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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 National Wildlife Refuge Week

It’s celebration time! 

National Wildlife Refuge Week, observed the second full week of October each year, celebrates the great network of lands and waters that conserves and protects Americans’ precious wildlife heritage.

The National Wildlife Refuge System, managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, provides vital habitat for thousands of native species, including sandhill cranes, bison and sea turtles.  Refuge Week is a wonderful time to discover the outstanding recreational opportunities available on national wildlife refuges. Tens of millions of Americans visit refuges each year to enjoy fishing, hunting, hiking and wildlife watching.

Wildlife refuges also improve Americans’ comfort and safety by curbing flood risk and wildfire damage, providing cleaner air and water, and supporting local communities. Refuges generate $2.4 billion per year and more than 35,000 jobs to regional economies.

The Refuge System includes 567 national wildlife refuges and 38 wetland management districts covering more than 100 million acres of lands.

Check out these awesome events going on around the state at Alaska’s 16 National Wildlife Refuges:

Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge
10/25 – Thursday:  9am Welcome Brunch for Friends and refuge staff at Islands and Ocean.  Join us to welcome Ray Hudson and his wife to Homer and enjoy an opportunity to socialize with them, refuge staff and other Homer area Friends.  Please RSVP to poppyb.ak@gmail.com

6pm Talk, Reading, Book Signing and Reception:  “Fact, Fable, and Natural History; Writing about the Aleutians with Ray Hudson” – Enjoy a talk by author and long time Aleutian educator Ray Hudson.  Hudson lived in Dutch Harbor for more than 20 years and knew the old generation of Aleuts documenting their culture in Moments Rightly Placed.  Hudson will speak and read from his newest book, Ivory and Paper: Adventures In and Out of Time, followed by a book signing with an opportunity to purchase books and a reception hosted by Friends.


Arctic, Kanuti and Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuges
10/18 – Thursday
4 to 6 pm, Art Talk: A week (and More) on Beaver Creek Wild and Scenic River-  Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitor Center.   Artists in Residence Margo Klass and Frank Soos will share their art and experiences from a float trip on Beaver Creek  last summer.  A portion of their journey was on Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge and the event celebrates both National Wildlife Refuge Week and the 50th Anniversary of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.  Soos is a former Alaska Poet Laureate and Klass is a mixed medium artist who often incorporates fish skins in her work.  A reception sponsored by Friends will follow.

10/20 – Saturday
2 to 4 pm, Super Saturday – The Fairbanks Children’s Museum.  Free with museum admission ($8)  Kids will make nature cards, explore furs and skulls, jump in a canoe and learn about the Arctic Refuge.  Friends is funding the supplies.

Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge – Events All Week
10/16 Tuesday
Noon-1pm: Opening Reception. Stop by our Visitor Center to enjoy coffee and cookies, meet our Refuge managers, and check out a photography exhibit of landscapes by Jeff Jones and wildlife by the local Kodiak Camera Club.

10/17 Wednesday:
10:30 am – 11:15 pm: a special refuge themed FUN program for little nature lovers and their families.
5 pm-7 pm: Nature Journaling with Shelly – explore nature with your creative side!

10/18 Thursday:
Noon-1pm: Year of the Bird: The 2018 Photo Log of a Kodiak Bird Biologist with Robin Corcoran

10/20 Saturday:
2pm-3pm Movie and popcorn! Take a visual tour through Alaska Wildlife Refuges with a series of short films.

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2018 Virtual Arctic Bird Fest

The first ever Arctic Refuge Virtual Bird Festival took flight during the last week of September – a digital celebration of migratory marvels in the far north. Every summer, thousands of birds travel from around the world to nest and raise their young in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. By fall, they are on the move again. Maybe you’ve seen them pass through your backyard pond or stop over on your local beach – they connect us all as they move along all five flyways. Yet few have witnessed the summer bloom of life that happens in the far Arctic tundra during the short summer season.  

The virtual festival brought this northern nursery to an online audience through photos, video, activities, and stories from several different organizations. US Fish and Wildlife Service partnered with the Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuges, Audubon Alaska, Manomet, and Alaska Geographic to share content across many social media platforms at the local, regional, and national level. Festival participants “met” by responding to an event page on the Arctic Refuge Facebook account: more than 650 attended via the event page, and the 68 event posts reached almost 18,000 people. Partners also took to Twitter, Instagram, Steller Stories, and Medium, with engaging and educational stories of birds, science, and the refuge. 

This jam-packed week connected new audiences with the birds that call Arctic National Wildlife Refuge home. If you missed out in September, we invite you to explore the festival on your own time and find your connection to this special place: 

Arctic Refuge Virtual Bird Festival Facebook Event (go to “Discussion” to view posts) – link below
Stories about the place, the birds, the people:

Twitter Highlights

Video Playlist

 

 (filed by Lisa Hupp/ USFWS)

 

  

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Kenai River Cleanup – Sept. 7-9, 2018 (Volunteer Opportunity)

Kenai River Cleanup – Do good, have fun and see more of the Kenai Refuge.  September 7 – 9.  Sportsmen’s Landing, Cooper Landing.  

Friends will join Alaska Fly Fishers in doing an end of season clean-up of Sportsmen Landing, and downstream beaches.

Event begins Friday evening with a potluck and music in the Sportsmen Landing/Russian River Ferry campground.  After a continental breakfast Saturday morning,  teams will either float the river cleaning beaches or clean around the landing, campgrounds and parking areas.  The Kenai Refuge will bring at least one raft to take Friends downriver to clean refuge beaches.  That evening the Alaska Fly Fishers will put on a free BBQ for all participants with prizes!  Sunday at 10, Friends will sponsor a hike on the Hidden Creek Trail off Skilak Lake Road. 

For more information and to sign up, contact Poppy Benson, Outreach  chair, poppyb.ak@gmail.com or call (907) 299-0092.  Check out our event co-sponsor’s website.

This promises to be a very fun event that will also help build an alliance with the Fly Fishers, Kenai Watershed Forum and other partners.

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2018 Dragonfly Day

Trip Report by Friends Volunteer John Hudson, with photos by USFWS/Allyssa Morris

The 8th Annual Dragonfly Day took play on Saturday, June 23rd at Tanana Lakes Recreation Area, 11am-4pm.  Over 350 people attended this event, enjoying a variety of activities including: face painting, dragonfly balloon art, dragonfly temporary tattoos, various arts and crafts, live dragonfly larvae and other aquatic invertebrates in a touch tank, and dragonfly collecting. Participants caught adult dragonflies with nets and held them for a closer look and to learn about their ecology, biology, and life history.  The species list for the day included: Lake Darner, American Emerald, Northern Bluet, Boreal Whiteface, Hudsonian Whiteface, Belted Whiteface, Four-spotted Skimmer, Sedge Sprite, and Taiga Bluet.   

People of all ages fanned out along the shoreline of one of the Tanana Lakes intent on capturing the fast-flying, colorful, and acrobatic dragonflies swarming about. Participants learned that it’s best to “swing from behind” as dragonflies use their huge eyes to see in almost every direction, but rearward. Lucky collectors reached into their nets and pulled the robust and sturdy insects out by hand, allowing them a closeup view of the holographic-like compound eyes, the spine-covered legs, and intricate wing venation. Certainly, everyone went home with a greater appreciation for dragonflies.

This popular event was sponsored by the three Fairbanks refuges: Arctic, Kanuti, and Yukon Flats, as well as the Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuges, US National Park Service, Student Conservation Association, and University of Alaska Fairbanks.

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2018 Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival

Over 1,000 participants joined us in Homer for the 26th Annual Festival: Thursday, May 10th- Sunday, May 13th, 2018.

This Festival is co-sponsored by the Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuge and USFWS/ Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge.  Alaska’s largest wildlife viewing festival honors the return of spring and it’s breathtaking bird migration. Homer’s  seaside setting is perfect for spotting over 130 migratory bird species, as well as numerous other resident species.  This event takes a village- the Friends and USFWS coordinated over 70 volunteers and had help from several area organizations such as Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies, Cook Inletkeeper, Kachemak Bay Research Reserve, Pratt Museum, the Homer Chamber of Commerce, Homer News, and many more!

 Our Keynote Speakers included Noah Strycker and Iain Campbell. Our distinguished guests presented a variety of workshops and lectures, including presentations on Strycker’s new books, Birding Without Borders.  Campbell offered daily photography workshops as well.  This year’s very popular artwork was created by Homer’s own Erin Rae D’Eimon.  Junior Birders learned valuable birding skills during a variety of school-aged themed workshops and presentations.  

(photos by Brandon Hill, Robin Edwards, Carla Stanley)

After our Saturday Keynote Address, Friends Member Dave Aplin, along with the help of some of the audience showed support for protecting the Arctic Refuge, holding handmade signs and completing petitions:


#DefendtheSacred

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Battle of Attu 75th Anniversary Commemoration

Friends welcome and assist special guests of the Battle of Attu 75th Anniversary Commemoration

May 2018 marked the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Attu. The forgotten battle on a wildlife refuge in Alaska was the only ground battle of WWII to take place on American soil. Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge partnered with National Park Service and many other organizations to sponsor and organize three days of free public events at five venues in Anchorage. Alaska Maritime requested Friends advertise on our website for recruitment of volunteers to greet visitors, hand out programs, and escort special guests to reserved seating and deal with any special needs of the guests who included nine Battle of Attu Veterans, Attu Village survivors and descendants, and Japanese soldiers’ descendants. Three Friends members (Chuck Iliff, Tom Choate and I, Betty Siegel) volunteered and worked the full three days to help things run smoothly.

Some highlights included:

  • Meeting and assisting the veterans who ranged in age from 95 to 102 years. They were humble, interesting, funny, and appreciative;
  • Watching the Unangax dancers and hearing the Unifying Peace Messages by the Attu veteran, the grandson of a Japanese soldier, and a Unangan elder at the Loussac Library program;
  • Attending the World Premiere of the documentary “When the Fog Clears,” by award winning Japanese film-maker Tadashi Ogawa, meeting him and talking with him about the film;
  • The Closing Ceremony at the Alaska Aviation Museum. This was a very moving event, especially the presentation of Colors, the Wreath Presentation, and the beautiful renditions of the Japanese Anthem by violinist Hiroko Harada and our National and Alaska anthems by Kyle Schneider.

We three Friends Members were honored to have these and many other wonderful, once-in-a-lifetime experiences and fond memories and the opportunity to make the Attu 75th Anniversary Commemoration a success.

(Report submitted by Betty Siegel; photos by Lisa Hupp/USFWS & Betty Siegel)

 

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Retired History Teacher Presents on Battle of Attu

by Christina Whiting (Friends Volunteer), for the Homer Tribune

Seventy-five years ago, [an Alaskan] National Wildlife Refuge was invaded by a foreign power when World War II came to the Aleutians and to the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge. This was the Battle of Attu.

Last week, Jeff Dickrell, retired history teacher, internationally renowned researcher and author of “The Center of the Storm: The Bombing of Dutch Harbor,” came to Homer to share photographs and stories from the Battle of Attu, when Japan attacked the Aleutians during World War II.

The Japanese bombed Dutch Harbor on June 3 to 4, 1942, and invaded the islands of Attu and Kiska on June 6, 1942.

“This was the only World War II battle fought on North American soil and is also known as the Forgotten War,” Dickrell shared during a presentation to fifth grade students at West Homer Elementary. “Why do we need to know about this? It’s important that we honor and learn from the past.”

Attu, a tiny village at the end of Alaska’s Aleutian chain, was home to 44 Aleut who lived a subsistence lifestyle and were a peaceful people. They raised foxes for the fur and were famous for the grass baskets they made. Taking the villagers by surprise, the Japanese took control of the island, and along with it, American soil in the first foreign invasion on American soil since the War of 1812.

Plans were drawn up to retake the island in 1943, known as the Aleutian Campaign. On May 11, 1943, after a lengthy air campaign, 11,000 American troops reached Attu, greeted by fog and silence.

“No one had ever fought in a place like Attu,” Dickrell shared. “It was far from the United States, cold and wet, with cliffs and rocky beaches, and no trees, and they weren’t prepared. When the Americans landed on the shores, it was like walking into a trap. The Americans didn’t know where to go and were completely blinded by the fog.”

Dickrell shared that it took the American soldiers four days to realize that they needed to leave the beaches and get to high ground if they were to find the Japanese soldiers. He shared the challenges that soldiers on both sides faced, including frostbite, hypothermia and trench foot, and that when a solider recovered a diary from a dead Japanese soldier named Nebu Tatsuguri who was a doctor, and the diary was translated, it read that the Japanese soldiers would not surrender, that they would fight to their death and commit suicide before being captured, which they did.

The battle to reclaim Attu was expected to take three days, but lasted 19. By the end of the battle, nearly 2,400 Japanese died and 549 Americans were killed in action, 1,148 were wounded in action and 2,100 had non-battle casualties, including frostbite and trench foot (foot rot). For every 100 Japanese on the island, 71 Americans were injured or killed. The village of Attu was destroyed and only 24 of the 43 Aleut who lived there survived captivity by the Japanese. The Battle of Attu was one of the deadliest battles in World War II, second only to Iwo Jima.

At the heart of Dickrell’s message was a desire to honor the men who fought this war.

“It’s surprising how little the general public knows about this war,” he said. “If you read books on World War II, the Battle of Attu gets like a half a page.”

Dickrell’s message is also about sharing the lessons learned from this chapter in American history. These lessons included learning what clothing and footwear were appropriate for the climate in order for soldiers to stay dry and to prevent hypothermia, the need for soldiers to be able to take their boots off on a regular basis in order to prevent foot rot and the knowledge that Japanese soldiers will not surrender.

“History is the story of everything that happened before now,” he shared. “It’s important that we learn what we did wrong so we don’t do it again, so we can learn from our mistakes.”

Today, Attu is abandoned, but the landscape remains littered with the debris of war.

As part of a joint venture between the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge in Homer and the regional National Wildlife Refuge office in Anchorage, Dickrell was invited to Homer by the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge to take part in National Wildlife Refuge Week, an event that is celebrated during the second week of October and all across the United States. There are 560 refuges nationwide and 16 refuges in Alaska. The National Wildlife Refuge existed on Attu before, during and after the Battle of Attu.

“Jeff is the guru for folks who know and understand Aleutian World War II History,” said Kara Zwickey, Visitor Center Manager at the Alaska Islands and Ocean Visitor Center in Homer. “So many people don’t know that this war happened and Jeff spent years researching and corresponding directly with war veterans. He is an iconic individual who has the capacity to hear and share stories. Every year during National Wildlife Refuge week, we try to create awareness of, and promote, what’s happening on the refuge. We were delighted to be able to bring him here and have him tell this important story to the community.”

While in Homer, Dickrell gave presentations to students at West Homer Elementary School, McNeil Canyon Elementary School, the Homer High School, Homer Flex School and Kachemak Bay Campus. He also hosted a community presentation at the Islands and Ocean Visitor Center.

A history teacher in Unalaska for 27 years, Jeff retired from teaching last year. The author of “Center of the Storm,” photographs and interviews focused on the bombing of Dutch Harbor, Dickrell worked collaborately with individuals from all across the Aleutians, immersing himself in Aleutian history, serving as a Board Member with the Museum of the Aleutians in Unalaska and was given access to the National Archives Still Pictures Division in Washington, D.C.

Jeff’s book is currently out of print, but other books that discuss the war include “Attu Boy” by Nick Golodoff, a young Alaskan boy’s memoir of living among the Japanese soldiers, available at the Alaska Geographic Bookstore at Islands and Ocean Visitor Center, at the Homer Public Library and through the Homer Bookstore, “Last Letters of Attu”, available as an eBook at the Homer Public Library and at the Homer Bookstore, “One Thousand Mile War”, available at the Homer Bookstore and “Aleutian Echoes”, available at the library.

May 2018 is the 75th commemorative anniversary of the Battle of Attu and the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge is working on plans to commemorate the anniversary at refuge areas around the state next year.

“This is a really big deal and we want to share this story with the community,” Zwickey shared.

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