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Growing New Birders & Public Lands Users at the Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival

What does it take to grow new birders and public lands users?  The U.S.  Fish and Wildlife Service in partnership with Alaska Geographic aim to figure this out through immersive experiences  for youth on and about public lands. In this spirit, a group of 9 young people, accompanied by Helen Strackeljahn of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Eileen Kazura and Reth Duir of Alaska Geographic, attended the 25th Annual Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival with generous support from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuges and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The group of current high school and college students from Anchorage, Alaska, were all first time birders when they arrived in Homer for the Shorebird Festival. Over the course of the Festival, they learned how to use binoculars, spent time in kayaks, and discovered their own personal bird story in a workshop with keynote presenter J. Drew Lanham.  These activities and more were made possible through a generous grant from the Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuges.

Throughout the weekend, the group spotted Sandhill Cranes, Western Sandpipers, Greater White-Fronted Geese, and many more migratory species. They also had a number of close-up encounters with Homer’s resident Bald Eagles.

Highlights of the trip included kayaking around Yukon Island, pictured above, which began with entertainment on the water taxi provided by Dave Aplin of World Wildlife Fund, and culminated in a kayak race back to the shore. The group also enjoyed exploring Homer and attending the On the Wing Concert, Birder’s Breakfast and Keynote Speeches. 

Many thanks goes to the array of partners and sponsors, who made it possible to connect these urban youth to their Alaska Refuges.


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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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Kanuti’s Annual Winter Celebration, Community Dinner & Outreach Event

Kanuti’s Annual Winter Celebration, held recently in Allakaket, AK, was attended by over 60 people from Allakaket and Alatna and was once again a hit with kids and adults alike. This year, Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve helped support the effort. Marcy Okada, the Subsistence Coordinator for Gates of the Arctic National Park & Preserve and Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve, and Maria Berger, the Lead Education Specialist (NPS) at the Fairbanks, Alaska Public Lands Information Center, attended the event and provided a well-received after-dinner presentation about Gates and NPS, and a craft table that was very popular with the youth.

Kanuti truly enjoyed partnering with NPS during this event, and very much appreciated the support NPS provided. The community seemed to greatly enjoy being able to learn so much in one stop. UAF representatives were also at the School during the evening event, providing excellent information about their programs and a table of information and free items. The community had a full night of fun! Of course, one of the most enjoyed parts of the evening, was the Taco dinner, provided by Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuges and fully prepared by Friends Volunteer Sarah Matthews, who worked hard during the entire event to make sure everything we needed was taken care of – thank you Sarah for your hard work making a wonderful dinner for so many! And thank you to UAF for providing a great dessert! In the spirit of doing more with less, working together can fill in gaps while also strengthening ties. Kanuti looks forward to continuing to work with partners and the communities of Allakaket and Alatna in the future.





(Report filed by: USFWS)

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Kenai Refuge Celebrates 75 Years of Conservation



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.








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Arctic Village Science and Culture Camp Goonzhii

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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:
  • Migratory birds
  • Animal tracking and drawing
  • Archery
  • Dog sled construction
  • Skin sewing
  • Caribou butchering and processing
  • Blueberry picking
  • Plant identification
dolma2I 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.

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  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.