Please join us on Tuesday, April 16, 2019, 5-6pm, for the Friends membership meeting.
In person: Homer (Alaska Maritime), Fairbanks (Watershed School, 4975 Decathlon), or Soldotna (Kenai NWR)
Call in a few minutes before 5pm: (866) 556-2149, code :8169747#
Guest Speaker Presentation:
John Morton, Kenai National Wildlife Refuge –
Effects of a Rapidly Warming Climate on the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge
The Kenai Peninsula is one of the best-studied parts of the state for climate change effects and John Morton, a supervisory biologist for the Kenai Refuge, has been a key part of that. Managing the effects of rapid climate change on the 2 million-acre Kenai National Wildlife Refuge will be a challenge to its primary purpose of conserving natural diversity. In 50 years, the treeline rose 50m in the Kenai Mountains, wetlands decreased 6-11% per decade, the Harding Icefield lost 5% in surface area and 21m in elevation, and available water declined 62%. Late summer canopy fires in spruce are being replaced by spring fires in bluejoint grasslands. Water temperatures in nonglacial streams already exceed physiological thresholds for salmon during July. Bird species are moving north and more than 130 exotic bird species have become established. Climate-envelope models portray a very different future landscape with alpine tundra replaced by forests and lower elevation forests replaced by hardwoods or possibly catastrophic deforestation. How can the Refuge or any of the refuges manage for biodiversity under this scenario?
We are pleased to report the exciting developments in the battles to save the Izembek and Arctic Refuges from destructive developments. These and other issues are discussed below.
On 29 March 2019, Friends and eight national conservation organizations scored a major victory when the Federal District Court in Anchorage granted the motion for summary judgment in our lawsuit that challenged the legality of the land exchange and road through the heart of the Izembek Wilderness. In her opinion that invalidated the land exchange, Judge Gleason ruled that the process for land exchange authorized by the Secretary of Interior was “arbitrary and capricious.” This decision halted all activity related to the transfer of Refuge land and the construction of a road. We are all extremely indebted to the staff of Trustees for Alaska who did an amazing amount of superb legal work that resulted in this wonderful victory after decades of battling to protect Izembek from this proposed destruction. However, this is not the final event, as the road proponents will continue to develop legal and legislative approaches to undue this rejection of the road. We and our conservation partners and legal team will closely monitor any such actions and will mount all available legal and legislative challenges to counter any attempt by the Department of Interior (DOI) to revive the unacceptable land exchange and destructive road. Check out the Trustees for Alaska press release for more information.
The DOI continues to press forward with plans to sell leases for oil and gas development in the Coastal Plain of the Arctic Refuge. A major national effort resulted in an extensive set of technical comments that were submitted by Trustees for Alaska on behalf of the numerous, serious deficiencies in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement issued by the BLM. Friends also submitted more general comments. We await the release by BLM of data concerning the number and nature of comments received in response to the national campaign by conservation organizations, including Friends, to encourage their members and the general public to express their concerns about the hurried and flawed process by which the BLM and DOI are attempting to ram through this prosed desecration of the Coastal Plain.
A parallel campaign has been spearheaded by the Gwich’in people of the United States and Canada to prevent the desecration of this Sacred Land and their subsistence culture and way of life. They and scientists and conservationists recently provided powerful testimony on the Arctic Cultural and Coastal Plain Protection Act, H.R. 1146 introduced by Representatives Huffman and Fitzpatrick to prevent the proposed oil and gas development in the Coastal Plain. In furtherance of these goals, the Alaska Wilderness League lured our longtime refuge champion Desiree Sorenson-Groves from the National Wildlife Refuge Association to head the national coalition to protect and preserve the Arctic Refuge. We welcome her able and energetic leadership will continue to work closely with Desiree and the coalition.
The other dangerous aspect of the proposed oil and gas development is the plan to conduct an extensive and disruptive seismic exploration of the Coastal Plain. In spite of their frantic rush to further this program, those involved were unable to perform the necessary analyses required to obtain authorization for the seismic activity in time for 2018-2019 winter season. The current plan is to do the required analyses and issue findings to support seismic exploration in the coming winter season. The conservation community will closely monitor these developments and take whatever actions are necessary to prevent the undesirable impacts of seismic exploration. Interestingly, a recent New York Times investigation revealed that the closely-held and secret data from the only test well ever drilled on the Coastal Plain found little support for the presence of recoverable oil to justify oil and gas development.
Kenai NWR Predator Control Regulations
The proposed changes to the Kenai Refuge predator control regulations have not been released. Information from the FWS indicates that proposed drafts have gone back and forth between the Refuge, Regional Staff, and DOI regarding the extent to which the undesirable State demands will be incorporated into the published draft of the revised regulations. We anticipate that proposed regulations will soon be published in the Federal Register, and the conservation will closely monitor any development and be prepared to provide the responses necessary to protect the integrity and biological diversity of the Kenai Refuge wildlife.
Please join us on Tuesday, March 19, 2019, 5-6pm, for the Friends membership meeting.
In person: Homer (Alaska Maritime) or Soldotna (Kenai NWR)
Call in a few minutes before 5pm: (866) 556-2149, code :8169747#
Guest Speaker Presentation:
Ray Born– “Yukon Delta NWR – A Complex and Wonderful Place”
Birds fill the skies of the watery vast world of the Yukon Delta. The 19.3 million acre refuge is the country’s most important shorebird nesting area. Add in a million ducks and half a million geese plus 40,000 loons and 100,000 swans and you can see why it is considered one of the world’s largest aggregations of nesting waterbirds. But it isn’t just about birds. The refuge is famous for trophy rainbow and salmon fishing since the Yukon, the Kuskokwim and their tributaries such as the Kisaralik flow through the refuge. Even muskox are found on Nunivak Island. The Delta is also noted for its thriving Native villages where the Yupik language and subsistence culture flourish. Come discover the Delta and learn what Refuge projects we Friends may be able to help with.
Introductions and Discussion (5 minutes)
Introductions:Where do you live? (Poppy)
New People:Why did you join the call today?
Reminderto please mute yourselves when you aren’t talking
by the “Dolly Varden Cabin Gang,” Poppy, Sandy, Ellen, Rose and Tim
Snow fell soft and deep as we snowshoed back across Dolly Varden Lake after an awesome Friends’ Discovery Trip to the Kenai Refuge’s Dolly Varden public use cabin. The February 1 – 3, weekend didn’t turn out quite as planned because the community ice fishing event we were there to help with was canceled because of the shutdown. However, the cozy cabin was already reserved for Friends, so we weren’t going to waste that opportunity. Five Friends from Anchorage, Soldotna, Homer and Indiana including intrepid leader Tim Shipman made the trek in. What did we discover?
Sandy Kerns from Soldotna, said “A hidden lake, snowshoeing abilities, how much weight can we pull in a sled across a frozen lake, babbling water in an open creek, how good food tastes prepared camp style, new friends, and that planning service projects for Alaska Wildlife Refuges makes one feel connected to the land and community.”
Yes, we talked into the night about future fun and good work we can do on the Kenai and other refuges. Kenai is the drive to refuge for Kenai/Soldotna, Homer, Anchorage and the Valley. Stay tuned for more Discovery Trips and Volunteer Projects on the Kenai. The Kenai Refuge cabins have opened up the refuge to use in winter. Many are easily accessible. All are cute and cozy and make winter activities fun.
And we had fun! Rose Lahti of Anchorage on her very first Friends event said “The best outdoor experiences are with like-minded souls and there are no strangers when it comes to sharing what we enjoy doing, just “friends”. I look forward to another “friends” activity and the memories I made at Dolly Varden cabin are precious.”
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 email@example.com with your ideas or questions about 2019 Discovery Trips.
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.
TheNational 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
On the stunning, golden weekend of September 7, 14 Friends and 3 friends of Friends took part in the Kenai River Clean-up sponsored by the Alaska Fly Fishers , the Kenai Watershed Forum and the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. About 60 people in all helped in the effort to clean beaches and roadsides around the Russian River Ferry. The Friends concentrated on Refuge beaches as everything downstream from the ferry is in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. We floated the river in two refuge rafts and a drift boat manned by Kenai Refuge staff. Along the way, particularly on the “combat fishing” beaches across from the ferry, we picked up loads of monofilament line, sinkers and hooks, all potentially deadly to wildlife and all likely to be swept downstream into the refuge.
Being on the river in such beautiful weather would have been reward enough but the Alaska Flyfishers know how to have fun. There was free food all day, door prizes, and three blue grass bands playing in the evening. We all camped right at the Russian River ferry where events centered around a big event tent with great silver salmon fishing right on our doorstep. On Sunday, we sponsored a hike on the Refuge’s Hidden Creek trail which leads to a sunny beach on Skilak Lake. We couldn’t keep our hands off of the high bush and low bush cranberries that lined the trail and several of us came home with bags full. And if all this wasn’t good enough, we recruited three new members, got an offer to speak at an Alaska Flyfishers meeting and bonded with Refuge staff members and our fellow Friends from Homer, Soldotna, Sterling and Anchorage. The Alaska Flyfishers want us to be a full partner next year and I think this should an annual event.
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, email@example.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.
Join us as we explore Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge over Memorial Day Weekend, Friday through Monday, (4 days) May 25-28. Tetlin is an undiscovered wilderness yet it is easily accessible from the Alaska highway. Tetlin is birdy, with a vast system of lakes and rivers supporting nesting birds and the most important flyway to central and northern Alaska. Enjoy the height of bird song season while camping, canoeing and exploring this seldom visited country with Friends. Registration is now open and limited to the first 12 applicants.
Friday morning we will meet at 9 am at refuge headquarters in Tok for a meet and greet and light breakfast with refuge staff. We will learn about their challenges and the marvelous resources of this migratory bird corridor. Afterwards we will help them clean up the section of highway the refuge has adopted. Then we will move on to the refuge’s Deadman Lake Campground (pictured below) and set up camp for a night and check out the Hidden Lake Trail and the old Seaton Recreation Area (site of the former Seaton Roadhouse)as time allows. There will be an opportunity for an evening canoe on Deadman Lake to enjoy birds and warm up our canoe skills.
Saturday, we will visit the Tetlin Refuge Border Visitor Station, meet their Native staff, and learn how they share their perspective and culture. We will also visit Seaton Roadhouse site and the trapper cabin if we haven’t already done so. Saturday afternoon, we will launch the refuge canoes on Desper Creek for an easy, three mile paddle to a campsite amidst numerous lakes providing perfect habitat for nesting waterfowl, swans, rusty blackbirds and warblers. Camping for two nights will give us all day Sunday to explore the surrounding lakes. Paddling out Monday against the slow current of Desper Creek should not take more than three hours putting us back at the visitor center by early afternoon for our farewells and the drive home. Desper Creek is a very slow-moving creek suitable for beginners. We may have to lift canoes over beaver dams depending on the water level.
For more information about the Tetlin Refuge check out their webpage or on Facebook.
The trip limit is 12 and the minimum age is 16. You must be a current Friend to participate but you can join here.
Poppy Benson, firstname.lastname@example.org; (907) 299-0092. Poppy has had 30 years of experience in Alaska and more than that in canoes. Poppy is Wilderness First Aid certified and has taught canoeing. She is also a Friends Board Member.
Dave Schroyer, email@example.com; (907) 240-1375. Dave was raised in Alaska with life long experience canoeing, hunting, birding and exploring all over the state.
Neither Poppy nor Dave have ever done this trip and both are looking forward to exploring new country and a new refuge with you.
Cost: $60 for 3 dinners and 3 breakfasts in camp plus a welcome coffee and continental breakfast Friday morning. Bring your own lunches and snacks for Friday through Monday. Contact the trip leaders if you have dietary restrictions.
Equipment needed: Your own personal camping gear plus bear spray. Contact the trip leaders if you don’t have a tent. Canoes and life jackets will be supplied by the refuge. If you would rather bring your own let us know. We will not be portaging other than the possible beaver dam. Also bring binoculars and fishing gear if desired. Equipment list will be furnished to participants.
Weather, Bugs and Bears: Average lows for this time of year are near freezing with highs in the high 60s and little rainfall. Bring a sleeping bag good to below freezing, good raingear – jacket and pants, and waterproof knee-high boots. Gortex fishing waders with wading boots are an option to stay dry and allow walking into lakes and creeks when launching canoes. Refuge staff assure us that bugs aren’t that bad especially not this early. None the less Poppy is bringing a bug jacket. This is also not noted as a “bear-y” area but it is the season for bears to be looking for food so please bring your own bear spray and a holster system that will allow you to wear it.
Camping in Tok before or after. The refuge staff has volunteered an empty space on their grounds for Thursday night. Other possibilities include state recreation areas or B & Bs or motels in Tok. Eagle Trail State Recreation Site is about 16 miles west of Tok towards Anchorage and Moon Lake State Recreation Site is 15 miles north of Tok towards Fairbanks.
How to sign up: Trip will be limited to the first 12 to complete the registration, including the $60 fee. Please fill out the registration form below. Registration payment options will be presented after the form is completed and submitted. All participants who are not yet signed up as Fish and Wildlife volunteers will be required to fill out a Volunteer Agreement at the Friday meeting. Prior to the trip, all participants will be required to sign a liability waiver which is currently under development.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
On January 31, 2018, Trustees for Alaska filed suit in Anchorage Federal District Court on behalf of the Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuges and eight national environmental groups. This lawsuit challenges the legality of the land trade that would allow the construction of a road through the biological heart of designated wilderness in the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge on the Alaska Peninsula. The complaint alleges that this land trade by the Secretary of the Interior, which would trade up to 500 acres of designated wilderness in the ecologically sensitive Izembek Isthmus for non-refuge lands owned by the King Cove Corporation, violates the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act and the National Environmental Policy Act. It also alleges that Secretary Zinke failed to perform the consultations required by the federal Endangered Species Act. In addition to these violations, this would be the first time that congressionally-designated wilderness lands would beremovedfrom the National Wilderness Preservation System, setting a precedent that would threaten all protected wilderness areas and all federal public lands in our nation.
This lawsuit is the latest episode in a 35-year campaign to build a road that would connect the fishing village of King Cove to Cold Bay, which has a major airport with direct service to Anchorage. Although road proponents claim that the road is needed for medical evacuations during frequent intense storms, a 30-year paper trail reveals that two Alaska governors, Senators Frank and Lisa Murkowski, and the Aleutians East Borough have promoted the road for commercial purposes to haul fish and workers for the largest cannery in Alaska that is owned by Japanese Peter Pan Seafoods. During this campaign, the 900 residents of King Cove have received at least $50 million federal dollars for upgrades to their health services, 17 miles of road with two hovercraft launch facilities, and the purchase of a $9 million hovercraft that performed flawlessly in 32 medical evacuations. They have since abandoned the hovercraft and refuse to consider other reasonable transportation alternatives evaluated bu the U.S. Corps of Army Engineers. Completion of the proposed road would cost at least another $20 million federal dollars and require extremely expensive annual maintenance that would likely fail to keep the road passable during winter storms. The former local medical director for Indian Health Services has stated that attempting to travel the proposed road during winters storms would jeopardize the lives of patients and emergency personnel.
Beginning in the mid-1980s, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service completed three major scientific evaluations and environmental impact studies, all of which concluded that the proposed road would do irreparable harm to the habitat and wildlife of the internationally-recognized Izembek Refuge. The latest evaluation was the environmental analysis required by the inclusion of the proposed land trade in the 2009 Omnibus Public Lands Management Act. Following a 4-year, exhaustive scientific study, the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service concluded that the proposed road would cause unacceptable and irreparable damage to habitat and wildlife and was not approved. This decision was upheld by then Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. A federal lawsuit by the State of Alaska and local interests against the Secretary’s wise decision was eventually dismissed by the Court. Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuges and other environmental organizations had participated as intervenors on behalf of the the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Secretary in this successful effort to prevent this unnecessary and destructive road. Along with other organizations, we have taken the latest step in the decades-old battle to prevent the construction of an unnecessary, costly, and environmentally destructive road that not only threatens the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge, but would set a dangerous precedent for all of our precious public lands.