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Arctic Drilling – 2019, January Update

The Race to Drill Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

On December 20th the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) released the draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge Coastal Plain oil and gas leasing program. The document can be found here in its entirety. 

Initial analysis of the DEIS reveals a remarkably deficient document and a flawed administrative process that (among many failings) underestimates the impacts to the Arctic Refuge’s iconic wildlife – including polar bears, caribou, and birds, minimizes the adverse impacts to the freshwater resources on which the region’s ecological systems depend, and fails to accurately assess the potential impacts of Arctic oil and gas development on climate change. While the agency is accepting public comments on the DEIS until February 11, 2019, its commitment to public participation and open process is under scrutiny.

Media outlets – including Alaska Public Media – reported this week that the Trump Administration is moving ahead to authorized oil and gas leasing in the Arctic Refuge in spite of a partial government shutdown that has idled 800,000 Federal employees. The continued activity by BLM staff has attracted the attention of Congress. According to AK Public Media, Congressman Raul Grijaiva of Arizona has written to acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt questioning the continuation of work on the Arctic Refuge and the National Petroleum reserve during the shutdown. “Asking people to comment on two major development processes in the Arctic with huge potential environmental and human consequences without anyone in the agency able to answer questions defeats the purpose of the public participation process,” Grijalva wrote.  

The Department of Interior’s juggernaut to permit leasing and stymie public participation is unacceptable. Watch for an action alert that will provide more information on how to develop and submit your input on the Draft EIS to the BLM.

Thumper Trucks Stymied by Government Shutdown

At least for now

A phalanx of rubber-tracked “thumper trunks” is poised to roll across the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. A recent article in the Alaska Daily News reports that heavy-duty trucks operated by SAExploration are awaiting a green light from the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the Bureau of Land Management to unleash ground-vibrating seismic testing gear across the Refuge’s frozen coastal plain in search of oil-rich geologic formations. The data acquired would be used by oil companies interested in acquiring drilling leases in a sale anticipated as soon as this year.

The partial Government shutdown has stalled the ambitious plan. Federal regulations require opportunities for public input on the project’s Environmental Assessment (EA) and draft Incidental Take Permit for Polar Bears before the thumper trucks can roll.  To minimize disturbance, the work can only be accomplished while the land is frozen. But seismic testing, even on frozen tundra, brings significant risks to wildlife. Conservation groups and polar bear experts have raise concerns over the potential disturbance to snoozing mothers bears with cubs without complete knowledge of den locations and adequate protocols for avoiding disruption.

It is anticipated that the process will be aggressively pushed forward when (and if) the Government shutdown is resolved. Watch for additional updates, including information on how you can provide your input on the EA and Incidental Take Permit.

(Illustration by World Wildlife Fund, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rMYpG0m51F8)

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2019 – January Advocacy Report

Advocacy Update

by David Raskin, Friends Board President

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is under heavy attack by the Trump Administration!
 
The BLM released a Draft Environmental Statement (DEIS) for Oil Leasing in the Coastal Plain. Comments are due by February 11, 2019. (Click here)
 
This DEIS addresses only the leasing portion of this horrible plan. BLM plans to prepare an additional DEIS for on-the-ground activities and drilling that may occur following projected lease sales. Also, preparation of a separate BLM environmental assessment of potential impacts of seismic exploration on the Coastal Plain and wildlife is underway. We expect to see that soon and will keep people informed when that is released for what is expected to be a 30-day public comment period.

 

We are working with many organizations to prepare comments on the Oil Leasing DEIS, which should be in the preliminary draft later this month. In the meantime, organizations are preparing information and talking points that we will make available for individuals to prepare and submit their comments. It is crucial that large numbers of concerned citizens let the BLM know that desecrating the Arctic Refuge would be a major environmental and social disaster. Please check our website and your emails for notices and information that will be provided as they become available.

This is the most important battle ever waged to save the Arctic Refuge, its wildlife, and the Gwich’in way of life. We need your involvement and commitment. We need your help.

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Alaska Refuges, Friends, and the Public Suffer from Shut Down: What You Can Do

by Poppy Benson, Friends Outreach Coordinator

What on earth does “the wall” have to do with Tetlin’s lynx research project,  a school children’s Discovery Lab in Homer or a snowshoe walk in Kenai?  Well these programs and so much more are being held hostage to the budget fight in Washington.  The federal government shutdown, now in its third week, has shuttered all Alaska Refuge visitor centers and offices, canceled environmental education and public programs, postponed meetings and agreements, delayed hiring even of volunteers, postponed commenting on the Arctic Refuge oil leasing EIS, and postponed the start of winter biology projects such as the lynx project and moose counts. 

Only 21 employees in Alaska were deemed “essential” and they are working without pay mainly to protect facilities and carry out the shutdown.  All others have been sent home as the Fish & Wildlife Service, without a budget, has no authority to pay employees.  Two Friends events have already been cancelled due to the shutdown and several others are at risk.  We can’t meet with Refuge staff if they aren’t on the job.  Below is a list of some closures, cancellations and postponements that we know about.  It is hard to get information on the scope of the cancellations when there are no refuge staff available to talk to.  We also do not know if refuge wildlife and lands are suffering damage such as is reported for the Lower 48 National Parks and Refuges.  All lands remain open to public use but the public is warned they are on their own.

CLOSED:

  • Alaska Islands & Ocean Visitor Center, Homer (Alaska Maritime Refuge)
  • Kenai National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center, Soldotna
  • Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center, Kodiak
  • Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center, Bethel
  • All Alaska Public Information Centers

CANCELED:

  • Friends Strategic Planning Workshop &  “Meet the Managers” events 
  • Environmental education programs – all Refuges

NOT MAINTAINED:

  • All Refuge Facebook pages, web pages and other social media communicating with the public.
  • Refuge trails, roads and cabins

AT RISK:

  • Friends Membership meeting on January 15.  Won’t have a speaker if shut down in effect.
  • Friends Discovery Trip to the Dolly Varden Cabin on the Kenai Refuge, February 1 – 3
  • Friends opening of the Coldfoot Visitor Center for aurora watchers, February 15 to April 15.  The issue here is whether or not the extensive background checks can be completed in time.
  • Yukon River Fishery Decisions – State Board of Fish Meeting son the Yukon & Kuskokwim finfish – January 15 – will be no Yukon Delta Refuge staff or FWS fisheries participation
  • Arctic Refuge comments on oil and gas leasing of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge – February 11
  • Alaska Marine Science Symposium January 28 – no FWS or NOAA participation if the shutdown continues.
  • The hiring of refuge summer seasonal staff and volunteers.
  • Winter biology projects.
  • Rural children’s Migratory Bird Calendar Contest
  • UAF Oral History Project planned for several Native communities

TAKE ACTION:

Contact our Congressional Delegation and the President and tell them to quit holding Alaska’s National Wildlife Refuges hostage over a budget fight.   Tell them:
this shut down is costing all of us taxpayers money and opportunities to enjoy our public lands, programs, and facilities; the impact of this shut down will extend well beyond a return to work as our hardworking refuge staffs will be hard put to make up for this time lost from the job; and it is a breach of faith to not pay employees especially those who are still required to work.

It doesn’t take but a minute to fill in the email forms on our delegations’ web pages:

Senator Lisa Murkowski

Senator Dan Sullivan

Representative Don Young

President Trump

Not from Alaska?  Find links to your representatives and updates on the shut down at the National Wildlife Refuge Association here.

 

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2019 January Membership Meeting – Jan. 15 (CANCELLED)

Due to the ongoing federal government shutdown, this meeting has been canceled. We hope to have Bill Carter present at a future membership meeting.

Please join us on Tuesday, January 15, 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.

Check here for presentation materials, closer to the meeting date.


*SIX meetings yearly: January, February, March, April, September, October
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2018 Outreach Summary

by Poppy Benson, Outreach Coordinator

It was a great year for Outreach with membership skyrocketing and new folks stepping up to help out at events.  From Fairbanks to Homer and Anchorage to Soldotna we staffed outreach tables at 9 events spreading the word about Refuges and Friends and always gaining at least a couple of new members.  Sportsman Show, River Festival, and even the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Attu – we were there talking up Friends.  The Shorebird Festival which is co-sponsored by Friends brought in nearly 70 new members.  It is always fun to talk to the public about the work Refuges and Friends do, and we had new tools to do that with this year.  With the help of a grant from the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation, we were able to buy identifying vests, a new pop-up display, a tablecloth, and a screen to show images all of which gave us a much more professional look.   We put an outreach emphasis on the Kenai-Soldotna area this year to build support for the Kenai Refuge.  We started off in April with the Kenai Peninsula Sportsman Show and went right through Wildlife Refuge week in October.  We now have 25 current members in that area and many willing volunteers.  A good start for sure.

(Becky Hutchingson, Soldotna, and George Hedrick, Sterling,  work the table at the Kenai River Festival in June)

(Tara Schmidt, Homer,  working the Kenai Peninsula Sportsmans Show)
Taking it Up a Notch & Creating Direct Engagement, with Refuge Discovery Trips
We know our members want to get out on the refuges so in the fall of 2017 we hatched the idea of Refuge Discovery Trips with a Kenai Refuge canoe trip.  This year we took that up a notch with 12 Friends journeying to the Tetlin Refuge on the Canadian border for 4 days of learning about the refuge, volunteering and best of all a 2-night canoe trip.  Participants came from the Kenai Peninsula, Fairbanks, Anchorage, and Copper Center to experience the Tetlin and see how we can do more for them.  With good weather (no bugs), lots of waterfowl,  and great company it was a very fun time on a beautiful refuge that none of us had experienced before.  We quickly left all signs of civilization behind and saw no other people after launching the refuge canoes on Desper Creek at the Alaska Highway boat launch.  Tetlin is very accessible and virtually unused wilderness.  We also camped a night in their lovely campground at Deadman Lake and spent time at the refuge’s  border visitor center, the first place highway travelers stop when entering Alaska.  Meeting with the refuge staff was a key part of the experience because out of that has come so many more ideas for trips, volunteer projects and supporting the refuge with a grant application.  We were all shocked that a refuge the size of Rhode Island has only 6 permanent staff.  They need help.  Stay tuned for more trips to the Tetlin as the refuge staff would like our help with signing a canoe route, demolishing old buildings on newly acquired highway frontage and helping with their 4th of July.  These would all be great opportunities for Fairbanks Friends as Tetlin is your drive-to refuge and one of only 2 in the state that is road accessible.

(Desper Creek on a two-night canoe trip)
Kenai is our other road accessible refuge, and we took advantage of that easy access with a September trip to help the Alaska Flyfishers clean up the Kenai River.  We got to float the Kenai with refuge staff cleaning beaches and admiring bear tracks on a bright and sunny day.  The next day, we hiked the Hidden Creek trail to lovely Skilak Lake.  With the easy access, rich wildlife and varied experiences possible on the Kenai Refuge, we will always host at least one Discovery Trip there annually.  Next up is a ski in cabin trip on the Kenai for the first weekend in February (see description above).  For next summer, more Kenai and Tetlin trips will likely happen but we are mulling expanding to off-road refuges with perhaps a trip to Adak on the Alaska Maritime Refuge or possibly Yukon Delta.  These trips will be announced in this newsletter and on our Refuge Discovery Trip webpage.


(All smiles after a great day on the Kenai River Clean-up)

(Soldotna, Homer and Indiana Friends floating down the river with Ranger Scott)



Contact Outreach Coordinator Poppy Benson at poppyb.ak@gmail.com with your ideas or questions about 2019 Discovery Trips.
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Kenai Refuge Discovery Trip – February 1-3, 2019

Let’s go play in the snow! 

Ever want to experience the Kenai Refuge in winter? Try out ice fishing with people who know what they are doing in a warm ice fishing tent? Then join our Discovery Trip to the Dolly Varden Lake cabin on the Kenai Refuge the weekend of February 1 – 3, 2019.

Enjoy a cozy, off-road, cabin, ice fishing and assisting the refuge!  Ski, snowshoe or probably even walk into the cabin only a mile across the lake from the Dolly Varden campground.   Since the cabin only sleeps 6, we will have a Friday night group and a Saturday night group.  Both cabin groups will help the Refuge with their Saturday Family Ice Fishing event on Dolly Varden Lake.  

Not up for an overnight? Then come out on Saturday just for the day to help with or participate in the Ice Fishing event which will be held right next to the Dolly Varden Campground, 14 miles up the Swanson River Road from Sterling, from 1 to 4 p.m. with set-up at noon.

Times: Friday group will meet at the Dolly Varden campground at 2 p.m. Friday to pack gear and ski, snowshoe, or walk in. We will haul our gear back to our cars by noon Saturday to be ready to help set up the ice fishing event which opens to the public at 1 p.m.

The Saturday cabin group will meet at the Dolly Varden campground about noon to help set up the event and have lunch with staff. Afterwards, we will ski into the cabin and spend the night coming out by noon Sunday.

The cabin overnights are limited to 6 per night with a minimum age of 16.  You must be a current Friend to participate but you can join here

Day trippers who want to help with the ice fishing event should show up at the Dolly Varden campground about noon to help set up. The event is open to the public from 1 to 4 p.m.  The ice fishing event on Saturday is open to all and free. Families are encouraged to attend, and you do not need to be a Friends member.

Leaders:

  • Friday night: Poppy Benson, poppybenson@alaskarefugefriends.org; (907) 299-0092. Poppy has had 30 years of experience in Alaska and more than that on skis. Poppy is Wilderness First Aid certified and a Friends Board Member.
  • Saturday night: Tim Shipman, tim.shipman@gmail.com; (907) 252-8450. Tim lives in Soldotna and has been hiking and snowshoeing on the Kenai Refuge for 30 years.

Cost: $20 for dinner and breakfast at the cabin plus a hot dog lunch over the fire on Saturday. Bring your own snacks and beverages other than coffee and tea. Contact the trip leaders if you have dietary restrictions.

Equipment needed: Your own personal gear for traveling to and overnighting in a cabin and being out on the ice. The refuge will have ice fishing gear but you might want to bring your own chair or bucket. Contact the trip leaders if you don’t have a way to bring your gear in. A pulk (shown in photo) is the very best for hauling gear but a backpack works too. Bring skis or snowshoes for the mile trip across the lake as snow may be deep. A full equipment list will be supplied to participants.

Weather: The trip will happen unless we have a major blizzard or record low temperatures. The refuge is bringing portable ice fishing tents. The cabin has a stove and will be warm but a winter weight sleeping bag is a good idea.

How to sign up: The overnights will be limited to the first 6 people per night to register and pay but any number can join in on the Saturday ice fishing.   Please fill out the registration form below even if you only plan to go for the day.  You must be a current Friends member to participate in the cabin overnight but you can join here

All participants who are not yet signed up as Fish and Wildlife volunteers will be required to fill out a Volunteer Agreement. Prior to the trip, all participants will be required to sign a liability waiver which will be sent to you.

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



Register for the Kenai Refuge Discovery Trip – Feb 1-3, 2018

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2018 Year End Volunteer Report

by Betty Siegel, Volunteer Coordinator

January
:  We had a Friends Board Retreat and 5 of us went to Hawaii for the Peer to Peer Workshop with the Friends of the Pacific Islands Refuges

February:  No Report

March: has been a busy month as the Friends have approved the Refuge Requests to date and new Volunteer Opportunities have been posted on our website.  Friends had a table at Homer’s Volunteer Fair at Islands & Ocean on March 21 and 22. The Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival Volunteer Sign-up recruitment at the fair resulted in a dozen or more members and interested non-members signing on to help. To date, 21 individuals have volunteered for 62 events. Of the 21, at least 13 are current members while the rest are interested in joining Friends or receiving more information about our organization.

April: Volunteer recruitment for for Dalton weed pull, Camp Goonzhii: Christina Whiting, and for Tree Swallow Banding; Volunteers recruited for Shorebird Festival, 41 at this time, with over half being Friends members; Other volunteers recruited for Attu 75th in Anchorage and Mat-Su Valley area, but these go directly to the Attu 75th coordinator.

May: has been a very busy month for Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge and Friends volunteers at two major events: Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival in Homer (May 10-13) and Battle of Attu 75th Anniversary Commemoration events in Anchorage (May 17-19).

  • As the Volunteer Coordinator for the Shorebird Festival, I utilized 45 volunteers in various jobs throughout the four days, including the Viewing Stations, Friends Coffee, and event management duties for workshops, lectures, programs, bird walks, and much more. They put in more than 150 volunteer hours and received a free festival poster and a complimentary ticket to a keynote address. The festival could not occur without the support of these awesome volunteers. Thank you, one and all! (Probably half were Friends members!)
  • For the Attu 75th events, I advertised and recruited volunteers to assist Susan Churchill, the event volunteer coordinator. Although this was not a Friends volunteer opportunity, three Friends did work all three days for a total of 30 hours each. Thank you Chuck Iliff and Tom Choate! We three were honored to have been a part of this memorable event organized by Alaska Maritime NWR (and various other partners).
  • Kenai National Wildlife Refuge requested our help in advertising and recruiting volunteers for two events in June: Trail’s Day and Kenai River Festival. We recruited the leaders and all the volunteers for both events. Thank you Tony Munter, Sharon Baur, and Tara Schmidt!
  • USFWS Region 7 requested advertising and recruitment on our website for the Watershed/Salmon Education Project in Anchorage (April and May). Three Friends volunteered: Susan Pope, Jim Theile, and Dave Schroyer. Thank you!
  • Arctic National Wildlife Refuge: We advertised and recruited applications for Camp Goonzhii (August/Sept), Christina Whiting and Cindy Sisson. 
  • Kanuti National Wildlife Refuge: We advertised and recruited for the two Dalton weed pulls (June and July), receiving applications from two new Friends members, one for each month.

June: Kanuti NWR sponsored the 24th Dalton Highway Invasive Plant project the week of June 18-22. Three Friends volunteers pulled white sweet clover and bird vetch along the Haul Road river crossings between the Kanuti River just south of the Arctic Circle to the Dietrich River, north of Wiseman. This will be the last year of this project. Staffing shortages and cuts in many programs continue even as the invasive plants proliferate in the absence of more drastic strategies.  The plans for next year will likely only involve monitoring down-river from the highway in a few rivers or creeks each summer.

Dragonfly Day was held on June 23 in Fairbanks with a local Friend (Joe Morris) staffing the Friends table and selling books for the dragonfly expert John Hudson. John contributed 50% of the sale price to Friends. This popular event was sponsored by the three Fairbanks refuges: Arctic, Kanuti, and Yukon Flats, with funding provided by Friends for the venue, advertising, and other expenses. There were @ 350 in attendance.

July. A previously approved project, Dalton Invasives- July, was canceled. The Kaktovik Polar Bear Viewing project was filled.  Preparations for travel for Arctic’s Camp Goonzhii are underway for the two volunteers. Discussion continues with Tina Moran of Kanuti for winter opportunities at the Coldfoot Winter V.C.

August: Camp Goonzhii in Arctic Village, was postponed until Sept. 12 due to a death in the village.

Many Friends have been busy, however, organizing outreach events, writing grants, planning a workshop for 2019, advocating for Refuges, and getting out the newsletter and social media posts.

September: There was one volunteer opportunity, Camp Goonzhii, which Cindy Sisson attended.  Thanks, Cindy, for representing Friends for this annual Arctic Refuge project: the science and culture camp in Arctic Village.

  • In early Sept. I was invited to Fairbanks to accompany Tina Moran, Acting Manager of Kanuti NWR, and Kris Fister, National Park Service Chief of Interpretation, Gates of the Arctic and Yukon Charley National Parks and Preserves, on a two day trip to Coldfoot to discuss/brainstorm staffing and operation strategies for the Coldfoot Field Office (CFO) Winter Visitor Center.
  • We discussed Staffing (both Refuge personnel and volunteers), Operation dates and times, Housing, Activities, Transportation, Alaska Geographic, Security considerations, etc. This is a potential Friends Volunteer Opportunity once all the details are worked out. The tentative dates are February 16 through April 6, 2019 when Arctic NWR’s new visitor services position filled Two Volunteers would greet the tour company vans of Aurora Viewing visitors from all over the world who come up to Coldfoot and Wiseman. This will be an exciting opportunity for volunteers to have the same aurora experience these visitors have at no cost!  Stay tuned for more information as plans progress.

October:  We have received notices from 12 interested members who would like to volunteer for the winter visitor center in Coldfoot next Feb.-March-April. These included 5 couples and 2 single individuals. Thanks to all who wish to volunteer! We will attempt to accommodate as many as possible during the approximately 7 week period the center will be open.

November: No new projects. I have been working out the scheduling for the Coldfoot Winter Visitor Center with the 16 Friends who have volunteered or expressed an interest in staffing it for a week or more at a time.  

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Selawik Art Night and Open House – Fall 2018

Selawik National Wildlife Refuge: Art Night & Open House, October 17, 2018 

In celebration of Refuge Week, we hosted an Art Night and Open House event. About 25-30 people of mixed ages young children, teenagers, parents, and elders, attended. We hosted activities like plant printing on stationery, acrylic painting on small canvases, and “blind drawing” of various items (antlers, skulls, etc.). Many of the people in attendance had never been in our office before. One of the National Park Service seasonal staff assisted us with the event as well. We greatly appreciate the refreshments that Friends provided—everyone in attendance enjoyed them!




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2018 Review: Friends Advocacy Initiatives

In 2018, we were confronted by many important threats to our National Wildlife Refuges and Parks in Alaska and the Nation. Friends are at the forefront of efforts to prevent the Administration from permanently damaging habitat and wildlife and giving away lands in national conservation units. Below are the major actions in which we have participated along with our many conservation partners.
 
Izembek Land Trade and Road    
Secretary Zinke and his staff undertook a series of secret negotiations that resulted in a land trade with those who have pushed for an unnecessary and costly road through the heart of the Izembek Wilderness. The Friends organization is the lead plaintiff along with eight other conservation organizations in the lawsuit filed in the Anchorage Federal District Court that challenges the proposed land trade and road. We are represented by Trustees for Alaska that has performed excellent legal work on behalf of the conservation organizations.   Everything has been submitted and argued, we and await a ruling by the Court on our motion for summary judgment.
 
Oil Drilling in the Arctic Coastal Plain

 The criticism continues concerning the DOI fast-track goal of completing a draft environmental statement (DEIS) for oil leasing in less than six months. The environmental assessment for the proposed seismic testing has not been issued by BLM but could occur very soon. For a summary of the potential risks and impacts from seismic activity, click on the Alaska Wilderness League fact sheet here. We expect that the potential environmental impacts of seismic exploration and lease sales will not be adequately addressed and documented, which would result in extensive litigation by national organizations and Friends challenging these proposed actions.
 
Predator Control
Friends and 14 other organizations intervened in the lawsuit by the State of Alaska and Safari Clubs International that challenged the National Park Service 2015 predator control regulations. The case was put on hold until December 10, 2018, because the Park Service was ordered by the DOI to issue revised regulations. We joined the other organizations in comments drafted by Trustees for Alaska opposing the revised regulations. We await the outcome of that process.
 
Kenai Revised Regulations
The USFWS is preparing revisions to the regulations regarding hunting and access in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. This revision was ordered by DOI to accommodate the long-standing efforts of the State of Alaska to dramatically increase hunting and motorized access on the Refuge. As with the similar DOI orders to the National Park Service, their plan is to eliminate long-standing protections to habitat and wildlife on national wildlife refuges. We expect that the Department of Interior will require the Refuge to accept the demands of the State to allow baiting of brown bears and off-road vehicle access during the winter, but expanded hunting in the Skilak Wildlife Recreation Area along the Skilak Loop Road may not be addressed until later. We are closely monitoring this process and working with our conservation partners to prevent or minimize these destructive regulations.
 
Hovercrafts on Navigable Waters
Together with the National Parks Conservation Association and other organizations, Friends entered an amicus brief in Sturgeon v. Masica in opposition to Sturgeon’s claim that, contrary to National Park Service regulations, he can operate his hovercraft on the navigable waters of Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve. After the Ninth Circuit Federal Court of Appeals denied his claim, the case was accepted by the U.S. Supreme Court, which has not yet issued its decision.

Alaska Native Veterans Land Allotment Equity Act
Senator Sullivan’s bill to amend the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act represents a major threat to federal conservation units in Alaska. It would revise provisions regarding land allotments for Alaska Native Vietnam veterans. Eligibility is expanded to include all Alaska Native veterans who served between August 5, 1964, and May 7, 1975. Allotments may be selected from vacant federal lands or lands that have been selected or conveyed to the State of Alaska or an Alaska Native corporation, if the State or corporation relinquishes or conveys the land to the United States for allotment. An heir of a deceased eligible veteran, regardless of the cause of death, may apply for and receive an allotment. We are following the progress of this legislation and hope that it will not become law.

On behalf of our Board of Directors, I wish you all a wonderful Holiday Season and a New Year filled with conservation victories against the forces of darkness!
by David Raskin, Friends Board President

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