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Battle of Attu 75th Anniversary Commemoration

Friends welcome and assist special guests of the Battle of Attu 75th Anniversary Commemoration

May 2018 marked the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Attu. The forgotten battle on a wildlife refuge in Alaska was the only ground battle of WWII to take place on American soil. Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge partnered with National Park Service and many other organizations to sponsor and organize three days of free public events at five venues in Anchorage. Alaska Maritime requested Friends advertise on our website for recruitment of volunteers to greet visitors, hand out programs, and escort special guests to reserved seating and deal with any special needs of the guests who included nine Battle of Attu Veterans, Attu Village survivors and descendants, and Japanese soldiers’ descendants. Three Friends members (Chuck Iliff, Tom Choate and I, Betty Siegel) volunteered and worked the full three days to help things run smoothly.

Some highlights included:

  • Meeting and assisting the veterans who ranged in age from 95 to 102 years. They were humble, interesting, funny, and appreciative;
  • Watching the Unangax dancers and hearing the Unifying Peace Messages by the Attu veteran, the grandson of a Japanese soldier, and a Unangan elder at the Loussac Library program;
  • Attending the World Premiere of the documentary “When the Fog Clears,” by award winning Japanese film-maker Tadashi Ogawa, meeting him and talking with him about the film;
  • The Closing Ceremony at the Alaska Aviation Museum. This was a very moving event, especially the presentation of Colors, the Wreath Presentation, and the beautiful renditions of the Japanese Anthem by violinist Hiroko Harada and our National and Alaska anthems by Kyle Schneider.

We three Friends Members were honored to have these and many other wonderful, once-in-a-lifetime experiences and fond memories and the opportunity to make the Attu 75th Anniversary Commemoration a success.

(Report submitted by Betty Siegel; photos by Lisa Hupp/USFWS & Betty Siegel)

 

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April 2018 – Advocacy Update


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

The U.S. Department of Interior decision to fast-track drilling leases for the Coastal Plain of the Arctic Refuge has spurred considerable efforts to counter this disastrous decision. Planning and strategy meetings were hosted by the Alaska Wilderness League in Washington, DC in February, and further meetings were held in Anchorage on March 29. Alaska Friends provided some financial support to this meeting. Major efforts to save the Coastal Plain are being organized across the nation. Social media campaigns are being developed to educate the public and convince the oil industry to refrain from bidding on leases. Also, there have been discussions about litigation to halt this abominable development after 40 years of success in defeating such efforts.

The nine conservation organizations that filed suit in federal court on January 31, 2018 to stop the Department of Interior (DOI) land trade to construct a road through the biological heart of the Izembek Refuge Wilderness decided not to oppose intervenors who support the DOI in the lawsuit. These include Aleutians East Borough, King Cove Corporation, City of King Cove, Agdaagux Tribe, Native Village of Belkofski and State of Alaska. 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.

The Federal Highway Administration (FWHA) in cooperation with the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities (DOT&PF) has prepared the Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and Final Section 4(f) Evaluation for the Sterling Highway MP 45-60 Project. It included the following statement:

An important issue for this project is the effect to Federal Wilderness land. The process to approve a transportation corridor through designated Wilderness requires Presidential review and recommendation and Congressional approval. However, the Russian River Land Act (Public Law 107-362, signed by the President in 2002) allows CIRI and the KNWR to exchange lands in this area. In 2017, the U.S. Department of the Interior informed FHWA that it would undertake a land exchange that would remove KNWR land status and Federally designated Wilderness status in a portion of KNWR if the Juneau Creek Alternative were selected. Such a land trade would reduce refuge impacts and eliminate Wilderness impacts of the Juneau Creek Alternative. FHWA considers the land exchange reasonably foreseeable and has evaluated this scenario in Section 3.27 (Cumulative Impacts). See Section 2.6.5 and Section 3.27.4 of the EIS for additional detail.

We are concerned about the removal of wilderness protection from federally-designated land in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge to accommodate this proposed road construction. If you would like to submit comments, the Final EIS can be viewed at www.sterlinghighway.net

View 2015 Comments on the Sterling Highway Milepost 45 to 60 Project Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement


If you would like to help with these efforts,
please contact David Raskin (davidcraskin@gmail.com)
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2018 April 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: Sara Straub, Student Conservation Association  Intern and former Directorate Fellow
Topic: “75th Battle of Attu Commemoration”

For thousands of years, the island of Attu was home to people and wildlife. Long before the war, Attu was one of the earliest Federally protected wildlife resource areas. The Battle of Attu forever changed the island, its inhabitants, and the lives of those who waged battle there, leaving behind scars and stories scattered among the national wildlife refuge that exists today. Student Conservation Association  Intern and former Directorate Fellow Sara Straub will highlight the events of 75 years ago on the island of Attu and share the commemorative activities that are have been held already and those scheduled for this spring. For more details on the commemoration check out the website: Attu75.org


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Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge Discovery Trip – May 25-28



Join us as we explore 
Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge over Memorial Day Weekend, Friday through Monday, (4 days) May 25-28. Tetlin is an undiscovered wilderness yet it is easily accessible from the Alaska highway. Tetlin is birdy, with a vast system of lakes and rivers supporting nesting birds and the most important flyway to central and northern Alaska. Enjoy the height of bird song season while camping, canoeing and exploring this seldom visited country with Friends. Registration is now open and limited to the first 12 applicants.

Friday morning we will meet at 9 am at refuge headquarters in Tok for a meet and greet and light breakfast with refuge staff. We will learn about their challenges and the marvelous resources of this migratory bird corridor.  Afterwards we will help them clean up the section of highway the refuge has adopted. 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 Recreation Area (site of the former Seaton Roadhouse) as time allows.  There will be an opportunity for an evening canoe on Deadman Lake to enjoy birds and warm up our canoe skills.




Saturday, we will visit the Tetlin Refuge Border Visitor Station, meet their Native staff, and learn how they share their perspective and culture. We will also visit Seaton Roadhouse site and the trapper cabin if we haven’t already done so. Saturday afternoon, we will launch the refuge canoes on Desper Creek for an easy, three mile paddle to a campsite amidst numerous lakes providing perfect habitat for nesting waterfowl, swans, rusty blackbirds and warblers.  Camping for two nights will give us all day Sunday to explore the surrounding lakes.  Paddling out Monday against the slow current of Desper Creek should not take more than three hours putting us back at the visitor center by early afternoon for our farewells and the drive home.   Desper Creek is a very slow-moving creek suitable for beginners. We may have to lift canoes over beaver dams depending on the water level.

For more information about the Tetlin Refuge check out their webpage or on Facebook.

The trip limit is 12 and the minimum age is 16.  You must be a current Friend to participate but you can join here





Leaders:

Poppy Benson, poppybenson@alaskarefugefriends.org; (907) 299-0092. Poppy has had 30 years of experience in Alaska and more than that in canoes. Poppy is Wilderness First Aid certified and has taught canoeing. She is also a Friends Board Member.

Dave Schroyer, david_schroyer@hotmail.com; (907) 240-1375. Dave was raised in Alaska with life long experience canoeing, hunting, birding and exploring all over the state.

Neither Poppy nor Dave have ever done this trip and both are looking forward to exploring new country and a new refuge with you.

Cost
: $60 for 3 dinners and 3 breakfasts in camp plus a welcome coffee and continental breakfast Friday morning. Bring your own lunches and snacks for Friday through Monday. Contact the trip leaders if you have dietary restrictions.

Equipment needed
: Your own personal camping gear plus bear spray. Contact the trip leaders if you don’t have a tent. Canoes and life jackets will be supplied by the refuge. If you would rather bring your own let us know. We will not be portaging other than the possible beaver dam. Also bring binoculars and fishing gear if desired. Equipment list will be furnished to participants.

Weather, Bugs and Bears
: Average lows for this time of year are near freezing with highs in the high 60s and little rainfall. Bring a sleeping bag good to below freezing, good raingear – jacket and pants, and waterproof knee-high boots. Gortex fishing waders with wading boots are an option to stay dry and allow walking into lakes and creeks when launching canoes. Refuge staff assure us that bugs aren’t that bad especially not this early. None the less Poppy is bringing a bug jacket. This is also not noted as a “bear-y” area but it is the season for bears to be looking for food so please bring your own bear spray and a holster system that will allow you to wear it.

Camping in Tok before or after
. The refuge staff has volunteered an empty space on their grounds for Thursday night. Other possibilities include state recreation areas or B & Bs or motels in Tok. Eagle Trail State Recreation Site is about 16 miles west of Tok towards Anchorage and Moon Lake State Recreation Site is 15 miles north of Tok towards Fairbanks.


How to sign up: Trip will be limited to the first 12 to complete the registration, including the $60 fee.  Please fill out the registration form below.  Registration payment options will be presented after the form is completed and submitted.   All participants who are not yet signed up as Fish and Wildlife volunteers will be required to fill out a Volunteer Agreement at the Friday meeting. Prior to the trip, all participants will be required to sign a liability waiver which is currently under development.

Please leave your furry friends at home.


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: 
poppybenson@alaskarefugefriends.org






Trip Registration

This trip is full; registration is closed.




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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 (davidcraskin@gmail.com)
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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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