by Leah Eskelin, Park Ranger (all photos by USFWS)
Celebrating 75 years of conservation at Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, Refuge staff hosted an evening celebration on Friday, December 16th at the new Refuge Visitor Center in Soldotna. Sponsored by the Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuges, National Wildlife Refuge Association, Alaska Geographic and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Retirees Association, the party showcased the Refuge’s diverse landscapes through artwork by volunteer photographers Tom Collopy and Mary Frische, family activities and a centerpiece cake that, well, took the cake.
Seventy-five years ago, on the heels of the attack on Pearl Harbor that led the United States into World War II, the President signed the document that created the Kenai National Moose Range. Later, in 1980, the passage of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) would change its name to Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, and broaden its purpose. A grassroots effort to protect wildlife being over harvested on the Kenai Peninsula resulted in this federal action, and without it the landscapes that are so beloved by residents and visitors alike would have been lost long ago. With this protection, wildlife habitats, recreational opportunities and the integrity of salmon-rearing streams that are the linchpin of much of the local fishery have survived the decades, and will endure beyond our years here.
More than 200 guests attended this event, where they dressed as their favorite Kenai animal in the photo booth, “became” moose, the Refuge’s signature wildlife, by designing moose headbands and decorated reusable canvas tote bags. It was a great celebration and one that would have been impossible without the support of the Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuges. Refuge staff send their thanks to each member of the Friends organization, for this and other efforts to spread the word about these majestic public lands across the state.
Are you an artist that supports wildlife conservation? Do you specialize in art that was inspired by Alaska wildlife and the habitats where they live? If so, we encourage you to apply to showcase your work at the 2nd annual Art in the Arctic Art Show on March 4, 2017 at Birch Hill Nordic Center in Fairbanks, Alaska. This event is hosted by the Friends of Alaska’s National Wildlife Refuges (Friends) volunteer organization. All proceeds from this show will be used to help fulfill the Friends mission of “promoting the stewardship of Alaska’s unique National Wildlife Refuges through education, support, and advocacy.”
The Art in the ArcticArt Show is a juried exhibition and sale of traditional and contemporary art and fine craft. Artists are selected on the basis of originality, artistic concept, and quality of their work. All work submitted must feature compositions or objects that highlight 1) wildlife, including fish, birds, mammals, insects, reptiles, and/or marine life; 2) natural landscapes or habitats; and/or 3) people living off the land. Acceptable media categories include paintings, sculpture, limited edition prints, jewelry, photography, metal work, bone carving, woodcut, basket, bead, fiber arts, pottery, glass, mixed media, etc. Deadline for electronic applications is January 15, 2017. Hard-copy applicationsmust be postmarked by January 10, 2017. For more information or to apply visit: Art in the Arctic Art Show Information (Photo: Friends Volunteers Betty Siegel and Jeff Walters greet attendees at the 1st Annual Art in the Arctic Art Show)
by Allyssa Morris, Environmental Education Specialist (USFWS)
National Wildlife Refuge Week reminds Americans how nature enriches our lives and adds to the beauty of our country. This special week highlights the National Wildlife Refuge System – the network of lands and waters that protect wildlife and their habitats. This year Arctic, Kanuti, and Yukon Flats Refuges celebrated that connection with the natural world by hosting two events in Fairbanks with the help of the Friends of Alaska Refuges.
Archery Night was held at the Morris Thompson Center on October 11, 2016. The event was geared for youth ages 9+ years old. Trained Service staff and volunteers taught youth proper techniques and skills in an outdoor setting. Inside the main lobby there was an array of activities such as owl pellet dissections, pelts and skulls, and the opportunity to make a nature-inspired rubber stamp card. Visitors were also able to warm up with a cup of hot cocoa. Friends of Alaska Refuges member Dave greeted visitors at the entrance and member Joseph grilled hotdogs. It was a brisk and cold evening full of activities and smiling faces.
The second event was Refuge Day at the Fairbanks Children’s Museum. This event was geared for youth ages toddler to 8 years old. Attendees were able to make a squishy sensory fish pouch, play an animal matching game and even receive a blue goose removable tattoo. The highlight of the event was meeting Puddles the Blue Goose, who received many hugs throughout the event. Friends member Jeff handed out juice boxes and cookies and Friends member Sarah led a craft on making blue goose clothespin magnets. This was a fun day to learn and celebrate the refuges!
Friends Member Dave Personius greets visitors at the Morris Thompson Center at Archery Night
The Cotter Family dissects owl pellets and learns about food chains with Botanist Janet Jorgenson
Betty Morris, age 2, demonstrates how big a polar bear can be
Refuge Day at the Children’s Museum: Puddles with Children’s Museum Staff; Friends members Jeff Walters and Sarah Mathews hand out cookies and juice to attendees.
Reminder: Friends’ Membership meeting is Tuesday, October 18th.
Please call in a few minutes before 5pm, 866-556-2149, code 8169747#
Our presenter will be Tim Plucinski, FWS contaminant specialist for the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge. His presentation, “Attu 2016, Steps Towards Island Restoration,” is a photo narrative of the U.S. Army Corps Engineer’s recent efforts to cleanup two contaminated sites on Attu Island, Alaska. Tim’s primary focus has been to work with the various Department of Defense agencies responsible for the addressing legacy contamination on the Refuge following World War II and the Cold War. His presentation is available here:
Watch KTVA’s report here.
The Kaktovik Polar Bear Conservation Project is a collaboration between the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Marine Mammal Management Program to address increases in polar bear concentrations and visitor use around the native village of Kaktovik. Friends is sponsoring Jacqueline Keating to volunteer for three weeks, assisting with daily bear counts, visitor education, and school outreach. She is completing graduate work on managing bear viewing on the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge and is really thankful for the opportunity to experience a different type of bear viewing management.
Friends Volunteer Brenda Dolma had the opportunity to work with youth, refuge staff, and community elders of Arctic Village, during their annual Science and Culture Camp. Camp Goonzhii (meaning “wisdom and knowledge” in Gwich’in) took place in late August 2016. Thirty youths ranging from kindergarten through twelfth grade participated.The Science and Culture Camp includes curriculum in western science and traditional ecological knowledge, combined with indoor and outdoor learning experiences through demonstrations and hands on environmental education activities. Community elders share their wisdom about the land and animals, while Refuge staff offer exposure to new technologies.
Some camp topics and activities included:
Animal tracking and drawing
Dog sled construction
Caribou butchering and processing
“I had the opportunity to meet Sarah James [community elder and Friends member], who has been speaking to protect the habitat for the future. It was a treat to get out on the field trips and experience the beauty of Arctic Village in fall,” says Brenda.
To learn more about the Camp, check out this article by News Miner, in Fairbanks.
The Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuges provided funding for nightly community dinners and Brenda’s travel. Membership comes with the chance to Volunteer. Check out our current opportunities.
Board Friends, past and present, joined current and prospective Fairbanks members and U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service staff to float several miles into the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge via the Atigun River from the Dalton Highway. The outing,proposed by National Wildlife Refuge Association (NWRA) Director David Houghton, had a two-fold mission:
Reward members for long-time Board service, and
Recruit and engage Fairbanks individuals as active Friends members
This intrepid and diverse group of 14 met in Fairbanks on July 15, 2016 and ventured up the Dalton Highway in a van and several pick-ups, first stopping at the Hot Spot Cafe for the establishment’s notably huge burgers, and then touring the Arctic Interagency Visitor Center in Coldfoot. After a night camping at Marion Creek, the group drove on to the Atigun River, where they inflated rafts and prepared for the three hour boating journey.
The following photos exemplify some of the beautiful scenery and exciting moments experienced, as well as the challenges of enduring mosquitos, rain, and an arduous hike back to the road the next day.
Everyone felt this event achieved its goals in every way, as the camaraderie and shared experience reinvigorated the Board, past and present, while Fairbanks members brought new ideas and commitment to the Friends organization.
A huge thank you goes to NWRA and the Wilburforce Foundation for encouraging and funding the trip, and to Steve Berendzen and Barry Whitehill of Fairbanks for planning and coordinating logistics and equipment for the float.
Reminder: Friends’ Membership meeting is Tuesday, September 20th.
Please call in a few minutes before 5pm, 866-556-2149, code 8169747#
Our presenter, Stephanie Brady, FWS, is presenting an overview of the Non-Subsistence Take of Wildlife Final Rule and discuss the implications for specific refuges. She will also be giving an update on the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge court decision. Her presentation is available here:
We’ll also share recent and future volunteer opportunities/events and introduce draft bylaws changes to the membership along with available board positions and other Friends news.
* For those in Homer, join us at Islands and Ocean Visitor Center, in the upstairs conference room. Come a little earlier since the doors are locked by 5pm.
Friends Vice President Henri Balland and member Tom Balland traveled from Homer to Kodiak to help with the Refuge’s 75th Anniversary Celebration. Friends members worked directly with Kodiak Outreach Specialist Lisa Hupp, to help pull off an awesome event.
Saturday, August 20th, was packed with a community BBQ, guest speakers, live marimba music, photo booth, exhibits, face painting, appearances of “Puddles the Blue Goose” and “Kodiak the Bear”, and a celebratory cake for the more than 500 people in attendance. Henri and Tom contributed volunteer time, helping with set-up, clean-up, running errands, and greeting staff, volunteers, and a few Refuge System VIPs, Cynthia Martinez, Chief of the National Wildlife Refuge System and Mitch Ellis, Alaska Chief of Refuges. They also hosted the Friends Outreach Table, where they met and familiarized community members about the Refuge and the Friends organization.