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Friends Hire New Program Director

We are happy to announce that Melanie Dufour will be starting work for us this month as our part-time Program Director.  Melanie is replacing two part time employees, Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival Coordinator Mallory Primm, who left for a full time job, and media specialist Chessie Sharp who has left the state.  Thank you Mallory and Chessie for your great work for Friends.  We are hoping that by combining the jobs, both Melanie will be better supported with more hours and Friends will have more of her attention.  It is a huge job attempting to manage the largest wildlife festival in the state and support 16 National Wildlife Refuges in Alaska with just a volunteer Board, a few committee members and a part time employee. 

Melanie is a long time Homer resident and well connected in the Homer environmental education community.  She will be able to hit the ground running on the Shorebird Festival.  Melanie has this to say about her new job. “I am so excited to be working with all of the Friends!  Sharing the natural wonders of our Refuges and the incredible birds who make the journey to our shores each year is so important for conservation of the same and the gifts that those give to each person who walks on this land, Alaska.  I look forward to both sharing new ideas and implementing steps that will assure success and sustainability of  Friends of Alaska National WIldlife Refuges.”

Welcome Melanie!
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Advocacy Report September 2020

By David Raskin, Friends President

Kenai Regulations

The proposed Kenai Refuge public use, hunting, and trapping regulations and the environmental assessment were released. We submitted comments for Friends (see link on our website). The extensive efforts of many conservation organizations, including Friends, helped to produce more than 35,000 comments to USFWS. Many of us also requested public hearings to rectify the flawed way in which the USFWS minimized the visibility of the release of this program and failed to schedule public hearings. We have been told that these requests are pending approval of a Federal Register notice drafted by the USFWS Alaska Regional Office that would extend the comment period and schedule public hearings. This is a highly political issue, so the bureaucrats in Washington, DC may not allow these to go forward. We will let everyone know what they decide. The Humane Society scientific poll of Alaska residents shows overwhelming opposition to the proposed regulation. This is a very important issue that not only affects the Kenai Refuge but could set undesirable precedents that would negatively impact other refuges.

Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

Secretary of Interior issued the Record of Decision (ROD) on August 17. The next steps are a call for nominations for a lease sale and an actual lease sale. In their rush to sell leases before the November election, the Administration may shorten the call for nominations from the usual 30 days and proceed quickly to selling leases. The Arctic Refuge Defense Campaign (ARDC) is closely monitoring developments.

On August 24, Trustees for Alaska filed suit in Anchorage Federal District Court on behalf of the Gwich’in Steering Committee, Friends, and 11 other conservation organizations that challenge the Administration’s leasing plan. Read the press release here].  This was followed by a similar lawsuit by other conservation organizations that challenged the administration’s application of the 2017 federal tax overhaul that orders oil leasing in the wildlife refuge.

ARDC released the results of a national poll that showed overwhelming national opposition to the Administration’s plan to drill in the Refuge. The ARDC campaign’s highly successful meetings with executives of oil companies, insurance carriers, and financial institutions concerning the dangers of Arctic drilling and the financial risks of supporting such efforts. They have continued their pressure on Bank of America and oil and gas development companies to join the major financial institutions in refusing to fund oil development in the arctic.

Izembek National Wildlife Refuge

Since the June 1, 2020 Federal District Court decision nullified the proposed land exchange with King Cove, road proponents appealed to the Ninth Circuit Federal Court. Trustees for Alaska is handling their appeal, which used similar arguments that were soundly rejected by the district court. We expect the district court decision to be upheld and will be monitoring this closely. If the appeal fails, any new attempt to resurrect the road would require an act of Congress and a signature by the president. Trustees for Alaska and all of our conservation partners remain vigilant for any attempts by the Alaska delegation to have a rider added to other legislation.

Ambler Road

We are following the progress of the federal lawsuit filed by a coalition of conservation groups to stop this damaging road from being built. It would invade the Gates of the Arctic National Preserve and have the potential to disrupt wildlife and habitat that could have major negative impacts on the national park and nearby wildlife refuges. We hope that the lawsuit will halt this costly and destructive project.

Pebble Mine

Army Corps of Engineers performed an unusual about-face, issuing a finding that the Pebble Project failed to provide satisfactory mitigation plans for the proposed mine. This unusual flip-flop b the Corps followed public statements by Donald Trump, Jr., Nick Ayers, former chief of staff to Vice president Pence, and other wealthy mine opponents. All are avid fishermen who want the Bristol Bay salmon protected from this destructive mine. The Corps gave the Pebble project 90 days to propose stream and wetland mitigation plans, but it seems unlikely that they will be able to put together such a plan because of lack of options.

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Tracking Lynx Across Alaska:  What have we learned?

By Mark Bertram, Supervisory Wildlife Biologist, Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge

   

In recent years, you may have seen a Canada lynx, heard of a lynx sighting from a friend or read about one in your local newspaper.  Lynx populations have been high in much of Alaska, so they have been out and about.  That population high is fueled by snowshoe hares, the primary prey for lynx.  Every decade or so, hare populations skyrocket and then crash.  Lynx populations follow the same cycle as hares but lag by one or two years.  Interestingly, this predator-prey cycle occurs in sync across boreal Alaska.

Dr. Knut Kielland, with the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, has studied this intimate predator-prey relationship since the 1990s.  In 2014, he teamed up with Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge to examine a long-standing scientific theory that the peak of the 10-year hare cycle acts in a synchronous “traveling wave” across the Alaskan and Canadian boreal forest, similar to a rippling wave in a pond. 

But just what is it that sets the wave in motion and carries it over thousands of miles through the boreal biome?  Weather patterns have been suggested, perhaps related to cyclical sunspot activity, but these patterns are inconsistent.  The most likely explanation is long distance movements by predators.  Both lynx and great horned owls disperse over 700 miles in search of food.  Predators moving great distances from food-poor to food-rich areas could explain these 10-year patterns across the landscape.

   

Photo by Lisa Hupp, FWS

Kanuti, Koyukuk, and Yukon Flats Refuges and Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve have since partnered with Dr. Kielland and Tetlin Refuge to collectively examine lynx movements across the northwestern reaches of North America’s expansive boreal forest.  Our goal is to identify which habitat characteristics are critical as dispersal corridors so land managers can maintain viable lynx populations across Alaska conservation units.  To follow lynx movement, we capture lynx in walk-in live traps and attach a radio collar that records location every 4 hours.  Every few days, the collars upload stored locations to a satellite, from which we can subsequently download data. 

In the past four years, 163 lynx were captured and fitted with radio collars near Tok, Fort Yukon, Bettles, Galena and Wiseman, providing hundreds of thousands of locations.  Some lynx stay close to home while others disperse in all directions over great distances (Figure 1).  For instance, Tetlin Refuge biologists collared an adult male near Tok in 2017 that took a year-long sojourn through the Yukon and Northwest Territories, eventually settling west of Great Slave Lake, 2,100 miles away!  In February 2019, another adult male was collared near Bettles.  That April, he headed northwest 550 miles through the Brooks Range to the Chukchi Sea coast near Icy Cape.  In May, he beachcombed south for 200 miles, double-backed along the North Slope for 500 miles to the Dalton Highway at the Sagavanirktok River, and then meandered southwest through the Brooks Range.  Since October 2019, he has taken a respite in a secluded stretch of the Killik River headwaters.


Movements of 163 telemetered Canada lynx across Alaska and northwestern Canada, 2018-2020


We have recorded long distance dispersals for both young and old, male and female, with daily travel averaging 10 miles and up to 27 miles per day!  There appear to be no natural barriers to movement as lynx have trekked across the Brooks and Alaska ranges, and the Wrangell, Cassier and Mackenzie mountains while crossing the formidable waters of the Yukon, Tanana, Porcupine, Copper, Kuskokwim and Mackenzie rivers.  Collectively, this collared sample of Alaska lynx from four refuges and one park have traveled from the Chukchi Sea to British Columbia to the North Slope to the Yukon Delta, traversing through 20 conservation areas thus far. 

Hare populations are now decreasing across Alaska.  In response, we expect more collared lynx will disperse in search of food across the landscape.  As more than 1,000 lynx locations are downloaded daily, university, refuge and park biologists will look closely at these dispersal movement patterns in search of terrain that dispersing lynx prefer.  Identifying landscape corridors that link conservation units in Alaska and Canada will prove valuable in future land use planning.

Want to learn more and see more stunning lynx photos?  Author Mark Bertram will be our speaker at our October membership meeting, October 20 at 5 p.m. on zoom.  Put it on your calendar and watch next month’s newsletter and our web site meetings page for the zoom link.

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Refuges in the time of Covid 19; August Update

The uptick in covid cases and deaths in Alaska in the last month has kept Refuge Visitor Centers and offices closed and most employees working from home.  The campgrounds, trails, and land are open as they have always been.  All the trails that were closed on the Kenai Refuge due to fire damage from last summer’s Swan Lake Fire have now been repaired and reopened except for the Surprise Creek Trail.  Kenai Refuge continues to experience record visitation so please come prepared to be more self-sufficient as there are no campground hosts and fewer seasonal staff. 
Covid 19 has reached some of the villages in the Interior, SouthEast, SouthWest and Yukon Delta heightening concern about visits from outsiders.  Many villages have travel restrictions.  Check before you go.  If you are thinking of coming from outside Alaska, be aware that within the last two weeks travel restrictions have tightened for travel through Canada and for arrival in Alaska.  Check Canada and Alaska’s websites for the latest as this is a very fluid situation. 
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Our Conservation Hero Turns 85

By: Poppy Benson

Long time Friends President and Advocacy Chair David Raskin celebrated his 85th birthday last week and his 61st Anniversary with his wife Marga.  It is timely to reflect on his long involvement with Friends and the conservation struggle.

David came to conservation through fishing.  He developed his love of the outdoors by fishing with his dad as soon as he was big enough to hold a pole.   Decades later, when he was a professor at the University of Utah, it was fishing that brought him to his first conservation fight.  Hiking out after a great day of fly fishing for brown trout on Rock Creek in the Uinta Mountains, he encountered a stranger who remarked, “Enjoy it while you can because they are going to dewater that river.”  That’s when he learned about the Central Utah Project Plan to dewater all the trout streams on the south slope of the Uinta Mountains and transfer the water to develop desert agriculture.  David jumped into the battle against the Bureau of Reclamation plans as conservation chair for the Sierra Club.  This fight lasted years and some rivers were lost but many saved.  Although a dam was built on Rock Creek, this was the last proposed inter basin transfer of water in the country.

Meanwhile, Marga challenged the 5 coal power plants proposed for southern Utah’s red rock country, playing a major role in stopping the infamous Kaiparowitts Power Plant Project.   Both Raskins worked with the Escalante Wilderness Committee that helped to establish Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

A three-month camping trip brought the Raskins to Alaska in 1975, and David bragged that they spent all but two nights sleeping out.  When they arrived in Homer and lookied down on Kachemak Bay, David exclaimed “Brigham Young was wrong.  This is the place”.  They promptly bought land in Homer, but it was 20 years later before David could retire from the University and build their home overlooking the bay.  

David’s first involvement in Alaska conservation was as Board President of the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies.  A chance meeting with Evan Hirsche, then head of the National Wildlife Refuge Association, was his first exposure to wildlife refuges.  David was invited to attend the organizing meeting of Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuges in November of 2005 at the Kenai Refuge.  At that meeting, he was chosen as our first president.  Except for two years, David has served as president and advocacy chair ever since.

For someone who knew little about refuges prior to that meeting, David jumped in with his usual enthusiasm.  He says the best way to learn refuges is to visit them.  He has visited 6 of the 16 refuges, including 16 days on the Alaska Maritime’s research vessel the Tiglax,  rowing a raft on the Canning River in the Arctic Refuge on a week long trash cleanup, and eradicating invasive plants at Izembek.  He has testified before Congress several times on behalf of refuges, written most of our position letters on Environmental Statements and federal actions and formed strong working relationships with other Alaska conservation organizations.  David has waged many conservation battles for Friends of which he thinks Izembek has been the most gratifying.  That fight to protect the Izembek Wilderness and globally significant eel grass beds from road development has gone on his entire tenure with Friends.  The recent court decision that preserved the Izembek Refuge was a sweet victory, although it may not be the last word.

Is David slowing down?  Well, he just decided to quit the contract work he has done for 50 years.  When I called him about this article, he was busy working in the engine room of his 36-foot boat.  He was thinking of selling it but decided he would miss the water so much that he is repairing it instead.  He just churned out five pages of thoughtful and technical comments as the Friends response to the proposed Kenai Refuge regulations.  I think we can expect to have his tenacious advocacy on behalf of National Wildlife Refuges for some time.  Happy Birthday David, and Happy Anniversary Marga and David.  Thank you so much for all your efforts on behalf of the wild and the beautiful. 
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Striking a Balance Between Competing Mandates for Salmon on the Kuskokwim River

By John Morton, retired USFWS wildlife biologist

Dr. Lew Coggins, the supervisory biologist at Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge, sent me an article he co-authored recently entitled Incorporating harvest–population diversity trade-offs into harvest policy analyses of salmon management in large river basins.  The body of the paper was as technical as the title, so I called Lew to get more context about his research.   

Like other Refuges in Alaska, the 1980 Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act mandated that Yukon Delta Refuge conserve natural diversity, but also provide the opportunity for continued subsistence uses by local residents.  In this case, Lew tells me, he initiated the study to help current and future refuge managers evaluate this trade-off and address the concern that current harvest levels based on escapement goals could be impacting the stock diversity of Chinook salmon in the Kuskokwim River. 


Federal and local managers discuss Kuskokwim River fisheries management during a KYUK radio program








Chinook spawn in at least two-dozen tributaries of the main-stem Kuskokwim. Monitoring of harvest, escapement and age composition for Chinook has occurred since the mid-1970s with a focus on 13 stocks (Figure 1).  Recent declines in Kuskokwim Chinook abundance have sharply reduced subsistence harvest, closed commercial fisheries, prompted widespread stakeholder concern about the future of subsistence, and led to disagreement among managers and stakeholders about appropriate management.


Spawning distribution of 13 Chinook populations in the Kuskokwim River basin for which spawner abundance estimates exist based on weir or aerial surveys


The Yukon Delta Refuge has helped host several workshops since 2015 with influential community members as well as USFWS and Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologists and fishery managers. These workshops, funded by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, included discussion of existing and potential Kuskokwim Chinook fishery and biological objectives and alternative management actions associated with them.  Lew and his colleagues developed a team that used these capacity building workshops to inform two other, more technical projects funded by the Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim Sustainable Salmon Initiative.


Capacity-building workshop with Kuskokwim River stakeholders in Aniak, Alaska

This research considered three contrasting harvest policies that emerged from the workshops:  (1) the “MSY policy” maximizes potential harvest by setting a basin-wide escapement goal and target harvest to produce maximum sustained yield under equilibrium conditions; (2) the “subsistence policy” evaluates a fixed harvest where the harvest goal is equal to that required to meet minimum subsistence needs; and (3) the “conservation policy” maximizes yield from the system but only once biological risks of extirpation to the least productive populations are minimized.  The current management policy seeks to ensure that the total number of Chinook making it to the spawning grounds fall within the range predicted to provide annual harvest greater than 100,000 to fully meet subsistence needs.

Using computer simulation that captured both biological and fishery dynamics, their study shows the trade-offs of these three alternative policies on harvest (a) and harvest stability (b), stock equity (c), and conservation (d).  Figure 2 shows that the policy which focuses on MSY (1) provides the greatest harvest but poor stock equity and a chance that some populations may be extirpated.  In contrast the subsistence policy (2) provides the smallest harvest but greatest harvest stability, whereas the conservation policy (3) provides a middle road with respect to harvest, less harvest stability, but good stock equity and protection.  “The bottom-line”, as Lew explained to me, is that “under current levels of harvest and escapement goals, our modelling suggests the existing levels of stock diversity are protected.”  This is precisely the kind of information that the Yukon Delta Refuge Manager needs to know.


Modeled trade-offs among three harvest policies:  maximum sustained yield (1), subsistence (2), and conservation (3)  to meet fishery (a: harvest and b: harvest stability), equity (c: proportion of population tributaries with spawner abundances that exceeded a tributary-specific spawner goal) and conservation (d: proportion of populations extirpated) objectives. Each bar is the median performance of a given policy over the last 20 years of each simulation

 

The larger significance of this study is that it scientifically addresses the trade-off between harvests and the protection of diversity, known as the “weak stock problem” in fisheries management. This problem can be acute in large river basins with low levels of management control, like the Kuskokwim, where fisheries for multiple species and stocks in the marine environment or lower river overlap both spatially and temporally.  Doesn’t this sound like many of the salmon fisheries systems in Alaska?

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Local Citizen Scientists Help Monitor Tree Swallows

By Jaime Welfelt, Biological Science Technician at Alaska Peninsula and Becharof National Wildlife Refuges

Aerial insectivores, birds that capture their invertebrate prey from the air, have declined more than any other group of North American birds. To monitor aerial insectivore populations in Alaska, a dedicated group of federal, state, university, and nonprofit biologists formed the Alaska Swallow Monitoring Network (ASMN) in 2015. This coordinated effort aligns existing long-term swallow monitoring sites in Fairbanks and McCarthy, while providing a support system to add more sites across the state.


A banded female Tree Swallow collects grass to build a nest in the specially designed box. Once the grass nest cup is complete, the male will bring her white swan or duck feathers to insulate the cup. The side of the nest box is hinged so observers can quickly open the box and record its contents. Using fishing line, we can close the flap on the front of the box, allowing us to capture and band adult birds (photo by Carl Ramm).


The ASMN focused their efforts on Tree Swallows, a wide-ranging aerial insectivore in decline across the northern U.S. and Canada. Tree Swallows make an ideal avian study species because they readily use nest boxes and easily acclimate to human presence. Studies show that Tree Swallow breeding phenology and nesting success are sensitive to extreme weather events and changes in weather patterns over time.   

Alaska Peninsula and Becharof National Wildlife Refuges (AKPB) began monitoring a few Tree Swallow nest boxes in King Salmon in 2007. In 2015, with support from ASMN and a grant from the Environmental Protection Agency, AKPB increased the number of nest boxes and expanded the project to include the neighboring community of Naknek. Yukon Delta Refuge in Bethel joined the ASMN in 2017, as did the Alaska Songbird Institute (Fairbanks), University of Colorado (McCarthy), University of Alaska (Anchorage) and Juneau Audubon Society.


Tree Swallows lay one egg per day, with a typical clutch of 3-7 eggs. Occasionally, in Alaska, we see nests with eight eggs! (photo by Jaime Welfelt).

The Alaska Peninsula encompasses the southwestern-most boundary of the Tree Swallow’s range in Alaska, making it an ideal place to study population changes. On the peninsula, we installed nest boxes on buildings maintained by AKPB, Katmai National Park, Alaska Department of Fish and Game, local businesses, schools, and private residents. Refuge biologists, technicians, student interns, and volunteers check nest boxes regularly and record the number of eggs, when and how many chicks hatch, and when the chicks leave the nest box at the end of the season. The specially designed boxes have a trap door that allows us to capture and band both adults and chicks. The uniquely numbered leg bands allow us to identify individuals and estimate survival rates of recaptured birds. Data from this project will help us better understand the factors affecting Tree Swallow breeding phenology, productivity, and survival in Alaska.

Because AKPB can only be accessed by boat or plane, the Tree Swallow Project provides a unique opportunity to involve the communities of King Salmon and Naknek in our research.  The Tree Swallow Project has reached students across the Alaska Peninsula, including the remote villages of Chignik Lake and Perryville. During summer, Bristol Bay summer camps, homeschool students, and community members in King Salmon and Naknek join Refuge biologists in Tree Swallow banding demonstrations, providing an exciting opportunity to see science in action and live birds in the hand. Statewide, ASMN outreach events and social media posts have reached over 53,000 people.

This project has also been a great avenue for young scientists and summer interns to gain experience in biological field work, managing data, and leading educational events. Since 2016, interns have logged close to 5,000 hours of volunteer time monitoring birds. Business owners and private residents who have volunteered to host nest boxes have expressed much joy in watching the Tree Swallows attend their boxes each summer.


Refuge intern Emily Leung holds an adult Tree Swallow captured at the Bristol Bay School in Naknek (USFWS photo).


A joint analysis of the Tree Swallow data collected in King Salmon, Bethel, Fairbanks, Anchorage, and McCarthy between 2014 and 2019 is currently underway in cooperation with University of Alaska Anchorage and other partners statewide. The results of this analysis will provide a comprehensive look at how aerial insectivores at northern latitudes are responding to changes in their breeding environment. The citizen science approach has allowed us not only to collect excellent data, but has engaged youth and the community in science and natural resource management at AKPB.

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Refuges in the Time of Covid-19:  July Update

Nothing much has changed since last month.  Campgrounds, trails and refuge lands are open as they have been and visitors are flocking to road accessible Kenai.  Visitors need to be extra responsible as there are no campground hosts and few seasonal staff.  Bring correct change for camping fees and firewood from home.  Offices and visitor centers are still closed with no timetable for reopening as the infection rate in Alaska is accelerating.  Kenai Refuge has found a safe way to reach out to visitors in a parking lot,open-air, tent staffed Thursdays through Saturdays.  

If you are traveling to Alaska, be sure to consult State of Alaska regulations which requires testing prior to flights or quarantine after.  If you are thinking of visiting a refuge off the road system, be aware that many rural communities have their own restrictions on travel.  Check with the State, the communities and the refuge you wish to visit for the latest information.

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Tracking red-legged kittiwakes across the Bering Sea

By Brie Drummond, Wildlife Biologist at Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge

A special bird that few people see, red-legged kittiwakes nest on only a few remote islands in the Bering Sea.  With few breeding colonies and a highly specialized diet of myctophid fish, red-legged kittiwakes are especially vulnerable to changes in their breeding and marine foraging habitats, including those brought about by climate change and introduced predators.  All red-legged kittiwakes in Alaska (85% of the global population) breed on Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge.  For the last four decades, Refuge staff have collected extensive data on this species during the summer breeding season, including numbers of birds returning to colonies each year, numbers of chicks hatching and fledging, and what chicks are fed.  However, we know very little about what happens to red-legged kittiwakes the rest of the year.  Research on other seabird species shows that winter conditions can play a large role in both survival and success at the colony the following summer, so we wanted to learn more about what kittiwakes experienced when away from the colony. 


Red-legged kittiwakes (photo by Brie Drummond, AMNWR)

We used geolocation loggers (or geolocators) to record locations and behaviors of red-legged kittiwakes during the winters of 2016-2017 and 2017-2018.  Geolocators are small data recording devices (~1 gram or the size and weight of a large raisin) that attach to a plastic leg band and record light levels and immersion in saltwater.  From those data, we generate twice-daily latitude and longitude positions for each bird and estimate how birds spent their time (flying, sitting on the water, or actively foraging). 

To explore whether red-legged kittiwakes from different colonies had similar wintering locations and behavior, we deployed geolocators on birds from the two largest breeding colonies in Alaska, St. George Island in the Pribilof Islands and Buldir Island in the western Aleutian Islands, separated by1000 kilometers.  We captured and tagged kittiwakes during the summer breeding season when birds were attending nests at the colonies.  Geolocators do not transmit data remotely, so biologists must recapture the birds in subsequent breeding seasons in order to retrieve devices and download data.  For the St. George component of the study, we collaborated with Dr. Rachael Orben, an Oregon State University researcher.

We found where red-legged kittiwakes from the two colonies spent the winters depended on the time of year.  Birds from both locations left their breeding colony in late August or early September.  During the fall and early winter (October-December), St. George kittiwakes were in the Bering Sea whereas Buldir kittiwakes were thousands of miles west off the Russian coast in the Sea of Okhotsk.  However, during late winter (January-March), the two colonies overlapped in their distribution, especially in an area east of the Kuril Islands.  By April, birds were back at their respective breeding colonies.  These patterns were almost identical during the two winters of our study.

From the behavior data, we learned that birds from both colonies had similar activity budgets during the non-breeding season, spending most of the night sitting on water and flying during the day.  Most active foraging occurred the hour before and after dawn; this may reflect foraging for myctophids, which are generally available at the ocean’s surface only at night.

We learned important information about where and how red-legged kittiwakes from Alaska’s two largest colonies spend their time when away from the breeding grounds.  The region east of the Kuril Islands appears to be crucial for the global red-legged kittiwake population; interestingly, this area is a winter vacation hotspot for many other Alaskan seabirds.  We hope to publish these data in a scientific journal soon to share this information with other seabird researchers.

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Advocacy Report June 2020


By: David Raskin, Friends President

We had a HUGE victory on Izembek (see below). Otherwise, it has been relatively quiet in terms of new developments.

Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

We are still waiting for the Secretary of Interior to issue the Record of Decision (ROD). The biological issues and uncertainty of a successful lease sale may be causing rethinking at DOI. However, there has been no news to date.    

The ARDC campaign’s meetings with executives of oil companies and financial institutions concerning the dangers of Arctic drilling and the financial risks of supporting such efforts are now focused on pressuring Bank of America to join the other major financial institutions in refusing to fund oil development in the arctic.


Izembek National Wildlife Refuge

On June 1, the Federal District Court issued a resounding defeat to the proponents of the Izembek land exchange by nullifying the pending land exchange with King Cove. The decision essentially blocks any future attempts without congressional legislation signed by the president. The Izembek press release by Trustees for Alaska describes this marvelous decision in more detail. This decision hopefully puts an end to almost four decades of unsuccessful attempts to invade the Izembek Wilderness. We are extremely grateful to Trustees and all of our conservation partners for their untiring efforts to finally achieve this wonderful result that protects and preserves the Izembek Refuge for the foreseeable future.

Kenai Predator Control and Hunting Regulations

The proposed Kenai Refuge predator control regulations still have not been released, but we continue to expect them soon. Meanwhile the continuing intervention in the litigation by Friends and our conservation partners supports the effort to protect brown bears and reasonable hunting restrictions promulgated for the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge and Wilderness in Alaska.

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