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2019 April Membership Meeting

Please join us on Tuesday, April 16, 2019, 5-6pm, for the Friends membership meeting.

In person: Homer (Alaska Maritime), Fairbanks (Watershed School, 4975 Decathlon), or Soldotna (Kenai NWR) Call in a few minutes before 5pm: (866) 556-2149, code :8169747#

Guest Speaker Presentation: John Morton, Kenai National Wildlife Refuge –

Effects of a Rapidly Warming Climate on the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge
The Kenai Peninsula is one of the best-studied parts of the state for climate change effects and John Morton, a supervisory biologist for the Kenai Refuge,  has been a key part of that.  Managing the effects of rapid climate change on the 2 million-acre Kenai National Wildlife Refuge will be a challenge to its primary purpose of conserving natural diversity.  In 50 years, the treeline rose 50m in the Kenai Mountains, wetlands decreased 6-11% per decade, the Harding Icefield lost 5% in surface area and 21m in elevation, and available water declined 62%. Late summer canopy fires in spruce are being replaced by spring fires in bluejoint grasslands. Water temperatures in nonglacial streams already exceed physiological thresholds for salmon during July. Bird species are moving north and more than 130 exotic bird species have become established. Climate-envelope models portray a very different future landscape with alpine tundra replaced by forests and lower elevation forests replaced by hardwoods or possibly catastrophic deforestation.  How can the Refuge or any of the refuges manage for biodiversity under this scenario?

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Agenda:

Introductions and Discussion (5 minutes)
  • Introductions: Where do you live? (Tara)
  • New People: Why did you join the call today?
  • Reminder to please mute yourselves when you aren’t talking
Board Activities/Decisions
  • Refuge Projects and Reports (Betty)
Committee Reports (2-5 minutes each): Volunteer Report – (Betty) Membership/Outreach Events: Upcoming events (Tara) Advocacy Updates (David, Dave)
Speaker/Presentation (30-40 minutes) –
  • John Morton, Kenai National Wildlife Refuge
  • Topic: “Effects of a Rapidly Warming Climate on the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge”
Next Meeting: Tuesday, September 10th, 5-6pm Guest Speaker: TBA
SIX meetings yearly: January, February, March, April, September, October
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2019 – April Advocacy Report

Advocacy Update

by David Raskin, Friends Board President

We are pleased to report the exciting developments in the battles to save the Izembek and Arctic Refuges from destructive developments. These and other issues are discussed below.

Izembek NWR

On 29 March 2019, Friends and eight national conservation organizations scored a major victory when the Federal District Court in Anchorage granted the motion for summary judgment in our lawsuit that challenged the legality of the land exchange and road through the heart of the Izembek Wilderness. In her opinion that invalidated the land exchange, Judge Gleason ruled that the process for land exchange authorized by the Secretary of Interior was “arbitrary and capricious.” This decision halted all activity related to the transfer of Refuge land and the construction of a road. We are all extremely indebted to the staff of Trustees for Alaska who did an amazing amount of superb legal work that resulted in this wonderful victory after decades of battling to protect Izembek from this proposed destruction. However, this is not the final event, as the road proponents will continue to develop legal and legislative approaches to undue this rejection of the road. We and our conservation partners and legal team will closely monitor any such actions and will mount all available legal and legislative challenges to counter any attempt by the Department of Interior (DOI) to revive the unacceptable land exchange and destructive road. Check out the Trustees for Alaska press release for more information.

Arctic NWR

The DOI continues to press forward with plans to sell leases for oil and gas development in the Coastal Plain of the Arctic Refuge. A major national effort resulted in an extensive set of technical comments that were submitted by Trustees for Alaska on behalf of the numerous, serious deficiencies in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement issued by the BLM. Friends also submitted more general comments.  We await the release by BLM of data concerning the number and nature of comments received in response to the national campaign by conservation organizations, including Friends, to encourage their members and the general public to express their concerns about the hurried and flawed process by which the BLM and DOI are attempting to ram through this prosed desecration of the Coastal Plain.

A parallel campaign has been spearheaded by the Gwich’in people of the United States and Canada to prevent the desecration of this Sacred Land and their subsistence culture and way of life. They and scientists and conservationists recently provided powerful testimony on the Arctic Cultural and Coastal Plain Protection Act, H.R. 1146 introduced by Representatives Huffman and Fitzpatrick to prevent the proposed oil and gas development in the Coastal Plain. In furtherance of these goals, the Alaska Wilderness League lured our longtime refuge champion Desiree Sorenson-Groves from the National Wildlife Refuge Association to head the national coalition to protect and preserve the Arctic Refuge. We welcome her able and energetic leadership will continue to work closely with Desiree and the coalition.

The other dangerous aspect of the proposed oil and gas development is the plan to conduct an extensive and disruptive seismic exploration of the Coastal Plain. In spite of their frantic rush to further this program, those involved were unable to perform the necessary analyses required to obtain authorization for the seismic activity in time for 2018-2019 winter season. The current plan is to do the required analyses and issue findings to support seismic exploration in the coming winter season. The conservation community will closely monitor these developments and take whatever actions are necessary to prevent the undesirable impacts of seismic exploration. Interestingly, a recent New York Times investigation revealed that the closely-held and secret data from the only test well ever drilled on the Coastal Plain found little support for the presence of recoverable oil to justify oil and gas development.

Kenai NWR Predator Control Regulations

The proposed changes to the Kenai Refuge predator control regulations have not been released. Information from the FWS indicates that proposed drafts have gone back and forth between the Refuge, Regional Staff, and DOI regarding the extent to which the undesirable State demands will be incorporated into the published draft of the revised regulations. We anticipate that proposed regulations will soon be published in the Federal Register, and the conservation will closely monitor any development and be prepared to provide the responses necessary to protect the integrity and biological diversity of the Kenai Refuge wildlife.

 

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Fairbanks Art Crowd Loves Refuges – 4th Annual Art in the Arctic

Event report filed by Poppy Benson, Friends Vice President

Art in the Arctic in its 4th year was a big hit once again drawing a younger and diverse crowd of 250 on March 7.  Friends cosponsored this art show showcasing works highlighting the three northern refuges – Arctic, Yukon Flats, and Kanuti.  This year’s theme was “Public Lands – Open to all Americans to Use and Enjoy“.  Various works portrayed hunting, fishing, hiking, wildlife viewing, river-floating, photography, sightseeing and other uses of public lands.  Eight artists were selected to exhibit in the show which will be up for the entire month at the popular coffee house and art gallery, VENUE, located at 514 – 2nd Avenue Fairbanks, Alaska.  Mediums ranged from wood carvings to oil to photography, fabric art, and large-scale watercolors.  It was a lovely evening with great food, good messaging about the refuge system and high visibility for the three refuges.  Featured artists included Lindsay Carron who has completed two Artist in Residence programs at the Arctic Refuge as well as spent time on the Yukon Delta Refuge.  Special Tee shirts were created for the event – one Art in the Arctic Tee and one – Find Your Refuge Tee.  Both are available for sale online and 10% of the proceeds go to Friends.  

Fairbanks Friend Jeff Walters and Homer Friends Poppy Benson and Frank Cloyd were on hand to greet and orient attendees and recruit for Friends.  Several new members signed up at this event and at the Alaska Bird Conference which was also held in Fairbanks earlier in the week.  At the end of the week, plans were afoot for a face to face meeting of Fairbanks Friends during our April 16 monthly membership meeting.  Contact Poppy Benson, poppyb.ak@gmail.com for more details.

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2019 March Membership Meeting

Please join us on Tuesday, March 19, 2019, 5-6pm, for the Friends membership meeting.

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

Guest Speaker Presentation: Ray Born– “Yukon Delta NWR – A Complex and Wonderful Place”

Birds fill the skies of the watery vast world of the Yukon Delta. The 19.3 million acre refuge is the country’s most important shorebird nesting area. Add in a million ducks and half a million geese plus 40,000 loons and 100,000 swans and you can see why it is considered one of the world’s largest aggregations of nesting waterbirds. But it isn’t just about birds. The refuge is famous for trophy rainbow and salmon fishing since the Yukon, the Kuskokwim and their tributaries such as the Kisaralik flow through the refuge. Even muskox are found on Nunivak Island. The Delta is also noted for its thriving Native villages where the Yupik language and subsistence culture flourish. Come discover the Delta and learn what Refuge projects we Friends may be able to help with.   DOWNLOAD PRESENTATION

Agenda:

Introductions and Discussion (5 minutes)
  • Introductions: Where do you live? (Poppy)
  • New People: Why did you join the call today?
  • Reminder to please mute yourselves when you aren’t talking
Board Activities/Decisions
  • Refuge Projects and Reports (Betty)
Committee Reports (2-5 minutes each): Volunteer Report – (Betty) Membership/Outreach Events: Upcoming events (Poppy) Advocacy Updates (David, Dave, Mallory)
Speaker/Presentation (30-40 minutes) –
  • Ray Born, Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge
  • Topic: “Yukon Delta NWR – A Complex and Wonderful Place”
Next Meeting: Tuesday, April 16th, 5-6pm Guest Speaker: John Morton/ Kenai NWR
SIX meetings yearly: January, February, March, April, September, October
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We’re Hiring!

Job Announcement: The Friends of Alaska Wildlife Refuges is seeking to fill a part-time position as a Communications Coordinator to manage and develop content for monthly newsletters, Friends’ website and blog, and social media accounts. The desired candidate will have strong organizational and communication skills; manage time independently, and be able to work with a non-profit board of directors.

Friends Communications Coordinator position:

Approximately 5 hrs. /week, 20 hours/month

Pay Rate: $20/hr.

Main Responsibilities:

  • Soliciting content for all communications routes by working with board, partners, and volunteers to create original material.
  • Finalizing content and layout for monthly electronic newsletter.
  • Maintain/update the Friends website and blog.
  • Maintain and manage Friends social media accounts
  • Work with Friends board to update communications strategy
  • Provide input and help improve communications plan.
  • Attend monthly board meetings

Job Description:

The Communications Coordinator will work with the Friends of Alaska Wildlife Refuges Board with collecting, managing and curating communications content for both monthly newsletters and social media accounts to support the mission of the organization. This position requires the ability to assemble, organize, and develop content relevant to the goals and activities of the Friends organization. This position requires the ability to prioritize efforts and to efficiently manage time independently to accomplish the timely dissemination of information to promote the conservation of natural resources in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuges. The ideal candidate will have good communication skills, experience with developing written content, working with public outreach efforts, and an understanding of the US Fish & Wildlife Refuge system.

Deadline to apply is NOON, MARCH 11th, 2019.
To apply, please send your cover letter and resume to: info@alaskarefugefriends.org

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2019 February Membership Meeting – Feb. 12

Due to the ongoing possibility of another federal government shutdown, this meeting has been moved up a week (originally scheduled for Feb. 19th)

Please join us on Tuesday, February 12, 2019, 5-6pm, for the Friends membership meeting.

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

Guest Speaker Presentation:
Bill Carter – “A Permafrost Thaw Slump and Its Effect on Selawik River Inconnu (Sheefish) Spawning Recruitment”

In the summer of 2004, a retrogressive permafrost thaw slump (slump, mudslide) began dumping sediment into the Selawik River in northwest Alaska. It’s location above the spawning area of one of two Inconnu populations (Stenodus leucichthys) that share rearing and overwintering habitat in Selawik Lake, Hotham Inlet and Kotzebue Sound was cause for concern for local subsistence users and fisheries managers. The subsequent erosion of material from the slump has deposited more than 365,000 m3 (477,402 yd3) of sediment into the river, and the silt plume could be seen over 145 km (90 mi) downstream. The spawning area, only 40 km (25 mi) downstream, was threatened by heavy sedimentation. A population age structure study to explore the effects of the slump using otolith (ear bone) aging began in 2011, giving us pre-slump age data as the first recruits from the 2004 spawning event wouldn’t return until the age-9 (2014). Age structure data has revealed an interesting population dynamic not only in the Selawik River population but also in its sister population of Inconnu in the Kobuk River that is being used as an experimental control.


Download Bill Carter’s Presentation
Download Bill Carter’s Presentation (widescreen version)

*SIX meetings yearly: January, February, March, April, September, October

Agenda
Introductions and Discussion (5 minutes)

  • Introductions: Where do you live? (Poppy)
  • New People: Why did you join the call today?
  • Reminder to please mute yourselves when you aren’t talking

Board Activities/Decisions

  • Refuge Projects and Reports (Betty)

Committee Reports (2-5 minutes each):
Volunteer Report – (Betty)
Membership/Outreach Events: Upcoming events (Poppy)

  • Refuge Discovery Trip Report out
    • Trips in the Works
    • Art in the Arctic & Alaska Bird Conference
    • Details for all on our EVENTS tab – on website; we’ll send more updates via newsletter
  • Advocacy Updates (David Raskin & Dave Aplin)
    • Arctic Drilling

Speaker/Presentation (30-40 minutes) –

  • Bill Carter, Togiak National Wildlife Refuge
  • Topic: “A Permafrost Thaw Slump and Its Effect on Selawik River Inconnu (Sheefish) Spawning Recruitment”

Next Meeting: Tuesday, March 9th, 5-6pm/ Guest Speaker TBA
SIX meetings yearly: January, February, March, April, September, October

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ACTION ALERT: ATTENTION ANCHORAGE AREA FRIENDS OF ARCTIC NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE (2/9/19)

ACTION ALERT: ATTENTION ANCHORAGE AREA FRIENDS OF ARCTIC NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE

Take time on Tuesday, February 11th to tell the Bureau of Land Management why the rushed and irredeemably flawed oil and gas leasing process needs to be stopped in its tracks!

The Bureau of Land Management will hold an OPEN HOUSE from 1 pm to 7 pm on Feb 11th at the Dena’ina Center, 600 W. 7th Ave. with information boards and subject matter experts available to provide information and answer questions one-on-one.

At 2 pm and 5 pm BLM will give a PRESENTATION providing an overview of the DEIS. Beginning at 1 pm, individuals wishing to provide PUBLIC TESTIMONY, may do so, with breaks occurring at 2pm and 5pm for the BLM presentation.  The microphone will be available on a FIRST COME FIRST SERVE basis. A court reporter will be available to capture these comments. There will also be a court reporter available if individuals wish to provide their testimony ONE-ON-ONE throughout the public meeting period.  Comment stations with computers will also be available if attendees would like to submit comments ELECTRONICALLY.

If you are unable to attend, you can submit comments on proposed Arctic Refuge leasing alternatives presented by the BLM  at blm.gov/alaska, or by mail to Coastal Plain Oil and Gas Leasing Program EIS, 222 W. Seventh Ave., Stop #13, Anchorage, Alaska 99513. The deadline for comments was recently extended to March 13th.

YOUR COMMENTS

Be prepared to tell the BLM WHY the lease sale process needs to be stopped. Your comments might include:

  • Your assessment of the value of the Refuge, including its importance as one of America’s last wild places.
  • Your concerns regarding the leasing process. You might include:
    • The Administration’s failed promise to Americans that the permitting would include a robust, scientifically sound review process with public comment and full tribal consultation.
    • The BLM’s disregard for the serious biological, cultural, and climate impacts fossil fuel extraction will have in the rapidly-warming Arctic.
    • The DEIS’s unacceptable deficiencies in current information about the impacts of oil and gas on the Refuge’s irreplaceable ecosystem, wildlife, and the people who depend on those resources
  • Your specific concerns regarding species, ecosystem functions, the potential contributions of greenhouse gases to global climate change, etc.

The Bureau of Land Management’s website includes additional information on the leasing program, including the EIS.



Photo Credit: Peter Mather/Minden Pictures, via Getty

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Discovering Kenai’s Snowbound Cabin: Refuge Discovery Trip Report (Feb. 2019)

by the “Dolly Varden Cabin Gang,” Poppy, Sandy, Ellen, Rose and Tim Snow fell soft and deep as we snowshoed back across Dolly Varden Lake after an awesome Friends’ Discovery Trip to the Kenai Refuge’s Dolly Varden public use cabin.   The February 1 – 3, weekend didn’t turn out quite as planned because the community ice fishing event we were there to help with was canceled because of the shutdown.  However, the cozy cabin was already reserved for Friends, so we weren’t going to waste that opportunity.  Five Friends from Anchorage, Soldotna, Homer and Indiana including intrepid leader Tim Shipman made the trek in.   What did we discover?  Sandy Kerns from Soldotna, said “A hidden lake, snowshoeing abilities, how much weight can we pull in a sled across a frozen lake, babbling water in an open creek, how good food tastes prepared camp style, new friends, and that planning service projects for Alaska Wildlife Refuges makes one feel connected to the land and community.”   Yes, we talked into the night about future fun and good work we can do on the Kenai and other refuges.  Kenai is the drive to refuge for Kenai/Soldotna, Homer, Anchorage and the Valley.  Stay tuned for more Discovery Trips and Volunteer Projects on the Kenai. The Kenai Refuge cabins have opened up the refuge to use in winter.  Many are easily accessible.  All are cute and cozy and make winter activities fun. And we had fun!  Rose Lahti of Anchorage on her very first Friends event said “The best outdoor experiences are with like-minded souls and there are no strangers when it comes to sharing what we enjoy doing, just “friends”.   I look forward to another “friends” activity and the memories I made at Dolly Varden cabin are precious.” 
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Arctic National Wildlife Refuge UPDATE (2/7/19)

The Department of Interior continues its race permit oil and gas leasing on the 1.6 million acre coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. While 800,000 “nonessential” Federal employees were idled by the recent government shutdown, the Bureau of Land Management continued work to complete the Draft Environmental Statement (DEIS). However the news isn’t all bad as public comment deadline on the DEIS has been extended from February 11th to March 13th.

As part of the public comment period, BLM has launched a rushed round of public meetings. The format of these “open house” meetings (as reported by Alaska Public Media here) includes a slide presentation from the agency and opportunities for the attendees to provide testimony via computers and court reporters, DOES NOT include opportunities a forum for the public to speak out. Meetings have already occurred in Fairbanks, Kaktovik, Utqiagvik, and Fort Yukon.  Meetings are scheduled at Arctic Village (Saturday, Feb. 9), Venetie (Sunday, Feb 10), Anchorage (Monday, February 11), and in Washington DC (Wednesday, Feb 23).  Your attendance and participation in these meetings is important and valuable – in spite of the shortcomings of the meetings’ format and opportunities for public engagement.  More information about these meetings is available here.

If you are unable to attend, you can submit comments on proposed Arctic Refuge leasing alternatives presented by the BLM before March 13th at blm.gov/alaska, or by mail to Coastal Plain Oil and Gas Leasing Program EIS, 222 W. Seventh Ave., Stop #13, Anchorage, Alaska 99513.

This comment period is the last opportunity for the public to wade in on the BLM’s rushed and highly flawed process. Your comments might include:

  • Your assessment of the value of the Refuge, including its importance as one of America’s last wild places.
  • Your concerns regarding the leasing process. You might include:
    • The Administration’s failed promise to Americans that the permitting would include a robust, scientifically sound review process with public comment and full tribal consultation.
    • The BLM’s disregard for the serious biological, cultural, and climate impacts fossil fuel extraction will have in the rapidly-warming Arctic.
    • The DEIS’s unacceptable deficiencies in current information about the impacts of oil and gas on the Refuge’s irreplaceable ecosystem, wildlife, and the people who depend on those resources
  • Your specific concerns regarding species, ecosystem functions, the potential contributions of greenhouse gases to global climate change, etc.

The Bureau of Land Management’s website includes additional information on the leasing program, including the EIS.

(photo credit: National Geographic)

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