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Membership Meeting, January 19, 2021, 5 pm AKT


Arctic Refuge, A Symbol for a Time of Global Change   Please join us online or by phone Tuesday, January 19, 2021, 5-6pm (AKT), for our Friends monthly meeting with guest speaker, Roger Kaye of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.  

Webinar Recording


Roger Kaye has done it all – worked the Slope, spent a winter on a trapline, flew his own float and ski planes, hunted, hiked, explored all over Alaska, wrote a book on the Arctic and earned a PhD at University of Alaska Fairbanks.  He has spent much of his 41-year career with the Fish & Wildlife Service experiencing, thinking about and advocating for true wilderness, particularly of the Arctic Refuge.  On this 60th Anniversary of the Refuge, Roger Kaye will share some of his vast knowledge and take us back to the seven-year struggle to establish the Arctic Refuge.   He will explore the similarities with the struggle to defend the Refuge today.  

Olaus and Marti Murie, two giants of Alaska conservation and science,
were instrumental in protection of the Arctic through the designation of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Arctic Refuge establishment was among the first, unprecedented American conservation initiatives of the 1960s that came about in response to concern over the worsening environmental degradations accompanying the prosperous postwar march of progress.  The campaign to establish the Refuge became emblematic of the larger contest between competing views of the appropriate relationship between postwar American society and its rapidly changing environment. Which notion of progress should this landscape represent—that underlying the prevailing rush toward attaining an ever-higher material standard of living, or that underpinning the emerging ecology-based perspective that emphasized sustainability and called for restraint? The question of whether or not to preserve this preeminent wilderness symbolized “the real problem,” as campaign leader Olaus Murie characterized it, “of what the human species is to do with this earth.”

Now again we face a new order of environmental threat, a convergence of global energy and resource scarcity, climate change, and widespread biospheric alterations. And now the Arctic Refuge is at the center of one of the nation’s longest and most contentious environmental debates. The question of oil development verses wilderness preservation here transcends the issue of potential resource impacts within the Refuge’s boundaries and has become symbolically intertwined with these larger, global issues. Again, the Arctic Refuge stands as a national symbol of pivotal questions and decisions Americans face: How does our consumption and material standard of living affect the national and global environments, and what quality of them are we to leave to future generations?

Roger Kaye skipped his college graduation ceremony in 1974 to come to Alaska and  work at Camp Denali for famed Alaskan conservationists Cecelia Hunter and Ginny Woods.  He started grad school but dropped out to earn enough money working on the Slope to buy his first airplane.  Once he met that goal, he took off on a series of Alaska adventures until the money ran out.   Then, he started his wildlife career first with ADFG and for 41 years the Fish & Wildlife Service.  He has been a planner, refuge pilot, Native liaison and in recent years, the agency’s Alaska wilderness coordinator. He has a Ph.D. from the University of Alaska where he has taught courses on wilderness, environmental psychology, and the Anthropocene. He is the author of Last Great Wilderness: The Campaign to Establish the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and numerous journal and popular articles related to wilderness. Currently, he is working on a book considering the future of the wildness of Wilderness in the Anthropocene. Roger lives in Fairbanks and works for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.


This webinar was recorded.  Watch below:



Download Presentation





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Membership Meeting: November 17, 2020 at 5pm AKT


Bird Camp!  Birds and Biologists on the Canning River

Please join us online or by phone Tuesday, November 17, 2020, 5-6pm (AK), for our Friends monthly meeting with guest speaker, Timothy Knudson of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.  

Come along on a journey to Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to explore a remote field research camp on the Arctic Coastal Plain.  For more than 40 years, biologists have flown into this distant place to study tundra nesting birds.  Hear stories from the Canning River Delta ‘Bird Camp’  first hand from one of Arctic Refuge’s wildlife biologists. Learn about the different types of research carried out on the Canning River. See the preliminary results and catch the latest updates on the future of these projects. Get a glimpse of the ecosystem through the interactions of the lemmings, foxes, and the birds that connect this remote place to YOUR backyard.

What does it take to live and carry out research in this isolated place for nearly two months?   What changes have occurred to the tundra nesting bird population since research began at the Canning River Delta more than 40 years ago? How does the range expansion of the red fox into the Coastal Plain impact nesting birds and arctic foxes? Tim will address these questions and more.

Timothy Knudson is the Logistics Coordinator for projects on the Coastal Plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.  He ran the Canning River Delta Research Camp and was the tundra nesting bird field lead in 2019.  Tim has a B.S. in Natural Resources Wildlife and Water Resources Management from the University of Minnesota Crookston and an MS in Zoology from Southern Illinois University.  He did his thesis research on seabird ecology with the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge.  Prior to coming to Alaska, Tim worked on the Audubon and Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuges.

This meeting and presentation was recorded. Watch video below:




 




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Membership Meeting: October 20 at 5pm

Tuesday, October 20, 2020, 5 pm AKDT. View Recorded Video

Please join us on Tuesday, October 20, 2020, 5-6pm (AKDT), for our Friends monthly  meeting.

Tracking Lynx Across Alaska:  What Have We Learned?
Guest Speaker Yukon Flats Refuge Wildlife Biologist Mark Bertram will share with us what they are learning about lynx movement and prey interactions from tracking over 160 lynx captured on four different Alaska Refuges.  
 
Where and how fast will lynx move when the hare population crashes?  Are there barriers to movement across the landscape or geographic features that enable movement?  What new technologies are being used to monitor lynx movement?  Bertram will answer all these questions and share fabulous lynx photos.
 
Mark Bertram, a wildlife biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service since 1986, has been studying a variety of animals and other resources on the third largest refuge in the nation, the 11 million acre Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge for the past 27 years.  Mark says “The Yukon Flats is an awesome place to work –  a 10,000 square mile pristine wetland basin home to thousands of breeding waterfowl and healthy intact predator/prey systems – it’s a biologists dream.”   He resides in Fairbanks.  






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Membership Meeting: September 15, 2020

Tuesday, September 15, 2020, 5 pm AKDT, virtual only

Take Refuge:

Fire recovery, morels and record visitation define Kenai Refuge’s summer  

Please join us on Tuesday, September 15, 2020, 5-6pm (AKDT), for our Friends monthly  meeting with featured guest speakers Kenai Refuge Visitor Services Rangers Matt Conner and Leah Eskelin.

After the 2019 summer of the Swan Lake Fire, Kenai Refuge’s visitor services staff were busy planning for repairing fire damage and accommodating morel hunters in expectation of a big post fire morel flush when Alaska’s 2020 travel mandates changed the game and put their work into overdrive.  Week after week, for 10 weeks straight, 1000s of visitors found their way out of quarantine to the safety of nature on refuge trails and in its campgrounds. Hear about how the Kenai staff responded to new recreational pressures this summer and rose from the ashes of 2019 to tackle the unexpected challenges of this year.  

 

This meeting was recorded.  View below:

 

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Membership Meeting: July 21, 5pm

Emergency Meeting
Tuesday, July 21, 5 pm
Online Only

This meeting was recorded; view the recording below.

What You Need to Know to Help Save the Kenai Refuge  with guest speakers retired Kenai Refuge Supervisory Biologist John Morton, retired Kenai Refuge Ranger/Pilot Rick Johnston and Friends President David Raskin.  This panel will explain Kenai’s new proposed rules which would allow brown bear baiting on the Refuge and remove all the Refuge’s ability to regulate trapping as well as some other lesser provisions.  You will have a chance to ask questions.

This serious threat to the Refuge, which contradicts prior refuge decisions, prompted this unusual midsummer meeting.  Comments on the proposed changes will only be accepted until August 10.  There will be no public process other than the comment period.  For details about the issues, the Federal Register Notice, the draft Environmental Assessment, talking points, and instructions about submitting comments, please see our Proposed Kenai Regulations post. 
 
This meeting was recorded; view the recording below.







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May you live in interesting times: Effects of changing climate on the ecosystems of Togiak Refuge

Please join us on Tuesday, April 21, 5-6pm (AKDT), for our Friends April membership meeting with featured guest speaker Togiak Refuge Supervisory Wildlife Biologist Pat Walsh.

This is a virtual meeting.  (Meeting details below)

Walsh will tell several stories of how and why the ecosystems of Togiak Refuge are changing and how these changes require a constantly changing approach to management.  Fish die-offs, wolf behavior and habitat use changes, and seabird die-offs are some of the unusual events Walsh will delve into.  

Dominated by the Ahklun Mountains in the north and the cold waters of Bristol Bay to the south, Togiak National Wildlife Refuge confronts the traveler with a kaleidoscope of landscapes including a rugged coastline featuring the walrus haulout and seabird nesting sites of Cape Pierce, world class rainbow trout and salmon streams, high snowy mountains, more than 500 big (over 25 acres) lakes and sweeping tundra.  Change has been occurring to this landscape since the Pleistocene but change used to be noted in centuries.  Now changes are evident from year to year.  Learn more about the Togiak Refuge here.

Pat Walsh has been Supervisory Fish and Wildlife Biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Togiak National Wildlife Refuge since 2001.  He has BS and MS degrees in wildlife ecology and 30 years of experience in leading ecological studies.


To join the meeting:  Join the Zoom meeting by computer

OR

Join by phone:

Phone number: (669) 900-9128
Meeting ID: 918 6891 5432
Password: 336354
Download the presentation: Togiak Refuge presentation for Refuge Friends April 2020


The meeting will also be recorded and available here if you miss the 5 p.m. live meeting.

 




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Hot Topics in Alaska Wildfire

Please join us on Tuesday, March 17, 5-6pm (AKDT), for our Friends March membership meeting with featured guest speaker and fire ecologist Lisa Saperstein.

This was a virtual meeting; watch a recording of Lisa’s presentation below.

How will wildfire affect refuges in a changing climate?  Wildfire was always a major driver of habitat change in much of Alaska but last summer was one for the record books​ in terms of the number of people impacted by smoke, road closings, activity cancellations and fear for life and property.  Scientists and managers are scrambling to understand what Alaska will look like in the future with predicted increases in fire occurrence and to figure out how to manage fire with a changing climate.  Lisa will give an overview on fire in Alaska from fire history and habitat changes to current research topics and refuge projects to reduce risks. 


Lisa’s current work focuses on post-fire effects on wildlife and vegetation, burn severity and fuel treatment planning and monitoring.  She is a collaborator on research on climate change and fire in boreal forest and tundra and on modeling fire behavior during wildfires.  After working on the Selawik, Koyukuk/Nowitna, Yukon Delta and Kanuti refuges, she was hired in her current position as fire ecologist for all Alaska refuges in 2010.  Lisa began her Alaska career as a Master’s student at UAF in 1989 investigating the effects of tundra fire on caribou winter range.



Missed this meeting?  Watch a recording of Lisa’s presentation:









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Arctic to Attu: A Photographer’s Tour of Six Alaska Wildlife Refuges

Please join us on Tuesday, February 18, 5-6pm (AKDT), for our Friends February membership meeting with featured guest speaker and photographer, Lisa Hupp. 

Lisa will be speaking to us at the Anchorage meeting: our other gatherings will join via Zoom Meetings or you can join from home (see below). 

  • Anchorage: Fish & Wildlife Service Regional Office, 1011 E. Tudor
  • Fairbanks: Watershed School 4975 Decathlon  
  • Homer: Islands and Ocean Visitor Center, 95 Sterling Highway
  • Soldotna: Kenai National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center, Ski Hill Road

  

Lisa Hupp  will share her experiences behind the lens photographing Alaska’s refuges.  “I love how photography can demand close attention and devotion to place,” Hupp says. “It’s a way to see and share the world, whether you take photos on a phone or with a backpack full of equipment. Alaska’s national wildlife refuges are places of endless possibility for photographers, from dramatic and vast landscapes to charismatic wildlife. These refuges are big, wild and remote; photography can help us to tell their stories.” 

Hupp is the Communications Coordinator for National Wildlife Refuges in Alaska.  You can see some of her images and read how she gets those amazing shots here. 

Download Lisa’s presentation: Arctic to Attu (PowerPoint .pptx file)

Missed the meeting?  Watch a recording of the meeting below:

 




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Adventures with a unique Alaska shorebird: the Bristle-thighed Curlew

Please join us on Tuesday, January 21, 2020, 5-6 pm (AKDT), for our Friends January membership meeting with featured guest speaker, Kristine Sowl.  

Wildlife Biologist Kristine Sowl worked on a Bristle-thighed Curlew nesting ecology study in the Andreafsky Wilderness of the Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge in the summers of 2010 to 2012. The curlew proved to be an elusive, difficult, and fascinating species to study.  Her presentation will talk about her experiences during that project.    Kristine Sowl has spent over 25 years working as a field biologist on public lands in Alaska, including Yukon Delta, Izembek, and Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuges, and summer seasonal jobs at the Alaska Peninsula National Wildlife Refuge, Aniakchak and Cape Krusenstern National Monuments, and Bering Land Bridge National Preserve. She moved from Bethel to Homer a year ago and now spends her time helping Alaska’s wildlife refuges plan their biological programs. 

Kristine will be at the Homer meeting; our other gatherings will join via Zoom Meetings. 




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Friends Need Friends

By: Tara Schmidt and Poppy Benson

Friends came to visit, and it was invigorating!  Thirteen Friends Groups from throughout the Pacific plus Fish and Wildlife staff descended on Homer in September for a 4 day “Tanax Agliisada” conference aimed at teaching us all new skills and sharing best practices.  Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuges hosted the conference at the Alaska Maritime and Kenai National Wildlife Refuges.  A grant from the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation brought the 60 attendants to Homer from Alaska, Hawaii, coastal Washington and Oregon, Midway Island and the Marianas Trench.

Building stronger boards, board recruitment and retention, improving community relationships, and empowering our organizations to ensure the success of the Refuge system as a whole were some of the topics covered in. Breakout groups allowed for brainstorming, sharing experiences and goal setting. We learned many of the issues we faced were not unique to us.

We all were fascinated although pretty depressed learning about the Washington D.C. scene from Caroline Brouwer of the National Fish & Wildlife Association and Desiree Sorenson-Groves of the Arctic Refuge Defense Campaign.  At least I came away convinced we, Alaska Friends, do need to make a trip to DC once a year to keep our concerns in front of our representatives, and we do need to form a stronger alliance with the National Fish & Wildlife Association.

The National Wildlife Refuge chiefs from both the Alaska and Pacific regions, shared insight on national priorities, departmental directives, long term planning goals and ways we can work together on a panel titled “Impacts of National and Regional Priorities”. Understanding Refuge system priorities will help us work together to successfully develop programs and projects, which should in turn build community awareness and support of the refuge system.

In a small group meeting of the 10 Alaska Friends in attendance we hammered out these goals for the board for this year: 1) create a  membership committee and recruit a chair committed to recruiting/following up with members who have indicated an interest in participating at a higher level in our organization; 2) improve our communication efforts to highlight our work, promote our projects within the communities that are benefiting from our financial support of programs tied to the Alaska Refuge system; and, 3) send two from the Board to DC during the budget months of February or March.

Our fellow Friends were very interesting and fun people making for a stimulating four days.  Our hosting role went flawlessly thanks to our extraordinary conference organizer, Friends volunteer Anna Sansom.   Our visitors loved getting to visit two refuges – Alaska Maritime and Kenai, see their first moose, eat smoked salmon and moose we provided and even participate in Homer’s iconic “Burning Basket”.  We hope we have gained new allies in the fights to save Alaska’s Refuges.


Two takeaways from this conference are 1) we are part of a larger organization; and, 2) together we can be a strong coalition for advancing the mission of Wildlife Refuges. This was in line with the goals set for the conference – increase effectiveness and strengthen relationships across refuges. We need to work with other Friends Groups to achieve economies of scale, continue to share know-how and cross sell.




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