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War on the Refuge Events: October 10 & 12, Anchorage & Homer

Join us during National Wildlife Refuge Week in Anchorage and Homer as we commemorate the 75th Anniversary of WWII in the Aleutians with speaker Jeff Dickrell, author of The Center of the Storm:The Bombing of Dutch Harbor.  Dickrell will share stories of the Japanese occupation of Attu and Kiska and the Battle of Attu on:

  • Tuesday, October 10 in Anchorage at Grant Hall, Alaska Pacific University at 7p.m.  and
  • Thursday, October 12 in Homer at Islands & Ocean Visitor Center at 7 p.m. 
The Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuges will host receptions following the talks.

Dickrell taught history in Dutch Harbor for over 20 years and is a frequent and very engaging speaker on the war on cruise ships and for other occasions.   Dickrell has traveled widely throughout the Aleutians visiting the battlefields of Kiska and Attu.

May 2018 marks the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Attu, the only ground battle to take place on American soil during WWII.  For thousands of years, Attu was home to people and wildlife and has been a federally protected wildlife area since 1913. It is part of the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge

Although Attu Island had been occupied by Unungax people for thousands of years before Russian contact, at the time of World War II, only 42 people lived in the tiny village in Chichagof Harbor. When the Japanese forces invaded Attu in June of 1942, they captured the entire village and sent them to Hokaido, Japan as prisoners for the remainder of the war. Half of the village died in captivity, including Chief Mike Hodikof.

American forces landed on Attu Island on May 11, 1943. The ensuing clash between the well-entrenched Japanese forces and the Americans lasted 11 days and was one of the bloodiest battles of the Pacific Theater. 549 Americans and 2,400 Japanese lost their lives in brutal hand to hand combat and fog-shrouded sniper fire. Many more succumbed to injuries from the wet, cold conditions.

May of 1943 forever marked a chapter in the world’s history, in a national wildlife refuge’s history, and in the lives and legacies of people who lived and died on a remote and rugged island that rises out of fog as far west as one can journey in North America. Today, Attu still bears the scars of this brutal battle between the United States and the Empire of Japan. The people that lived on the island, the soldiers on both sides who fought there and the descendants of all of these citizens and warriors will forever bear their marks of battle too.  Attu’s remaining residents never returned home. Some were resettled on Atka Island, and others were scattered across Alaska and the Pacific Northwest.

In 2017 and 2018, the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge is honoring the sacrifice and valor of soldiers and civilians 75 years ago. Eleven descendants of Attu joined the refuge staff aboard the R/V Tiglax to travel to their former village site and leave a memorial at the former site of the church.

Join us on October 10 (Anchorage) or October 12 (Homer) to learn more or visit the Attu75 website to and link to our Attu75 storymap for maps, photos, and video.

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Kodiak NWR’s New Bear

On August 19th, Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge unveiled a new bear statue.  The community gathered to honor their history, reflect on their respect for bears and all that they mean to Kodiak, and to celebrate a new wildlife symbol for their island home.

Preparing for Unveiling:

“We had lots of help from members of the team and community, including the mayor of the borough, the deputy manager of the city, three bear guides, retired ADF&G biologist, and the honorable Judge Roy Madsen looking on.”




The Unveiling & Celebration:

“We had a really lovely program: Mike Brady, Refuge manager, started the program reflecting that the refuge was established on this day 76 years ago thanks to the concern of guides, sportsmen, and conservation groups who were concerned about the declining population of bears, Paul Chervenak spoke about the importance of the project, Dan Rohrer, the borough mayor, spoke about how the sculpture welcomes visitors from all over the world who come for Kodiak bears and the economic importance of bears to the community, Shari Howard, daughter of Alf Madsen, spoke about the family history of guiding and the old statue, Dr. Alisha Drabek spoke about the cultural relationship of the Alutiiq people and bears and we had a beautiful performance by the Alutiiq dancers, and Dr. Larry Van Daele closed the program speaking to the future needs of bear conservation.”

This extraordinary event was well attended by over 200 people, including community leaders, the Alutiiq people, locals, and conservationists. Distinguished guests spoke about the importance of the project and what is means for the local economy, community, and wildlife heritage of Alaska.”

Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge, which contains the world’s most dense population of brown bears, attracts 65,000 people a year. The reveal of the bear statue reflects the importance and appreciation of the wonderful conservation partnership between the Kodiak community and local, state and federal governments.  
The Refuge is honored to host the new Kodiak bear sculpture, and would like to give our heartfelt thanks to many people, including Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuges and the National Wildlife Refuge Association.

(Report submitted by Lisa Hupp/USFWS)

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7th Annual Dragonfly Day – Arctic, Yukon Flats, & Kanuti NWR

July 1, 2017 – Fairbanks, AK

Approximately 400 people attended the 2017 Dragonfly Day, hosted by Arctic, Yukon Flats, and Kanuti National Wildlife Refuges.  This was a free event at Chena Lakes Recreation Area, open to all ages. Attendees had the opportunity to go on nature walks to catch and identify dragonflies. There were also crafts, educational activities, and more. It was a fun day for the whole family! 

Environmental Education Specialist  Allyssa Morris says, “Thank you to everyone who came out to Dragonfly Day 2017.  Returning families shared that “Dragonfly Day is the best event of the year.  Special thanks to SCA Interns Megan, Morgan, Lily, and Angelina who did a superb job finishing last minute tasks and leading the craft stations. Sheila, Tina, and Steve  took numerous photos. Morgan and Alfredo for wearing the Puddles costume in the heat- you are both rockstars! UAF grad student Adam for leading the popular aquatic bug station and lastly, to John Hudson and the Friends of Alaska NWRs for supporting this popular event and making it happen. A special thanks to Joe Morris, Friends Volunteer. See you next year at Dragonfly Day 2018! “





 
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2017 Chalkyitsik Open House – Event Report

Acting Refuge Manager Nathan Hawkaluk, Yukon Flats NWR, reports that the Chalkyitsik Open House was a huge success!  

“It was a hot and busy afternoon, but I felt it was very well received by the village residents and especially by all the youngsters that participated in all the arts and crafts projects and the archery shooting.

A huge thank you to our volunteers Mark Ross and Francesca Demgen, whose travel was funded by the Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuges.  Your help and involvement was vital to the success of the event.  You are both invited next year as well!!”

The Friends also helped cover other event supplies and food for the celebration.

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Kodiak Refuge Salmon Camp

June-August, 2017

The mission of Salmon Camp is to educate Kodiak’s youth about the natural and cultural systems that define Kodiak’s geography and empower learners to investigate their own connections to this special place through hands-on learning, self-reflection and group discovery.


Since 1996, Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge, in conjunction with Alaska Geographic and the Kodiak community, has sponsored the Kodiak Summer Science and Salmon Camp. Within two years of its inception, Salmon Camp became the largest science-based camp in Alaska. In 2002, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recognized Salmon Camp as one of its top five environmental education programs in the nation. This camp serves students from kindergarten through 8th grade.  The Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuges has supported the camp for several years, providing funding for educational experiences.


The camp kicked off in early June with “Fishing Day,” with 125 attendees.  Bird TLC from Anchorage was on hand with a live bird demonstration, featuring a merlin and a peregrine falcon. Check out some photos below.








(photos by Lisa Hupp/USFWS)
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Events Report: Spring Bird Walks (Kotzebue) & Fairbanks Film Night

May 20-23, 2017
Selawik National Wildlife Refuge hosted its annual Spring Bird Walks.  The Friends sent expert birder George Matz of Homer to Kotzebue to lead several walks.

“Thanks to everyone who ventured out on one of our bird watching events this weekend! We enjoyed looking at birds in their bright breeding colors, visiting with folks, and learning a bit more about the feathered travelers that are flying home to Alaska to nest. Thanks to Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuges volunteer George Matz (center of photo above) for being a part of the fun!”
  -Susan Georgette, Selawik NWR Manager




June 3, 2017
Friends gathered for an encore screening of “The Million Dollar Duck,” with host Adam Grimm, at Morris Thompson Cultural Visitor Center in Fairbanks. Refreshments were served, duck stamps were sold, and fun was had by all!

BELOW: Friends in Action: Sarah Mathews, Joseph Morris, and Adam Grimm (signing duck stamps).  













 

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2017 Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival


This past May 4-7, the Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuges co-sponsored the 25th Annual Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, in Homer, Alaska at Alaska Maritime NWR’s Headquarters, Islands & Ocean Visitor Center.










Our Special Guests included Keynote Speaker, J. Drew Lanham and Featured Author, Paul Bannick.   




 Both Speakers presented a variety of workshops & lectures.










Raymond VanBuskirk (BRANT Tours), Neil Gilbert (2017 Schantz Scholar), and Keynote J. Drew Lanham enjoy a boat trip with Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies


Festival Participants enjoy the “Birders Breakfast,” and learn more about the Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuges.












Bird TLC of Anchorage presents an up close experience with some feathered friends.






















Junior Birders Award Ceremony – check out all these fledgling ornithologists!













David Raskin (Friends President) with Keynote J. Drew Lanham and Marga Raskin (Friends Member)


USFWS Service, working hard throughout the weekend to make sure everyone had a wonderful time at the Festival.

 
Viewing Stations!




Raymond and BJ bird watching during the Viewing Stations.












Save the Date!  May 10-13, 2018! 

(Photos courtesy of Lisa Hupp/USFWS and Robbi Mixon/FANWR)

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

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

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

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

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


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“The Million Dollar Duck” – Friends Film Screening with Adam Grimm

It’s movie night in Fairbanks! Come join the Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuges for a free screening of the film The Million Dollar Duck.

When: Sat. June 3
Time: 7 – 9 pm
Where: The Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitor Center, Fairbanks, AK
Cost: FREE

This fun and quirky documentary "focuses on the strange and wonderful world of the Federal Duck Stamp Contest, the only juried art competition run by the U.S. government. This film explores the eccentric nature of the contestants who enter each year for a chance at wildlife art stardom, while also reflecting upon the history and challenges facing the continued existence of this successful conservation program”

The movie will be introduced by Adam Grimm, a two time winner of the Federal Duck Stamp competition.

Family friendly event, Light refreshments, and signed duck stamp art available for purchase.

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2017 Art in the Arctic: Event Report



The Second Art in the Arctic took place on Saturday, March 4, 2017, 10-8:30, at Birch Hill Nordic Center in Fairbanks, Alaska. Enjoy photos from this fantastic outreach event, attended by over 200 people. 

The numerous artists included Randall Compton, Kristen Hendricks,
 Iris Sutton, Frank Entsminger, Vladimir Zhikhartsev, Sandy Jamieson, Rita Butteri…and many other inspiring people!






Friends Members Jason Sodergren, Betty Siegel, and David Personius, with Adam Grimm, two-time winner of the Federal Duck Stamp Contest. Adam was our special guest artist for this year’s event. 




David Personius created a 3-D version (drake only) of Adam’s 2014 winning design that was auctioned as a fundraiser for our Friends of Alaska Refuges.





The Art in the Arctic included a screening of The Million Dollar Duck, silent and live auctions benefiting the Friends, sale of collectible Duck Stamps and posters signed by Adam Grimm, and wine and cheese, donated by the National Wildlife Refuge Association.  The event was sponsored by Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuges, Ducks Unlimited, and Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, with support from the USFWS.










 
 

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