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Proposed Rules Threaten Kenai Refuge Wildlife and Visitors; Comments Due August 10

Comment Electronically

Under pressure from the State of Alaska, the Department of the Interior required the Kenai Refuge to propose rules that would affect trapping, brown bears, visitors, dogs, and public safety on the Refuge.  There have been no public meetings and scant public notice. The
public comment period closes August 10.

Proposed Changes replaces the Refuge’s trapping regulations with the State’s less restrictive regulations. The Refuge trapping regulations were developed in the 1980s in response to trapping abuses under State management such as dogs and eagles caught in traps, traps left out after the close of the season, traps along popular trails and roads, no accountability as traps were not marked, traps that were rarely checked leaving animals to suffer, and overharvest of some species. Under Refuge management trappers were required to get a Refuge permit and abide by these safeguards:

  • No-trap areas near trailheads, campgrounds, refuge roads, and visitor facilities to protect visitors and dogs.

  • Requirement to check traps to prevent undue suffering and facilitate release of non-target animals such as moose, bear, and eagles.

  • Requirement to hide bait from view to protect eagles and other birds.

  • Special provisions to prevent overharvest of lynx, fox, marten, and beaver

  • Prohibition of toothed leg hold traps to reduce suffering and make release of non-target species easier.

  • Trapper Orientation to establish expectations and best practices.

  • Marked traps with the trapper’s name or symbol to ensure accountability.

All of these safeguards will go away under State management of trapping. The new rule will apply to all of the Refuge except the Skilak Recreation Area which has its own set of rules.

Proposed Changes would allow brown bear hunting over bait. Hunters will be allowed to use human food to lure bears into bait stations up the Swanson River Road. This affects visitor and oil field worker safety as only the largest bear to visit the bait station will be killed, leaving other bears to roam with their newly-acquired taste for doughnuts and cooking oil.

Other provisions of the Proposed Changes would allow bicycles, game carts, and ATVs on some roads, trails or lakes but these are less controversial. However, allowing shooting along the Kenai and Russian Rivers from November 1 to May 1 seems ill-advised for public safety and would increase the take of watchable wildlife in this area.

The conflict between State and Refuge wildlife management that led to this stems from the different mandates of the two agencies. Federal laws and regulations require National Wildlife Refuges to be managed for natural biodiversity and a balance of predators and prey. The State mandate of maximum sustained yield of species such as moose and caribou is the justification for their predator control programs, especially killing bears and wolves. In contrast to the State, Refuges must consider user conflicts, such as trappers vs. hikers with dogs and hunters vs. wildlife viewers and recreationists.

 

How You Can Learn More:



Please comment on-line or by mail by 7:59 pm ADT, August 10. Feel free to use our talking points but make comments based on your personal experiences and values.


Public Comments Processing
Attn: FWS-R7-NWRS-2017-0058
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
MS: JAO/1N, 5275
Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22041-3803

 

More questions? Contact us at info@alaskafriends.org

 

Recording of a panel of retired refuge staff discussing this issue at our July 21, 2020 meeting:


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Advocacy Report July 2020

By David Raskin, Friends Board President

Except for the release of the proposed regulations for the Kenai Refuge, it has been relatively quiet in terms of new developments.

Kenai National Wildlife Refuge – Regulations

The proposed Kenai Refuge public use, hunting, and trapping regulations and the environmental assessment were released with an August 10 deadline for comments. Please see this post for detailed information about this critical issue and how to submit comments. This is a very important issue that not only affects the Kenai Refuge but could set undesirable precedents that could negatively impact other refuges.

Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

We are still waiting for the Secretary of Interior to issue the Record of Decision (ROD). The biological issues and uncertainty of a successful lease sale may be causing rethinking at DOI. However, there has been no news to date.    

The Arctic Refuge Defense Campaign (ARDC) lobbyists were again successful in their efforts to have minimum bid language included in the House Interior Appropriations bill. The language basically requires them to meet the stated minimum for how much they need to raise for a lease sale. If they do not achieve the minimum bids, they cannot use the funds. This presents a major problem for drilling proponents to have a successful lease sale, and we owe a big thank you to Representative Betty McCollum for shepherding this critical amendment through her committee. 

The ARDC campaign’s highly successful meetings with executives of oil companies and financial institutions concerning the dangers of Arctic drilling and the financial risks of supporting such efforts have now focused on pressuring oil and gas development companies to join the major financial institutions in refusing to fund oil development in the arctic.

Izembek National Wildlife Refuge

On June 1, the Federal District Court issued a resounding defeat to the proponents of the Izembek land exchange by nullifying the pending land exchange with King Cove. This decision hopefully puts an end to almost four decades of unsuccessful attempts to invade the Izembek Wilderness. Any new attempt to resurrect the road would require an act of Congress and a signature by the president. Trustees for Alaska and all of our conservation partners remain vigilant for any attempts by the Alaska delegation to have a rider added to other legislation.

Izembek Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

June 2, 2020

Contacts:

David Raskin, president of Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuges, davidc.raskin@me.com, 425-209-9009

Gwen Dobbs, director of media relations, Defenders of Wildlife, gdobbs@defenders.com, 202-329-9295

Corey Himrod, Senior Communications Manager, Alaska Wilderness League, Corey@alaskawild.org, 202-266-0426

Fran Mauer, representative of Alaska Chapter Wilderness Watch, fmauer@mosquitonet.com, 907-455-6829 or 907-978-1109

Dawnell Smith, communications director, Trustees for Alaska,

dsmith@trustees.org, 907-433-2013

Court shuts down Interior’s second illegal land deal with King Cove Corp

Ruling sustains protections for vital wetlands in Izembek and for public lands everywhere

A federal District Court decision released late yesterday resoundingly shut down the Interior Department’s second attempt at an illegal land exchange with the King Cove Corporation to make way for a road through vital protected wetlands in Izembek National Wildlife Refuge.   

“For the second time, the Court has told the road proponents that invading the Izembek Wilderness and damaging the biological heart of the Refuge to build an unnecessary and expensive road is unacceptable,” said David C. Raskin, president of Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuges. “Let us hope that this decades-long, misguided effort is finally over, and the natural habitat and wildlife that depend on the Izembek Refuge will continue to be protected in perpetuity.”

Trustees for Alaska filed the lawsuit in January 2020 on behalf of nine groups. A court ruling in March 2019 voided Interior’s previous land swap agreement, nearly identical to the Agreement vacated by the Court yesterday. Interior appealed the court’s decision in the first lawsuit, but then entered into another unlawful land deal behind closed doors while that appeal was pending. The second land swap deal had violated the same laws as the first, but would have been even more damaging by allowing commercial use of any future road.

“The Court found that Interior broke the law again to benefit commercial interests, with no regard for the consequences to public lands, water, or wildlife,” said Bridget Psarianos, staff attorney with Trustees for Alaska. “Interior’s continued and failed attempts to dodge the laws mandating protections of our National Wildlife Refuges is an insult to the American public. We are thrilled the Court rejected this corrupt and illegal land exchange, finding that it is contrary to the purposes of Izembek and ANILCA, and that such an exchange could not be done without Congressional approval. We hope this is last time we need to ask a Court to reject such an exchange.”.”

Like the first lawsuit, the second one argued that Interior cannot use the land exchange provision of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act to gut a National Wildlife Refuge and congressionally designated wilderness. Groups also argued that Interior circumvented public process, environmental review, and congressional approval.

Commercial and private interests have advocated for a road for decades. Under the Trump Administration, Interior has made repeated attempts to push through a land swap intended to trade Refuge and Wilderness lands to make way for a road.

The Court held that Interior violated ANILCA in two ways. First, the exchange does not meet ANILCA’s conservation purposes or the specific purposes of Izembek Refuge to protect wilderness and wildlife values. The court also agreed that the Exchange Agreement is an approval of a transportation system that falls within the ambit of ANILCA Title XI. As a result, Interior could not enter this exchange without approval from Congress and the President. Finally, the Court found — as in the previous lawsuit — that the Secretary failed to provide adequate reasoning to support the change in policy in favor of a land exchange and a road through Izembek.

GROUP STATEMENTS:

“The court has seen through the Trump administration’s illegal attempt to trade away the globally-renowned wildlife habitat and congressionally-designated wilderness lands of the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge,” said Nicole Whittington-Evans, Alaska Program Director for Defenders of Wildlife. “This is a victory for an ecologically irreplaceable area and the black brant, Emperor geese, brown bears and stunning array of other wildlife that call it home.”

“The wilderness values of the Izembek Wildlife Refuge are irreplaceable. Unlawfully giving away public land to build a road right through its heart that could be used for commercial use is characteristic of this administration’s constant catering to private interests,” said Kristen Miller, Conservation Director at Alaska Wilderness League. “We applaud the court’s judgment today. Building a road through federal wilderness would have been a bad deal for taxpayers and a bad deal for the environment, especially when there are other, safer options available.”

“Once again, an illegal land trade scheme by the Trump administration to build a road across the Izembek Refuge Wilderness has been stopped by a court decision.” said Fran Mauer, Alaska Chapter of Wilderness Watch. “This decision not only protects the incomparable wildlife and wilderness of Izembek, but it also helps to preserve the integrity of the National Wilderness Preservation System from a harmful precedent.”

“Today’s court decision once again holds the administration accountable for another blatant attempt to circumvent public process and environmental review,” said Sarah Greenberger, interim chief conservation officer and senior vice president for conservation policy at National Audubon Society. “Nearly every single Pacific Brant stops over in Izembek National Wildlife Refuge during migration each year. Paving the way for a road through this Refuge would put this bird population and others at significant risk. Any attempt to skirt the law and disrupt this vital habitat will be met with our strong opposition.”

“A road through the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge would be a costly and ineffective use of taxpayer dollars, and would severely damage this important wilderness,” said Dan Ritzman, Director of the Sierra Club’s Lands Water Wildlife Campaign. “This deal has been repeatedly studied and consistently rejected for good reason, and we’re glad to see the court reject it once again.”

“Great news today. The Courts have once again protected the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge when the Administration has tried so hard to do the opposite,” says Geoffrey Haskett, President of the National Wildlife Refuge Association.  “The Administration keeps trying to plow this road through this magnificent wilderness ignoring all previous decisions to protect it. The rule of law prevails and the Izembek Refuge remains protected. This is an enormous victory protecting an incredible wilderness.”

“This is an enormous victory for one of the most spectacular places on the planet,” said Randi Spivak, public lands director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The court shot down the Trump administration’s arrogance and hubris. We’re so grateful the judge recognized that there is absolutely no basis to overturn the decades of science and study that has already been done. All of this analysis agreed that bulldozing a road through the heart of Izembek would devastate one of the world’s most ecologically significant wildlife refuges.”

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Advocacy Report June 2020


By: David Raskin, Friends President

We had a HUGE victory on Izembek (see below). Otherwise, it has been relatively quiet in terms of new developments.

Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

We are still waiting for the Secretary of Interior to issue the Record of Decision (ROD). The biological issues and uncertainty of a successful lease sale may be causing rethinking at DOI. However, there has been no news to date.    

The ARDC campaign’s meetings with executives of oil companies and financial institutions concerning the dangers of Arctic drilling and the financial risks of supporting such efforts are now focused on pressuring Bank of America to join the other major financial institutions in refusing to fund oil development in the arctic.


Izembek National Wildlife Refuge

On June 1, the Federal District Court issued a resounding defeat to the proponents of the Izembek land exchange by nullifying the pending land exchange with King Cove. The decision essentially blocks any future attempts without congressional legislation signed by the president. The Izembek press release by Trustees for Alaska describes this marvelous decision in more detail. This decision hopefully puts an end to almost four decades of unsuccessful attempts to invade the Izembek Wilderness. We are extremely grateful to Trustees and all of our conservation partners for their untiring efforts to finally achieve this wonderful result that protects and preserves the Izembek Refuge for the foreseeable future.

Kenai Predator Control and Hunting Regulations

The proposed Kenai Refuge predator control regulations still have not been released, but we continue to expect them soon. Meanwhile the continuing intervention in the litigation by Friends and our conservation partners supports the effort to protect brown bears and reasonable hunting restrictions promulgated for the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge and Wilderness in Alaska.

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Advocacy Report May 2020

By: David Raskin, Friends President 

Secretary of Interior Bernhardt has instructed DOI personnel to push forward in spite of the Covid-19 epidemic and shutdowns. However, the dramatic drop in oil consumption and the glut of oil that has strained the US storage capacity have increased the problems for the Trump administration’s push to expand oil and gas development.

Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

We still have no specific update on when the Secretary of Interior will issue the Record of Decision (ROD). There are indications that DOI is having difficulty overcoming the problems posed by the threats to polar bears that would accompany oil and gas activity on the Coastal Plain. The excellent study authored by scientists at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Geological Survey (Seismic survey design and potential impacts to maternal polar bear dens) demonstrates the extreme difficulty of legally conducting oil exploration in critical denning habitat for the threatened Southern Beaufort Sea polar bears, which increasingly den on the coastal plain due to the climate-driven loss of sea ice. This research compounds the many problems faced by the proposed oil leasing program.

The Arctic Refuge Defense Campaign’s meetings with executives of oil companies and financial institutions concerning the dangers of Arctic drilling and the financial risks of supporting such efforts continue to produce impressive results. Four of the five major US financial institutions (Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, JP Morgan Chase and Wells Fargo) have now adopted policies that prohibit financing of oil and gas development in the Arctic, only Bank of America has not acted. The crash of oil prices has created problems for the pending sale of BP’s Alaska assets to Hilcorp. These are very positive developments in the decades-long battle to save and preserve the Arctic Refuge and its subsistence and cultural values!

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published proposed regulations in the Federal Register to improve hunting and fishing opportunities across the National Wildlife Refuge System.  Included in this broader package is a proposal that would prohibit the use of domestic sheep, goats, and camelids (i.e., llamas and alpacas) on Arctic National Wildlife Refuge lands due to concerns about disease transmission to Dall Sheep and other wildlife. Please click here to review the proposed regulation and submit comments by June 8, 2020. There will be a virtual hearing Wednesday, May 13 starting at 3:00 PM (AST). Register in advance for this public hearing here.   

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing the information needed to join the meeting. 

Izembek National Wildlife Refuge

It seems that the Court is preparing to issue a decision in our federal lawsuit to stop the land transfer and road, and we look to another ruling in our favor. In the meantime, DOI issued a contract for the cultural and contaminants survey that is planned for September-October. No other on-the-ground activities are planned for the coming summer field season. We will provide updates as this lawsuit works its way through the legal process.

Kenai Predator Control and Hunting Regulations

The proposed Kenai Refuge predator control regulations still have not been released, but we continue to expect them soon. Meanwhile the continuing intervention in the litigation by Friends and our conservation partners supports the effort to protect brown bears and reasonable hunting restrictions promulgated for the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge and Wilderness in Alaska.

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Advocacy Report April 2020

By: David Raskin, Friends President

In spite of the Covid-19 epidemic and shutdowns, the Trump administration continues to push forward with expanded oil and gas development, and the State of Alaska and their allies continue their efforts to promote the Izembek Road, increase hunting of bears and other predators, and build the highly destructive, proposed Ambler road.

Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

We have no specific update on when the Secretary of Interior will issue the Record of Decision (ROD). However, a recent development in the Arctic Refuge involves the Kaktovik school that burned down in February. The Arctic Refuge issued a temporary permit that allowed modules for temporary classrooms to be transported across the ice through the Arctic Refuge to Kaktovik. The success of that emergency effort has prompted Kaktovik to consider applying for a multi-year permit that could lead to oil and gas development on the Coastal Plain. We will monitor the situation and take any needed action to prevent this from happening.   

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has published proposed regulations in the Federal Register to improve hunting and fishing opportunities across the National Wildlife Refuge System.  Included in this broader package is a proposal that would prohibit the use of domestic sheep, goats, and camelids (i.e., llamas and alpacas) on Arctic National Wildlife Refuge lands due to concerns about disease transmission to Dall Sheep and other wildlife. This management action was identified in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge’s Revised Comprehensive Conservation Planwhich was finalized in 2015 after an extensive public process in which Friends participated. Please click here to review the proposed regulation and submit comments by June 8, 2020. 

Our conservation and Native Alaskan partners continue their highly successful outreach events throughout the country, and there have been many more great pieces in various media. The ARDC campaign’s meetings with executives of oil companies and financial institutions concerning the dangers of Arctic drilling and the financial risks of supporting such efforts continue to produce impressive results. Also, the crash of oil prices has led  Morgan Stanley and other financial institutions, including Wells Fargo, to raise questions about financial support of the sale of BP’s Alaska assets to Hilcorp. This could have major impacts on oil and gas development in Alaska. We continue to make progress in the decades-long battle to save and preserve the Arctic Refuge and its subsistence and cultural values!

Izembek National Wildlife Refuge

The State of Alaska and King Cove, defendants in our federal lawsuit to stop the land transfer and road, requested the Court to hold oral arguments on our motion to void the land transfer. However, the Court promptly denied their request and stated that the documents already submitted provide a sufficient basis for a decision by the Court. It seems that the Court may be preparing to issue a decision, and we look to another ruling in our favor. We will provide updates as this lawsuit works its way through the legal process.

Kenai Predator Control and Hunting Regulations

The proposed Kenai Refuge predator control regulations still have not been released, but we continue to expect them soon. Meanwhile the continuing intervention in the litigation by Friends and our conservation partners supports the effort to protect brown bears and reasonable hunting restrictions promulgated for the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge and Wilderness in Alaska. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) promulgated these regulations, which have been challenged by the State of Alaska, the Safari Club International, and a coalition called the Alaska Professional Hunters Association. At issue is a set of regulations finalized by the FWS in May 2016 that codified several long-standing, common-sense management decisions, collectively known as the Kenai Rule. The State and the Safari Club challenged the following three parts of the Kenai Rule:

  1. To continue the longstanding prohibition on hunting brown bears over bait in the Refuge,
  2. To emphasize wildlife viewing and environmental education in the Skilak Wildlife Recreation Area (WRA) within the Refuge, including restrictions on some hunting and trapping on two percent of the Refuge, and
  3. To extend the FWS’s typical safety buffer regarding the use of firearms in high-use areas to protect public safety in the Kenai River and Russian River corridors.

Trustees for Alaska, on behalf of the conservation organizations, recently filed a cross-motion with a supporting memorandum in support of the FWS rule and a memorandum in opposition to the State and Safari Club brief. The State and Safari Club reply is due mid-April, DOJ’s reply in mid-May, and our reply on May 18. In the meantime, Trustees was scheduled to get the Plaintiffs’ brief challenging the Park Service regulation on April 6. DOJ’s cross-motion is due June 15, ours is due June 22.

Ambler Road

Bureau of Land Management officials maintained their support for the most direct proposed road route to Alaska Interior mining prospects in their final environmental review of the plan published March 27, the same day leaders of the state-owned development bank allotted $35 million for future work on the project amid sharp public criticism. The 211-mile industrial road concept preferred by BLM Alaska officials to reach the Ambler mining district was proposed by the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority in early 2017 when they submitted federal permit applications for the project. This road could have major impacts on nearby wildlife refuges, national parks, and other valuable environmental habitats and wildlife.

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2020 March Advocacy Report

By: David Raskin, Friends President

The Arctic Refuge drilling proposal and Izembek Refuge battles continue, and we expect major events in the very near future.

Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

The Secretary of Interior stated that the Record of Decision (ROD) is expected soon. Machinations continue behind the scenes regarding the amount of recoverable oil below the Coastal Plain. There are indications that the dry wells drilled in the past near the edges of the Coastal Plain may discourage the major oil companies from bidding on leases when the lease sale opens. That may open the door for smaller companies to buy leases at bargain basement prices. The Administration’s inflated projections for oil revenue from the Arctic oil seem more far-fetched as information dribbles out. Also, the USFWS announced a comment period on the excellent study on the potential impacts of seismic exploration on denning polar bears (federal register notice). Please send in your comments by April 20 and register your concerns about the dangers of seismic exploration to the denning of the endangered Beaufort population of polar bears,

Our conservation and Native Alaskan partners continue their highly successful outreach events throughout the country, and there have been many more great pieces in various media. The campaign’s meetings with executives of oil companies and financial institutions concerning the dangers of Arctic drilling and the financial risks of supporting such efforts continue to produce impressive results. Bernadette Demientieff, Executive Director of the Gwich’in Steering Committee, and the Arctic Refuge Defense Campaign (https://www.arcticrefugedefense.org) have succeeded in convincing most of the major banks and financiers to adopt policies against providing financing for oil and gas projects, with special attention to the Arctic. We continue to make progress in the decades-long battle to save and preserve the Arctic Refuge and its subsistence and cultural values!

Izembek National Wildlife Refuge

The federal defendants in our federal lawsuit to stop the land transfer and road filed their reply brief last week. It contains a rehash of most of the same arguments that the Federal Court rejected in our previously successful suit. Although we await a ruling from the Court, we are optimistic that we shall again prevail. We will provide updates as this lawsuit works its way through the legal process.

Kenai Predator Control and Hunting Regulations

The proposed Kenai Refuge predator control regulations still have not been released, but we continue to expect them soon. It is likely that the new regulations will not only allow hunting of brown bears over bait, as well as loosened restrictions on hunting in the Skilak Wildlife Recreation Area and 4-wheel drive access to frozen lakes, but we expect additional draconian measures to be included in the final version. It appears that there will be a 60-day comment period, but no public hearings. All of our conservation partners are closely monitoring this process and are preparing to take whatever action is necessary to stop this assault on Kenai Refuge wildlife.

Ambler Road

We are not aware of any significant development on the proposed 211-mile long Ambler industrial road even though it is on an “unprecedented, extreme fast track,” according to a BLM official.

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2020 January Advocacy Report

By: David Raskin, Friends Board President


The Arctic Refuge drilling proposal continues front and center on the national stage, and the administration’s numerous assaults on the environment remain bogged down under the pressures of time, resources, and inadequate scientific studies!


Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

There is some news concerning DOI plans to sell leases for oil and gas development in the Coastal Plain of the Arctic Refuge. The Record of Decision (ROD) continues to be delayed for unannounced reasons and is now delayed until at least sometime in January. Since the lease sale had been planned for December 2019, the delay of the ROD and the necessary waiting periods after its release have pushed any possible lease sale farther into February at the earliest.

There is no word about plans for seismic exploration, which likely cannot occur before the 2020-21 winter, if at all. A recent report published in the Journal of Wildlife Management describes the potential impacts of various seismic scenarios. Even the most restrictive alternative would risk some polar bear mortality. So far, we have not seen a proposed plan for exploration. The warming arctic temperatures have narrowed the window of opportunity for such activities on frozen tundra. However, the State of Alaska appears to be moving forward with seismic exploration on State lands immediately adjacent to the Canning River in the Arctic Refuge.

Our conservation and Native Alaskan partners continue to hold successful outreach events throughout the country, and there have been many great pieces in various media. The campaign’s meetings with executives of oil companies and financial institutions concerning the dangers of Arctic drilling and the financial risks of supporting such efforts are producing impressive results. Bernadette Demientieff, Executive Director of the Gwich’in Steering Committee, is spearheading this campaign and has recently received national recognition for her great work. We will win this latest in the decades-long battle to save and preserve the Arctic Refuge and its subsistence and cultural values!

Izembek National Wildlife Refuge

There is no significant development in the suit filed on August 7, 2019 in federal district court that names Friends as the lead plaintiff along with eight conservation partners. We have not received a ruling from the Court, and we will provide updates as this lawsuit works its way through the legal process.

Kenai Predator Control and Hunting Regulations

The proposed Kenai Refuge predator control regulations have not been released, but we continue to expect them soon. It is likely that the new regulations will allow hunting of brown bears over bait, as well as loosened restrictions on hunting in the Skilak Wildlife Recreation Area and 4-wheel drive access to frozen lakes. It appears that there will be a 30-day comment period, but no public hearings. Recently, the State of Alaska and the Safari Club filed their motion for summary judgment challenging the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge’s rule that bans brown bear baiting (among other things). The Friends and other organizations are intervenors in this lawsuit and are closely following these developments. If the DOI adopts new predator guidelines, this lawsuit may be rendered moot. 

Ambler Road

The has not been any significant development on the proposed 211-mile long Ambler industrial road even though it is on an “unprecedented, extreme fast track,” according to a BLM official. Trustees for Alaska assembled detailed, comprehensive comments on the DEIS that were submitted on behalf of numerous organizations, including Friends. We await information on the comments that were submitted and the issuance of a Final EIS. As with the many hurried and poorly supported BLM assaults on public lands, this process seems to have slowed.

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2019 December Advocacy Report

By: David Raskin, Friends Board President



The Arctic Refuge drilling proposal continues to be front and center on the national stage, and the administration’s numerous assaults on the environment seem to be bogging down under the pressures of time, resources, and inadequate scientific studies!

 

Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

There is some news concerning DOI plans to sell leases for oil and gas development in the Coastal Plain of the Arctic Refu­ge. The Record of Decision (ROD) continues to be delayed for unannounced reasons and is now delayed until at least the end of the year. Since the lease sale had been planned for December 2019, the delay of the ROD and the necessary waiting periods after its release have pushed any possible lease sale into at least next February. The longer it takes to try to sell leases, the better.

There is no word about plans for seismic exploration, which likely cannot occur before the 2020-21 winter, if at all. However, the State of Alaska appears to be moving forward with seismic exploration on State lands immediately adjacent to the Arctic Refuge. Pam Miller sent the following useful information:

Public notice issued Dec 3 for public comment closing 4:30 pm, Jan 3, 2020 on the ADNR Geophysical Exploration Permit.  The proposed survey start date given as Jan 10, 2020. The survey outlined in the application’s map shows it immediately west of the Arctic Refuge (official FWS) border of Arctic Refuge and it is described as “entirely on State lands.”  This should be carefully checked against the legal descriptions for the survey. However, the application section G. lists the Canning and Staines Rivers as anadromous fish streams which may be crossed — yet the entirety of both these rivers are within the Arctic Refuge (FWS) boundaries. Clearly SAE 3-D seismic vehicles would be poised to quickly move into the Refuge if the IBLA ruled against the federal government in the pending border dispute. The permit application lists USFWS LOA for Polar Bear Incidental Take but it is not included here with the application, nor are other permits listed.

Our conservation and Native Alaskan partners continue to hold successful outreach events throughout the country, and there have been many great pieces in various media. The campaign’s meetings with executives of oil companies and financial institutions concerning the dangers of Arctic drilling and the financial risks of supporting such efforts are producing results. At least three major financial institutions have indicated they will not finance oil development in the Arctic. They seem to recognize the risks posed by the challenges of development in the Arctic and the obvious prospects that there will be a number of lawsuits to stop the leasing program. We will win this latest in the decades-long battle to save and preserve the Arctic Refuge and its subsistence and cultural values!

 

Izembek National Wildlife Refuge

There is no significant development in the August 7, 2019 suit filed in federal district court that names Friends as the lead plaintiff along with the previous eight conservation partners. We have not received any ruling from the Court, and we will provide updates as this lawsuit works its way through the legal process.

Kenai National Wildlife Refuge-Regulation Changes

The proposed Kenai Refuge predator control regulations have not been released, but we continue to expect them soon. It is likely that the new regulations will allow hunting of brown bears over bait, as well as loosened restrictions on hunting in the Skilak Wildlife Recreation Area and 4-wheel drive access to frozen lakes. It appears that there will be a 30-day comment period, but no public hearings. Friends and other organizations are closely following these developments and will take action at the appropriate time.

 

Kanuti and Selawik National Wildlife Refuges-Ambler Road

The proposed 211-mile long Ambler industrial road would skirt the north end of the Kanuti Refuge and cross streams feeding the Selawik Refuge. The Ambler Road is on an “unprecedented extreme fast track,” according to a BLM official. Trustees for Alaska assembled detailed, comprehensive comments on the DEIS that were submitted on behalf of numerous organizations, including Friends. We await information of the comments that were submitted and the issuance of a Final EIS. As with the many hurried and poorly supported BLM assaults on public lands, this process seems to be slowing down.

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2019 November Advocacy Report

By: David Raskin, Friends Board President

The Arctic Refuge drilling proposal is front and center on the national stage, and the administration’s numerous assaults on the environment seem to be bogging down under the pressures of time, resources, and inadequate scientific studies!

Arctic NWR

There is continuing news concerning DOI plans to sell leases for oil and gas development in the Coastal Plain of the Arctic Refuge. The Record of Decision (ROD) has been delayed for unannounced reasons, but is expected soon. A lease sale had been planned for December 2019, but the delay of the ROD and the necessary waiting periods after its release have pushed any possible lease sale into 2020. Also, there is no word about plans for seismic exploration which likely cannot occur before the 2020-21 winter, if at all. The longer it takes to try to sell leases, the better. Our conservation and Native Alaskan partners continue to hold successful outreach events throughout the country, and there have been many great pieces in various media. The campaign is now holding meetings with executives of oil companies and financial institutions to enlighten them about the dangers of Arctic drilling and the financial risks of supporting such efforts.  There is little doubt that there will be a number of lawsuits to stop the leasing program. We will win this latest in the decades-long battle to save and preserve the Arctic Refuge and its subsistence and cultural values!

Izembek NWR

There is no significant development in the August 7, 2019 suit filed in federal district court that names Friends as the lead plaintiff along with the previous eight conservation partners. King Cove Native Corporation, the Agdaagux Tribe, and the Native Village of Belkofski moved to intervene, and the plaintiffs did not object. We have not received any ruling from the Court, and we will provide updates as this lawsuit works its way through the legal process.

Kenai Predator Control and Hunting Regulations

The proposed Kenai Refuge predator control regulations have not been released, but we still expect them very soon. It is likely that the regulations will allow hunting of brown bears over bait, as well as loosened restrictions on hunting in the Skilak Wildlife Recreation Area and 4-wheel drive access to frozen lakes. It appears that there will be a 30-day comment period, but no public hearings. Friends and other organizations will be closely following these developments and will take action at the appropriate time.

Ambler Road

The proposed 211-mile long Ambler industrial road was on an “unprecedented, extreme fast track,” according to a BLM official. The draft EIS was limited to 150 pages that lack details and fail to address anything outside of the road construction, e.g., impacts to the Dalton Highway or any mining actions. Trustees for Alaska assembled detailed, comprehensive comments on the DEIS that were submitted on behalf of numerous organizations, including Friends. As with the many hurried and poorly supported BLM assaults on public lands, this process seems to be slowing down.

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