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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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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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Canoeing & Communicating on the Kenai

Refuge Discovery Trip Report by Poppy Benson, FANWR Outreach Coordinator and Barb Veeck, Friends Member

The first ever Friends Discovery Trip to the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge was a success! Eleven Friends met on a rainy Saturday fall morning with the Kenai Refuge manager Andy Loranger and staff to learn about the unique volunteer opportunities within the Refuge: from front desk, to adopt a trail, to refuge advocacy.  This most visited and accessible refuge in Alaska has experienced budget and staff cutbacks.  Visitor center manager Leah Eskelin shared a laundry list of volunteer opportunities suitable for locals with an afternoon to spare or Anchoragites who could give a weekend.

The clouds parted just in time for us to drive through golden fall leaves to launch our canoes at the Swan Lake Canoe Route trail head, 20 miles north of Sterling.  We paddled across Canoe Lake to set up camp for our evening activities.  Lots of awesome Dutch oven cooking and late night fraternizing around the campfire followed, including Robert Service poems dramatized by Friend member Tom Choate.  We were accompanied by two refuge staff who coordinated our volunteer trail clearing. 

The next day, we paddled to Waterfall Lake to do some trail clearing and exploration of the lake and its’ lovely island.  The calm and clear waters offered a perfect reflection of the beautiful fall colors of the lake. 

(click to enlarge photos)

Barb Veeck reports, “As a new member, I felt that I gained awareness of the purpose of the Friends program and enjoyed meeting other members.  It was fun to discuss future volunteer and group trip activities such as this one. 

Prior to this trip, most of us were only familiar with 1-2 people in the group which hailed from Anchorage, Kenai, Anchor Point, and Homer.   By the end of the trip we all felt we had new “Friends” and were already planning our next refuge trip.”

As a Board member and trip organizer, Poppy Benson says, “I felt we met the objectives of familiarizing ourselves with at least part of the vast and wonderful Kenai Refuge and its volunteer opportunities, increasing communication and collaboration with the Refuge, and facilitating and building relationships between Friends.  I think refuge familiarization trips should be an annual part of the Friends program.   Email me with your ideas for future refuge trips at poppybenson@alaskarefugefriends.  This trip was cheap ($20) and easy because participants only needed a weekend and a way to get to Soldotna.  Other refuges such as the Arctic Refuge would take more time and money.”

We encourage all of you to get out on a refuge through Friends sponsored trips or volunteer opportunities or with your own family.   The Refuges need us and we need them.

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Kenai National Wildlife Refuge Canoe Trip – Sept. 16-17, 2017

Refuge Discovery Trip: Kenai National Wildlife Refuge Canoe Trip
September 16 and 17, 2017 (Saturday-Sunday)

Discover the canoe country of the Dave Spencer Wilderness Area within the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge during the height of fall color. Canoe, fish, berry pick, listen to loons from your sleeping bag, and enjoy good company. 

Meet at Refuge headquarters in Soldotna at 9:00am Saturday, September 16th.   Refuge staff will orient participants to refuge issues, resources and volunteer opportunities and we will tour their new (2015) Visitor Center.  Carpool to the Swan Lakes Canoe System north of Sterling.   Canoe across the lovely Canoe Lake and make a base camp at the far end.  Portage to other lakes as time and weather allows.  A small volunteer project, as yet to be determined, will be part of this experience.  Return to cars about 4 p.m. on Sunday.

This trip is suitable for beginners as we will not be traveling far to the base camp.  Those with the desire to see more will be able to portage to other lakes.  Trout fishing can be very good in Canoe Lake and all the lakes and lowbush cranberry picking can be excellent right at the campsite. 

Trip Leader:  Poppy Benson,; (907) 299-0092;  Poppy has over 30 years of experience in the canoe country, has taught canoeing, and is Wilderness First Aid certified.  Poppy serves on the Friends Board as Outreach Coordinator.

Cost:  $20 for dinner and Sunday breakfast plus a Welcome Coffee with pastries on Saturday morning.  Bring your own lunches for Saturday and Sunday, plus snacks.  Indicate on your registration if you have dietary restrictions.

Weather:  This Refuge Discovery Trip is a rain or shine event. Fall in the canoe country will be cool and possibly rainy.  A communal dry tented area will be provided for cooking, as well as a campfire. 

Equipment needed:  Please provide your own personal camping gear, including fishing gear and berry pickers if desired. Canoes can be supplied by the Refuge but please bring your own if you have a light one. Contact Poppy if you don’t have a tent or would like to borrow a Refuge canoe. Given the possibility of rainy/cold weather, please bring a 30 degree and below sleeping bag, rain gear – jacket and pants, and waterproof knee high boots.   Poppy recommends Gortex fishing waders with wading boots, which allow one to stay dry and to walk into the lake when launching canoes. Please bring them if you have them. A complete  equipment list will be furnished to participants after registration. 

Please leave your furry friends at home.

How to sign up:  Trip will be limited to the first 12 to complete the registration, including paying the $20 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 Saturday meeting. 


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Dalton Highway Weed Pull – Kanuti NWR

Trip Report by Friends Volunteer Paul Allan

We just returned from our June 2017 week of pulling invasive weed species for the Friends of the Alaska National Wildlife Refuges. The volunteer work took us from Homer all the way north almost to the Arctic Ocean. It was a great experience and we hope we contributed to keeping invasives from spreading even more.

Monday morning we left Fairbanks early in two vehicles with the full weed pulling crew. A Fish & Wildlife biologist was the agency head for the crew, there was a summer intern working with him, and two other Friends volunteers. This is a typical view of the Dalton Highway or Haul Road.  The reason it is called the Haul Road–lots of big trucks bringing stuff up to and down from Prudhoe Bay.

Typical Black Spruce forest- some of these trees are 200 years old! Growing on permafrost tends to make for a hard life and stunted growth.

Made it to the Arctic Circle. We pretty much had 24 hours of daylight the whole time we were up there.

This is what we were looking for– white sweetclover. For about 150 miles of the highway, anywhere a river crossed the road, we pulled the clover we found. We split up into pairs and pulled weeds about 100 yards up from the bridges on both sides. The idea is to not allow the sweetclover to flower and go to seed so the seeds can’t travel down the rivers and invade the refuges. One mature sweetclover plant can produce 350,000 seeds and they are viable for 80+ years.

                                                   The crew working a particularly heavily grown-over area.

Our final morning and we headed north out of Coldfoot (the two previous days we worked to the south.) The mountains you can see are the start of the Brooks Range. The views were spectacular, like Sukapak (mountain – below).

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7th Annual Dragonfly Day – Arctic, Yukon Flats, & Kanuti NWR

July 1, 2017 – Fairbanks, AK

Approximately 400 people attended the 2017 Dragonfly Day, hosted by Arctic, Yukon Flats, and Kanuti National Wildlife Refuges.  This was a free event at Chena Lakes Recreation Area, open to all ages. Attendees had the opportunity to go on nature walks to catch and identify dragonflies. There were also crafts, educational activities, and more. It was a fun day for the whole family! 

Environmental Education Specialist  Allyssa Morris says, “Thank you to everyone who came out to Dragonfly Day 2017.  Returning families shared that “Dragonfly Day is the best event of the year.  Special thanks to SCA Interns Megan, Morgan, Lily, and Angelina who did a superb job finishing last minute tasks and leading the craft stations. Sheila, Tina, and Steve  took numerous photos. Morgan and Alfredo for wearing the Puddles costume in the heat- you are both rockstars! UAF grad student Adam for leading the popular aquatic bug station and lastly, to John Hudson and the Friends of Alaska NWRs for supporting this popular event and making it happen. A special thanks to Joe Morris, Friends Volunteer. See you next year at Dragonfly Day 2018! “

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Events Report: Spring Bird Walks (Kotzebue) & Fairbanks Film Night

May 20-23, 2017
Selawik National Wildlife Refuge hosted its annual Spring Bird Walks.  The Friends sent expert birder George Matz of Homer to Kotzebue to lead several walks.

“Thanks to everyone who ventured out on one of our bird watching events this weekend! We enjoyed looking at birds in their bright breeding colors, visiting with folks, and learning a bit more about the feathered travelers that are flying home to Alaska to nest. Thanks to Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuges volunteer George Matz (center of photo above) for being a part of the fun!”
  -Susan Georgette, Selawik NWR Manager

June 3, 2017
Friends gathered for an encore screening of “The Million Dollar Duck,” with host Adam Grimm, at Morris Thompson Cultural Visitor Center in Fairbanks. Refreshments were served, duck stamps were sold, and fun was had by all!

BELOW: Friends in Action: Sarah Mathews, Joseph Morris, and Adam Grimm (signing duck stamps).  


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“The Million Dollar Duck” – Friends Film Screening with Adam Grimm

It’s movie night in Fairbanks! Come join the Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuges for a free screening of the film The Million Dollar Duck.

When: Sat. June 3
Time: 7 – 9 pm
Where: The Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitor Center, Fairbanks, AK
Cost: FREE

This fun and quirky documentary "focuses on the strange and wonderful world of the Federal Duck Stamp Contest, the only juried art competition run by the U.S. government. This film explores the eccentric nature of the contestants who enter each year for a chance at wildlife art stardom, while also reflecting upon the history and challenges facing the continued existence of this successful conservation program”

The movie will be introduced by Adam Grimm, a two time winner of the Federal Duck Stamp competition.

Family friendly event, Light refreshments, and signed duck stamp art available for purchase.

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Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge Sends Teens to the 2017 Alaska Forum on the Environment

Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge submitted a proposal for two teens involved in outreach at the refuge to present at the 2017 Alaska Forum on the Environment (AFE), February 12-16, 2017. After being selected and with financial support from AFE partners and assistance from Friends of Alaska Wildlife Refuges, the Kodiak Refuge was able to secure funding for flights and per diem for Kodiak sophomore Nia Pristas and 2016 high school graduate Joshua Barnes to travel to Anchorage and participate in the Forum. Their presentation was about Kodiak Refuge Salmon Camp and Pop-Up Salmon Camp.  To help prepare youth for their presentations, AFE created a weekend of leadership and public speaking development for participating teens from all over Alaska. On Monday on the first day of the conference, Nia and Joshua presented to a packed and enthusiastic audience. They shared information about Kodiak Refuge Salmon Camp including giving a brief salmon lesson, leading a salmon hat craft and they even had the whole audience singing and acting out the Salmon Song. Joshua also had his short film about climate change impact on Kodiak’s natural resources in the AFE film festival.

(The Kodiak Refuge wanted to give a special shout out to Jason Sodergren with Friends of for his prompt assistance!)

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