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Live Your Wild:  Celebrating our Refuges

What’s the largest network of public lands in the world dedicated to the conservation of fish, wildlife and their habitats?  Our National Wildlife Refuges which we celebrate every year in the second week of October.  Refuges inspire, empower and enable wildlife, people and communities to thrive. 

In Alaska, we are shared stewards of world renowned natural and cultural resources on sixteen national wildlife refuges that span a vast and diverse state. They are the traditional homelands of our Alaska Native neighbors, who continue to practice a subsistence way of life that nourishes body and spirit. These refuges call to people from around the globe, offering once-in-a-lifetime experiences, iconic creatures, and spectacles of migration. For the people who live here, and for those who visit, these places give us a true refuge and solace in difficult times. From the far reaches of the Aleutians and the Arctic to the nearby trails of the Kenai, the wildness of Alaska’s national wildlife refuges sustains us.  


During October 11th-17th, connect with us to explore more:

Find new stories, activities, and virtual events from refuges around the state on our Alaska Facebook page each day.
Make an Alaskan refuge your office and dream of your next visit.  This album is for you.

Check out some of our virtual tours and lessons, including art, yoga, and nearby nature exploration.

Check out the big picture: connect with other refuges in the system and meet some of our Champions of Conservation who played a big role in who we are today. Follow along with daily features on the National Wildlife Refuge System Facebook page.

Are you a Refuge Super Fan? Share how you “Live Your Wild” on your social media using #WildlifeRefuge, and add a special frame to your Facebook profile and find your community. Choose to add a frame, and search “National Wildlife Refuge Super Fan” when editing your profile photo. 
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Refuges in the Time of Covid-19; Update

Uncertainty is still the norm for Alaska Refuges and Friends but here are some things we know. 

For Visitors

  • Refuge lands – OPEN to public use as they have been throughout the pandemic.
  • Trails, public use cabins and campgrounds – OPEN except for Skyline and Lower Kenai River Trail on the Kenai Refuge due to fire damage.
  • Visitor Centers, events and programs – CLOSED.  Do not expect openings until perhaps July.

Unless you have your own float plane, getting to the more remote refuges is still problematic.  Over 120 villages and tribes have adopted regulations and resolutions limiting access to their villages and lands.  It is not clear how many charter operators will be working.  Your best bet for getting out are the refuges you can drive to like Kenai and Tetlin.  Please contact the refuge you wish to visit for more specific information. 

For Refuges

  • Offices – CLOSED with staff working from home but expect a gradual opening later in the month.
  • Field projects- MANY CANCELED.  A multitude of factors have doomed this field season on many refuges including state and village travel restrictions, difficulty of meeting CDC guidelines in a field camp setting and quarantine requirements for out of state crews and more. 
  • Youth Programs – MANY CANCELED.  YCC and Native Stewardship camps have been canceled on many refuges but are still on the books for camps scheduled for late summer.
  • Law Enforcement – ON THE JOB

Refuges are taking a cautionary approach to protect staff and communities.  Canceled field work will in some cases interrupt a decade or more of continuous data needed to spot trends and trouble spots, put field crews out of work, and deprive decision makers of needed information.  Loss of youth programs will break an important connection between refuges and communities.

For Friends

Projects – CANCELLED at least through the end of June.

In this time when we cannot physically help refuges as volunteers, we can still advocate, learn more about refuges and above all enjoy and experience our National Wildlife Refuges.

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2020 Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival Updates

Planning for the 2020 Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival is underway!  The Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuges, in partnership with the US Fish and Wildlife Service welcome locals, outsiders, and of course, shorebirds as they migrate back to Kachemak Bay every year to make this spring-time celebration Alaska’s largest wildlife viewing Festival. 


The 2020 Festival, May 7th-10th, coincides with a full moon and some impressive tides.  This year, the Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival is excited to welcome two Keynote Speakers: Catherine Hamilton is a well known artist, bird guide and naturalist who uses her talents to bring attention to bird conservation issues across the globe.  Eli Knapp teaches courses in ornithology, biology and human ecology at Houghton College and published The Delightful Horror of Family Birding in 2018.  Our Festival Artist, local Soldotna resident Abbey Ulen, is already busy creating this year’s Festival design.  


If you want to participate in the 2020 Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival, there are several ways to get involved:

  1. Host an official Shorebird Festival event

  2. Promote an event or business in the Festival program

  3. Donate to the Crane Club

  4. Join us to attend May 7-10, 2020 

Event sponsorship and donations may be submitted online by January 15, 2020 at: www.kachemakshorebird.org/supportforms/

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Call for Artists: 5th Annual Art in the Arctic Show

  Call for Applications:

The 5th Annual Art in the Arctic Art Show

February 27, 2020

Fairbanks, Alaska

Application Deadline: Nov. 15, 2019

Notification Date:  No later than Dec. 6, 2019

THE SHOW: The Art in the Arctic Art Show is held each year in Fairbanks, Alaska. This Art Show celebrates three northern refuges based in Fairbanks, Alaska: Arctic, Kanuti, and Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuges. The scale, expanse, and wildness of Alaska’s Refuges distinguish them from most other Refuges in the National Wildlife Refuge System. These refuges protect habitats for wildlife, fish, and birds.

This year’s show celebrates the marvels of migratory birds. Over 200 bird species have been documented in these northern refuges. Birds migrate from all corners of the Earth to spend the summer and breed where long days produce an abundance of insects and plants, which serve as primary food sources. Birds breeding in these Refuges have ranges that reach all 50 states and 5 other continents. At the end of summer, breeding pairs and their young migrate along all four North American flyways to their wintering habitat. For both experienced and novice bird watchers, national wildlife refuges across the country are wonderful places to observe birds in their natural habitat. Through art, we will highlight the plethora of bird species that utilize Alaska’s northern National Wildlife Refuges.

This event is co-hosted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Wildlife Refuge Association, and the Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuges. 

THE DETAILS:

Date: February 27, 2020 – 5-8 pm

Location: VENUE, 514 2nd Ave, Fairbanks, AK 99701

Exhibition: Artwork will remain on exhibit at VENUE until March 27, 2020.

Selected artists will attend the February 27 event to share the inspiration behind their artwork. They will also be expected to draft a short narrative (2-4 sentences) to associate their art with the theme of the show. Narratives will remain on display with the art for the duration of the month-long exhibition at VENUE. Artwork will be available for sale to the public. Proceeds of sales will be split with VENUE (60% to artist, 40% to VENUE).

SPACE: Each artist may provide up to 5 pieces of art to be exhibited at VENUE. Original art will be prioritized in the selection process (prints accepted as space allows). Art that does not reflect the theme will not be exhibited.

ELIGIBILITY: The Art in the Arctic Art Show is committed to showcasing artwork that exemplifies the marvels of migratory birds that inhabit National Wildlife Refuges in northern Alaska. All work exhibited at the show must feature compositions or objects that have a nexus to 1) migratory birds documented on Alaska’s northern National Wildlife Refuges; 2) subsistence activities involving migratory birds; 3) migratory birds inhabiting wild landscapes; and/or 4) any activity (i.e.: bird watching, hunting, scientific research) involving migratory birds.

TO APPLY: Applicants must submit 3-5 images and an artist statement. The images must be representative of the work to be exhibited at the Art in the Arctic Art Show. Minimum image resolution should be 300 dpi and 1,400 x 2,000 pixels. The artist statement should be no more than 1,000 characters.

Applicants must describe in detail each piece (up to 5) they plan to exhibit.

In addition to the above application materials, please submit your 1) name; 2) mailing address; 3) phone number; 4) email address; 5) website (if you have one); and 6) a unique identifier for each of your submitted images.

APPLICATION SUBMISSION: Applications must be submitted by November 15, 2019.

Submit electronic applications to: Allyssa_Morris@fws.gov

Mail hard-copy applications to:

Allyssa Morris

Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

101 12th Avenue, Room 262

Fairbanks, Alaska 99701

For questions about the application process or the Show, please contact Allyssa Morris at Allyssa_Morris@fws.gov or (907) 456-0224. 

ACCEPTANCE: All applicants will be notified about acceptance by December 6, 2019.

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2019 September Membership Meeting

Please join us on Tuesday, September 17, 2019, 5-6pm, for the Friends membership meeting. 

In person meetings:
Anchorage Loussac Library Anchorage Moose Room-reception begins at 4:30pm
Homer Islands and Ocean Visitor Center, 95 Sterling Highway
Soldotna Kenai National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center, Ski Hill Road
Fairbanks Watershed School 4975 Decathlon

For those outside these cities: you can download the presentation from this page the day of the meeting and call in a few minutes before 5pm (866) 556-2149, code 8169747#

Guest Speaker Presentation: Nicole Whittington-Evans, Defenders of Wildlife, Alaska Program Director and former Friends’ Board Member

Wildlife and Wildlands in These Trying Times

What are the prospects for our Alaska environment and wildlife given recent reports, administration actions, regulation changes and proposed projects? How will key species and wildlife areas be affected? How do we keep from being overwhelmed by the sheer volume of these changes and proposed projects competing for our attention and response? Nicole, one of Alaska’s most dedicated wildlife advocates, will give her perspective on where we are now and what we can do as individuals and groups to face these alarming proposals and predictions for our state and our planet.  

Defenders’ Alaska Program Director, Nicole Whittington-Evans, started out her environmental career studying and working on wildlife issues.  During the 1990’s, she received an MS in Environmental Studies from the University of Montana, where she focused on Alaska’s predator control efforts, served for a time as the Executive Director of the Alaska Wildlife Alliance, and was elected or invited to participate in a number of wildlife stakeholder groups, including an appointment to Alaska’s Board of Game by Governor Tony Knowles in 1997.  For the past twenty-one years she worked on public lands and wilderness issues at The Wilderness Society and served as the Alaska Director for the organization from 2009 to 2018. She also served for three years starting in 2007 on the board of the Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuges as the Outreach Coordinator.  Throughout her environmental career she has blended science and policy to advance the strongest protections possible for wildlife and public lands conservation.  Nicole’s interest in environmental work began when she was an Instructor for the National Outdoor Leadership School, and she has traveled throughout much of Alaska’s backcountry by foot, ski, raft and kayak.  As a mountaineer she was part of two successful summit teams on Denali (20,320’), including participating in the first all-women’s traverse of the mountain in 1988, and on Argentina’s Aconcagua (23,000’).  She lives with her husband and two daughters in the foothills of the Chugach Mountains, where she continues to recreate and enjoy wildlife with her family in Alaska’s unmatched wild country.

Download Presentation:
PowerPoint version:  1909-friends-of-alaska-nwrs-presentation

PDF version:

Agenda:

Introductions and Discussion (5 minutes)
  • Introductions: Where do you live?
  • New People: Why did you join the call today?
  • Reminder to please mute yourselves when you aren’t talking
Board Activities/Decisions
  • Refuge Projects and Reports 
Committee Reports (2-5 minutes each): Volunteer Report – (Betty) Membership/Outreach Events: Upcoming events (Tara) Advocacy Updates (David, Dave)

Speaker/Presentation (30-40 minutes) –
Nicole Whittinton-Evans
Topic: Wildlife and Wildlands in these Trying Times 

Next Meeting: Tuesday, October 15, 5-6pm Guest Speaker TBA
Six meetings yearly: January, February, March, April, September, October
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CANCELLED-Get Involved: Kenai River Clean-up, September 6 – 8, 2019

ATTENTION: The Kenai River clean up event is cancelled due to the Swan Lake Fire.

Do good, have fun and see more of the Kenai Refuge.  September 6-8.  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 all of which are on the Kenai Refuge.  This is our second year partnering with the Fly Fishers, the Kenai Watershed Forum, the Refuge and the Forest Service on this event.  We had such a great time last year what with raft trips, free food, and live music,  we are making it an annual event. See our trip report from last year here.

Arrive Friday evening and set up your trailer or tent in the Sportsman Landing campground reserved just for this event.  Saturday morning, after a continental breakfast, teams will either float the river cleaning beaches or clean around the landing, campgrounds and parking areas.  The Kenai Refuge will bring several boats to take Friends downriver to clean refuge beaches.  That evening the Alaska Fly Fishers will put on a BBQ for all participants with prizes and live music!  Sunday morning, breakfast is followed by a Friends sponsored hike on a yet to be determined trail in the Skilak Lake Road area  

For more information and to sign up, contact Tim Shipman, trip coordinator, at tim.shipman@gmail.com or call (907) 252-8450

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

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2019 – May Advocacy Report

Advocacy Update

by David Raskin, Friends Board President

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.

Izembek NWR

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.

Arctic NWR

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.

 

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2019 April Membership Meeting

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?

Download Presentation

Agenda:

Introductions and Discussion (5 minutes)
  • Introductions: Where do you live? (Tara)
  • New People: Why did you join the call today?
  • Reminder to please mute yourselves when you aren’t talking
Board Activities/Decisions
  • Refuge Projects and Reports (Betty)
Committee Reports (2-5 minutes each): Volunteer Report – (Betty) Membership/Outreach Events: Upcoming events (Tara) Advocacy Updates (David, Dave)
Speaker/Presentation (30-40 minutes) –
  • John Morton, Kenai National Wildlife Refuge
  • Topic: “Effects of a Rapidly Warming Climate on the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge”
Next Meeting: Tuesday, September 10th, 5-6pm Guest Speaker: TBA
SIX meetings yearly: January, February, March, April, September, October
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2019 – April Advocacy Report

Advocacy Update

by David Raskin, Friends Board President

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.

Izembek NWR

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. Click on the link to view the press release and court opinion. 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.

Arctic NWR

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 [please add link].  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.

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2019 March Membership Meeting

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.   DOWNLOAD PRESENTATION

Agenda:

Introductions and Discussion (5 minutes)
  • Introductions: Where do you live? (Poppy)
  • New People: Why did you join the call today?
  • Reminder to please mute yourselves when you aren’t talking
Board Activities/Decisions
  • Refuge Projects and Reports (Betty)
Committee Reports (2-5 minutes each): Volunteer Report – (Betty) Membership/Outreach Events: Upcoming events (Poppy) Advocacy Updates (David, Dave, Mallory)
Speaker/Presentation (30-40 minutes) –
  • Ray Born, Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge
  • Topic: “Yukon Delta NWR – A Complex and Wonderful Place”
Next Meeting: Tuesday, April 16th, 5-6pm Guest Speaker: John Morton/ Kenai NWR
SIX meetings yearly: January, February, March, April, September, October

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