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)
(Desper Creek on a two-night canoe trip)
(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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
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 email@example.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
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.
10:30 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!
Noon-1pm: Year of the Bird: The 2018 Photo Log of a Kodiak Bird Biologist with Robin Corcoran
2pm-3pm Movie and popcorn! Take a visual tour through Alaska Wildlife Refuges with a series of short films.
Refuge Discovery Trip Report by Poppy Benson
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.
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, firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
The trip limit is 12 and the minimum age is 16. You must be a current Friend to participate but you can join here.
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.
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:
This trip is full; registration is closed.
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 be removed from the National Wilderness Preservation System, setting a precedent that would threaten all protected wilderness areas and all federal public lands in our nation.
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.
Review Official documents here:
Notice of Violation
This February, three Kodiak High School students head to the big city of Anchorage to present at their first conference: the annual Alaska Forum on the Environment (AFE).
Hannah Villaroya, Keegan Ryder, and Leif King all served as crew members on the 2017 Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge Youth Conservation Corp (YCC). They will share their summer experiences working with the Refuge, and will present about their leadership role for programs such as Pop-Up Salmon Camp. Pop-up Salmon Camp is an innovative way to bring the Refuge’s popular science camp to children of Kodiak at the summer lunch program. The teens each led two stations on topics of their choice; they took the initiative to study their topic, and then developed activities and hosted over 100 participants!
The Kodiak Refuge YCC program is a service learning program for students: as they learn, they are actively engaged in efforts to either teach others what they have learned and/or to make improvements on environmental issues or needs within public lands. For example, a biologist from the Sun’aq Tribe taught them about invasive species, and the crew then helped to remove invasive crayfish from the Buskin River. They received training on trail maintenance and then helped to improve a number of trails on the Refuge and on partner public lands such as Shuyak State Park.
As many as 1,800 people are expected to participate in the 2018 Alaska Forum on the Environment, a state-wide gathering of environmental professionals and leaders. In addition to presenting at the Forum, the teens will be staff the youth-track booth and will collaborate with other youth involved in environmental projects around the state. They are scheduled to present Tuesday February 13th at 9am, and plan to have a hands-on activity for participants to create their own reusable shopping bag out of a t-shirt (an activity they learned at Kodiak’s Threshold Recycling Center).
Environmental Education Specialist Shelly Lawson will work with the teens as they prepare their presentation, and will act as chaperone for their big trip. She is a strong advocate for their participation, observing, “youth are among the most popular presenters at AFE – I think it is due to their optimism and can-do attitude. They inspire and bring hope to all in attendance.”
The first ever Friends Discovery Trip to the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge was a success! Eleven Friends met on a rainy Saturday fall morning with the Kenai Refuge manager Andy Loranger and staff to learn about the unique volunteer opportunities within the Refuge: from front desk, to adopt a trail, to refuge advocacy. This most visited and accessible refuge in Alaska has experienced budget and staff cutbacks. Visitor center manager Leah Eskelin shared a laundry list of volunteer opportunities suitable for locals with an afternoon to spare or Anchoragites who could give a weekend.
The clouds parted just in time for us to drive through golden fall leaves to launch our canoes at the Swan Lake Canoe Route trail head, 20 miles north of Sterling. We paddled across Canoe Lake to set up camp for our evening activities. Lots of awesome Dutch oven cooking and late night fraternizing around the campfire followed, including Robert Service poems dramatized by Friend member Tom Choate. We were accompanied by two refuge staff who coordinated our volunteer trail clearing.
The next day, we paddled to Waterfall Lake to do some trail clearing and exploration of the lake and its’ lovely island. The calm and clear waters offered a perfect reflection of the beautiful fall colors of the lake.
(click to enlarge photos)
Barb Veeck reports, “As a new member, I felt that I gained awareness of the purpose of the Friends program and enjoyed meeting other members. It was fun to discuss future volunteer and group trip activities such as this one.
Prior to this trip, most of us were only familiar with 1-2 people in the group which hailed from Anchorage, Kenai, Anchor Point, and Homer. By the end of the trip we all felt we had new “Friends” and were already planning our next refuge trip.”
As a Board member and trip organizer, Poppy Benson says, “I felt we met the objectives of familiarizing ourselves with at least part of the vast and wonderful Kenai Refuge and its volunteer opportunities, increasing communication and collaboration with the Refuge, and facilitating and building relationships between Friends. I think refuge familiarization trips should be an annual part of the Friends program. Email me with your ideas for future refuge trips at poppybenson@alaskarefugefriends. This trip was cheap ($20) and easy because participants only needed a weekend and a way to get to Soldotna. Other refuges such as the Arctic Refuge would take more time and money.”
We encourage all of you to get out on a refuge through Friends sponsored trips or volunteer opportunities or with your own family. The Refuges need us and we need them.
Refuge Discovery Trip: Kenai National Wildlife Refuge Canoe Trip
September 16 and 17, 2017 (Saturday-Sunday)
Discover the canoe country of the Dave Spencer Wilderness Area within the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge during the height of fall color. Canoe, fish, berry pick, listen to loons from your sleeping bag, and enjoy good company.
Meet at Refuge headquarters in Soldotna at 9:00am Saturday, September 16th. Refuge staff will orient participants to refuge issues, resources and volunteer opportunities and we will tour their new (2015) Visitor Center. Carpool to the Swan Lakes Canoe System north of Sterling. Canoe across the lovely Canoe Lake and make a base camp at the far end. Portage to other lakes as time and weather allows. A small volunteer project, as yet to be determined, will be part of this experience. Return to cars about 4 p.m. on Sunday.
This trip is suitable for beginners as we will not be traveling far to the base camp. Those with the desire to see more will be able to portage to other lakes. Trout fishing can be very good in Canoe Lake and all the lakes and lowbush cranberry picking can be excellent right at the campsite.
Trip Leader: Poppy Benson, firstname.lastname@example.org; (907) 299-0092; Poppy has over 30 years of experience in the canoe country, has taught canoeing, and is Wilderness First Aid certified. Poppy serves on the Friends Board as Outreach Coordinator.
Cost: $20 for dinner and Sunday breakfast plus a Welcome Coffee with pastries on Saturday morning. Bring your own lunches for Saturday and Sunday, plus snacks. Indicate on your registration if you have dietary restrictions.
Weather: This Refuge Discovery Trip is a rain or shine event. Fall in the canoe country will be cool and possibly rainy. A communal dry tented area will be provided for cooking, as well as a campfire.
Equipment needed: Please provide your own personal camping gear, including fishing gear and berry pickers if desired. Canoes can be supplied by the Refuge but please bring your own if you have a light one. Contact Poppy if you don’t have a tent or would like to borrow a Refuge canoe. Given the possibility of rainy/cold weather, please bring a 30 degree and below sleeping bag, rain gear – jacket and pants, and waterproof knee high boots. Poppy recommends Gortex fishing waders with wading boots, which allow one to stay dry and to walk into the lake when launching canoes. Please bring them if you have them. A complete equipment list will be furnished to participants after registration.
Please leave your furry friends at home.
How to sign up: Trip will be limited to the first 12 to complete the registration, including paying the $20 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 Saturday meeting.