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.
Submitted by Lisa Hupp/ USFWS – Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge
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.”
Refuge Discovery Trip Report by Poppy Benson, FANWR Outreach Coordinator and Barb Veeck, Friends Member
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, email@example.com; (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.
We just returned from our June 2017 week of pulling invasive weed species for the Friends of the Alaska National Wildlife Refuges. The volunteer work took us from Homer all the way north almost to the Arctic Ocean. It was a great experience and we hope we contributed to keeping invasives from spreading even more.
Monday morning we left Fairbanks early in two vehicles with the full weed pulling crew. A Fish & Wildlife biologist was the agency head for the crew, there was a summer intern working with him, and two other Friends volunteers. This is a typical view of the Dalton Highway or Haul Road. The reason it is called the Haul Road–lots of big trucks bringing stuff up to and down from Prudhoe Bay.
Typical Black Spruce forest- some of these trees are 200 years old! Growing on permafrost tends to make for a hard life and stunted growth.
Made it to the Arctic Circle. We pretty much had 24 hours of daylight the whole time we were up there.
This is what we were looking for– white sweetclover. For about 150 miles of the highway, anywhere a river crossed the road, we pulled the clover we found. We split up into pairs and pulled weeds about 100 yards up from the bridges on both sides. The idea is to not allow the sweetclover to flower and go to seed so the seeds can’t travel down the rivers and invade the refuges. One mature sweetclover plant can produce 350,000 seeds and they are viable for 80+ years.
The crew working a particularly heavily grown-over area.
Our final morning and we headed north out of Coldfoot (the two previous days we worked to the south.) The mountains you can see are the start of the Brooks Range. The views were spectacular, like Sukapak (mountain – below).
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! “
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).
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.