wildlife biologist who studies wildlife ecology in subarctic ecosystems. She currently is in charge of the non-game bird program (landbirds, shorebirds, raptors, and seabirds) at Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge in western Alaska.  She has spent over 25 years working as a biologist on public lands in Alaska, including Izembek National Wildlife Refuge, Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge, and brief stints at the Alaska Peninsula National Wildlife Refuge and Aniakchak National Monument.  She received her Bachelor of Science in Biology from the University of Alaska, Fairbanks in 1985 and completed a Master of Science in Wildlife Biology from the University of Alaska, Fairbanks in 2003.  Currently, her work is focused on the breeding and migration ecology of Beringian shorebirds, including the bar-tailed godwit, black turnstone, bristle-thighed curlew, western sandpiper, and Pacific subspecies of dunlin.

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March 2018 – Advocacy Update

March 2018 – Friends Advocacy Update, by Board President David Raskin

The U.S. Department of Interior has placed drilling in the Coastal Plain of the Arctic Refuge on the fast track. Deputy Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and Assistant Interior Secretary Joe Balash held closed-door meetings in Fairbanks and Anchorage to promote leasing and drilling in the Refuge. They have stated a goal of selling leases by 2019. These moves are strongly opposed by conservation organizations and many Alaska residents.

The Gwich’n people will be severely impacted by proposed industrialization of the Coastal Plain. Many describe this as a moral issue that violates their lifestyle and historical dependence on the caribou herd that uses the Coastal Plain to calve and raise their young. Opponents to the proposed drilling staged public demonstrations to express their concerns. Opposition to the government and the Alaska congressional delegation is spearheaded by a national coalition of conservation organizations. Planning and strategy meetings were hosted by the Alaska Wilderness League in Washington, DC last month, and further meetings will be held in Anchorage on March 28-29. This major effort to save the Coastal Plain is being organized across the nation.

Our lawsuit along with eight other conservation organizations opposing the Department of Interior land trade for construction of a road through the biological heart of the Izembek Refuge Wilderness was filed in federal court on January 31, 2018. It appears that proponents of the land trade and road will enter the lawsuit as intervenors to support the government. The Aleutians East Borough voted to enter the lawsuit on the side of the government. The Borough approved spending $61,875 to hire a law firm to help them join the case. That money will also help four other local entities trying to intervene on behalf of the federal government, the King Cove Corporation, The City of King Cove, the Agdaagux Tribe, and the Native Village of Belkofski. The State of Alaska is also expected to intervene on behalf of the government. These interventions must be approved by the court, and our attorneys at Trustees for Alaska continue to monitor developments and represent our interests in the federal court. We are optimistic that we will eventually prevail to stop the dismantling of the Wilderness Act and the desecration of the heart of the Izembek Wilderness.

We have not seen any new action by the State of Alaska to to reduce predators in the refuges. We are working with the conservation coalition to stop any effort to interfere with the natural balance and diversity of wildlife populations on our refuges.

If you would like to help with these efforts,
please contact David Raskin (
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Māhuahua pū Friends Workshop Report

Our Alaska Friends Board and the Pacific and Hawaiian Islands Friends Boards attended a workshop, along with USFWS and Refuge Association staff on Kauai this past January 2018. This opportunity was funded by grants from the National Fish and Wildlife Federation (NFWF). 

Workshop topics included:
  • USFWS Leadership Panel
  • Services for Friends 
  • How to Build Effective Relationships with Refuges
  • Membership Growth and Retention
  • Energizing and Engaging Communities
  • Refreshing an Uninspired Board
  • Social Media
  • Crafting Refuge Stories
  • Indigenous Perspectives
  • Fundraising and Development
  • and so much more!
We were also treated to two very special field trips, with visits to Hanalei NWR and Kilauea Point NWR & Light House.

We made lots of connections, learned new ways to support our refuges, and shared ideas, but most importantly, we made FRIENDS.

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2018 February Membership Meeting

In person: Homer (Alaska Maritime) or Soldotna (Kenai NWR)
Call in a few minutes before 5pm: (866) 556-2149, code :8169747# 

Special Guest: Patrick Walsh, Supervisory Biologist
/Togiak NWR
Stories and Studies of Wolves at Togiak National Wildlife Refuge

We have formally studied wolves for the past 10 years at Togiak National Wildlife Refuge, focusing most effort on understanding the role wolves play in regulating moose and caribou populations. This presentation will provide the results of a completed study of wolf predation on a small caribou herd, and will provide preliminary results from an ongoing study of wolf predation on the refuge’s moose population. During the course of the formal studies, we have made a number of incidental observations on wolf life history and behavior that are worth telling. So, this talk will be a combination of studies and stories about the wolves of Togiak Refuge.

Download Powerpoint Presentation

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Concerned for Terns: Biologists Meet About Monitoring Aleutian Terns in Alaska

Submitted by Lisa Hupp/USFWS – Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge

Legendary long distance travelers, both Arctic and Aleutian terns find a summer home along the coast of the Kodiak Archipelago. They float in from exotic southern seas and form nesting colonies in beach grass and meadows, raising their chicks on small fish and fending off predators. For Aleutian terns, the bays and islets of Kodiak are part of an important chain of coastal habitat that stretches from southeast Alaska to eastern Siberia, the only place in the world where they breed. A precipitous decline in their population – over 90 percent in three decades – has prompted concerned scientists to look for clues and study the potential for restoration at colony sites across Alaska.

Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge has a long history of monitoring Arctic and Aleutian tern colonies on the Archipelago, beginning with population data collected nearly fifty years ago and surveyed intermittently ever since. In 2016, Robin Corcoran, avian biologist, and Jill Tengeres, bio-technician, began a multi-year project to study Aleutian tern nests using remote game cameras. Images captured by the cameras tell the story of nest fate: how many eggs hatched, the quality and quantity of food provided, and the fate of nests threatened by predators. This past year, they also incorporated nest habitat surveys into their study; understanding the sites selected for nesting over time can provide valuable insight to better protect colonies. In addition to nest monitoring, they continue archipelago-wide population surveys of Arctic and Aleutian terns as part of a nearshore monitoring program in June and August of each summer.

This January, Robin and Jill brought preliminary results of their work to the statewide Alaska Marine Science Symposium, hosted by the North Pacific Research Board. They created two posters to summarize their studies: a poster about Aleutian tern nest monitoring and a poster about the population surveys conducted from 2016-17. As part of the symposium, they will present at a two-day Aleutian Tern Conservation Planning Meeting, and will hear from other biologists who are currently studying the species. Several experts from outside of Alaska – statisticians and tern experts – will join the discussion to help coordinate and plan how to best monitor this imperiled bird across the state.

Read more about current and previous Arctic and Aleutian tern studies and explore the 2018 research posters.

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Izembek Advocacy Update

Advocacy Update by FANWR President, David Raskin

On January 31, 2018, Trustees for Alaska filed suit in Anchorage Federal District Court on behalf of the Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuges and eight national environmental groups. This lawsuit challenges the legality of the land trade that would allow the construction of a road through the biological heart of designated wilderness in the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge on the Alaska Peninsula. The complaint alleges that this land trade by the Secretary of the Interior, which would trade up to 500 acres of designated wilderness in the ecologically sensitive Izembek Isthmus for non-refuge lands owned by the King Cove Corporation, violates the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act and the National Environmental Policy Act. It also alleges that Secretary Zinke failed to perform the consultations required by the federal Endangered Species Act. In addition to these violations, this would be the first time that congressionally-designated wilderness lands would be removed from the National Wilderness Preservation System, setting a precedent that would threaten all protected wilderness areas and all federal public lands in our nation.

This lawsuit is the latest episode in a 35-year campaign  to build a road that would connect the fishing village of King Cove to Cold Bay, which has a major airport with direct service to Anchorage. Although road proponents claim that the road is needed for medical evacuations during frequent intense storms, a 30-year paper trail reveals that two Alaska governors, Senators Frank and Lisa Murkowski, and the Aleutians East Borough have promoted the road for commercial purposes to haul fish and workers for the largest cannery in Alaska that is owned by Japanese Peter Pan Seafoods. During this campaign, the 900 residents of King Cove have received at least $50 million federal dollars for upgrades to their health services, 17 miles of road with two hovercraft launch facilities, and the purchase of a $9 million hovercraft that performed flawlessly in 32 medical evacuations. They have since abandoned the hovercraft and refuse to consider other reasonable transportation alternatives evaluated bu the U.S. Corps of Army Engineers. Completion of the proposed road would cost at least another $20 million federal dollars and require extremely expensive annual maintenance that would likely fail to keep the road passable during winter storms. The former local medical director for Indian Health Services has stated that attempting to travel the proposed road during winters storms would jeopardize the lives of patients and emergency personnel.

Beginning in the mid-1980s, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service completed three major scientific evaluations and environmental impact studies, all of which concluded that the proposed road would do irreparable harm to the habitat and wildlife of the internationally-recognized Izembek Refuge. The latest evaluation was the environmental analysis required by the inclusion of the proposed land trade in the 2009 Omnibus Public Lands Management Act. Following a 4-year, exhaustive scientific study, the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service concluded that the proposed road would cause unacceptable and irreparable damage to habitat and wildlife and was not approved. This decision was upheld by then Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. A federal lawsuit by the State of Alaska and local interests against the Secretary’s wise decision was eventually dismissed by the Court. Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuges and other environmental organizations had participated as intervenors on behalf of the the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Secretary in this successful effort to prevent this unnecessary and destructive road. Along with other organizations, we have taken the latest step in the decades-old battle to prevent the construction of an unnecessary, costly, and environmentally destructive road that not only threatens the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge, but would set a dangerous precedent for all of our precious public lands.

Review Official documents here:
Notice of Violation
Filed Complaint

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Kodiak Youth Present at the Alaska Forum on the Environment

Submitted by Lisa Hupp/ USFWS – Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge

Image result for Alaska Forum on the EnvironmentThis February, three Kodiak High School students head to the big city of Anchorage to present at their first conference: the annual Alaska Forum on the Environment (AFE).

Hannah Villaroya, Keegan Ryder, and Leif King all served as crew members on the 2017 Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge Youth Conservation Corp (YCC). They will share their summer experiences working with the Refuge, and will present about their leadership role for programs such as Pop-Up Salmon Camp. Pop-up Salmon Camp is an innovative way to bring the Refuge’s popular science camp to children of Kodiak at the summer lunch program. The teens each led two stations on topics of their choice; they took the initiative to study their topic, and then developed activities and hosted over 100 participants!

The Kodiak Refuge YCC program is a service learning program for students: as they learn, they are actively engaged in efforts to either teach others what they have learned and/or to make improvements on environmental issues or needs within public lands. For example, a biologist from the Sun’aq Tribe taught them about invasive species, and the crew then helped to remove invasive crayfish from the Buskin River. They received training on trail maintenance and then helped to improve a number of trails on the Refuge and on partner public lands such as Shuyak State Park. 

As many as 1,800 people are expected to participate in the 2018 Alaska Forum on the Environment, a state-wide gathering of environmental professionals and leaders. In addition to presenting at the Forum, the teens will be staff the youth-track booth and will collaborate with other youth involved in environmental projects around the state. They are scheduled to present Tuesday February 13th at 9am, and plan to have a hands-on activity for participants to create their own reusable shopping bag out of a t-shirt (an activity they learned at Kodiak’s Threshold Recycling Center).

Environmental Education Specialist Shelly Lawson will work with the teens as they prepare their presentation, and will act as chaperone for their big trip. She is a strong advocate for their participation, observing, “youth are among the most popular presenters at AFE – I think it is due to their optimism and can-do attitude. They inspire and bring hope to all in attendance.”

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STOP RATS – Pacific Marine Expo, Nov. 2017

The Friends provided financial support a trip to the Pacific Marine Expo this past fall in Seattle, to help educate the public about invasive species.  Check out this report by Aaron Poe – Coordinator, Aleutian and Bering Sea Islands LCC, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The impacts from introduced species like rats, foxes, cattle, and reindeer on the Alaska Maritime Wildlife Refuge are far-reaching.  These non-indigenous species damage the abundance and diversity of native species including seabirds through predation, competition, and habitat transformation. A decades-long effort led by the Refuge has restored ecosystems on many islands thanks to the work of a large team to meticulously remove species on an island-by-island basis.

This issue has been a key focus of the Aleutian and Bering Sea Islands Landscape Conservation Cooperative (ABSI), a public-private partnership composed of agencies, Alaska Native tribes, and nongovernmental organizations working on collaborative conservation solutions in the North Pacific. Since 2012, ABSI has worked closely with the Maritime Refuge and the University of Alaska, Anchorage to document the distribution of invasive species on islands in in the Aleutians and Bering Sea.

With funding from the North Pacific Research Board, researchers have had a chance to look ahead and prepare for lesser known potential threats from aquatic species inadvertently introduced by ships transiting through the Aleutians or from fishing fleets active in the region. These vessels can introduce species by exchanging ballast water or from species that grow on vessel hulls, known as “hull fouling”. A recent ranking analysis of marine invasive species completed by the University of Alaska and a number of partners identified a ‘Top 10’ group of marine invaders that could potentially infest the Bering Sea and Aleutians.

We know after decades of restoration work in the Aleutians that prevention efforts are a worthwhile investment. This study included a targeted outreach component focused on the maritime industry to spread awareness and foster some discussion about how industry can work with scientists and resource managers.

The Pacific Marine Expo held in Seattle each November is the largest gathering of marine industry professionals on the west coast.  A team including Captain John Faris, Skipper of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service research vessel Tiglax, Aaron Poe (ABSI) and Melissa Good with (Alaska Sea Grant) staffed a booth for three days at this year’s expo to connect with vessel operators and owners.

The educational materials sponsored by Friends of Alaska Refuges for their website provided a vital messaging hook that drew people into our booth. Mariners revile rats and the problems they can cause on ships. This helped us underscore the importance of finding ways to prevent introductions of invasive species from becoming established rather than fighting them once they are in place.

Throughout the expo we reached more than 250 people, gave out hundreds of magnets and made key connections with potential partners from a range of industries. We hope that being able to reach this key audience in Seattle with messages of prevention can ultimately help protect the islands and waters of Alaska thousands of miles away.

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