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Nunivak Island: Home on the Range

By Kyra Neal, Wildlife Biologist, Yukon Delta Refuge

About 30 miles offshore from where the Kuskokwim River meets the Bering Sea, nestled in Shoal Bay, there is a small island village called Mekoryuk, home to around 200 mostly Yup’ik and Cup’ik people. In this place, the mayor is the same person who takes the trash trolley to the transfer station, the city office workers are the same people who teach kindergarten, the reindeer caretaker is the same person who jump started your ATV, and the elders stop by the roadside to share wisdom of their years growing up and to welcome you to their community on Nunivak Island.Data gap plot on the western side of Nunivak Island in the Bering Sea.

Nunivak Island is also home to 700 muskox and 3,000 reindeer. Grazing has occurred on Nunivak Island for hundreds of years, first by caribou until they were extirpated in the late 1800s and then by introduced reindeer and muskox in the last century.  The condition of their range was evaluated intensively in 1989 with 10 trend plots involving 40 quadrats and two transects for each location.
Kyra Neal pulling fall dandelion near the Mekoryuk sewage lagoon road.

Since 1989, Nunivak Island has become increasingly connected to mainland Alaska with more flights, boating, muskox hunting, and tourism. Consequently, Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge partnered with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in 2022 and 2023 to reevaluate the range condition and survey the island and village of Mekoryuk for invasive species at two different spatial scales. One is a fine-tooth comb and the other is more of a broad-stroke brush.

Reindeer at the facility in Mekoryuk
Let’s start with combing the luxurious locks of the tundra. Arriving at each plot via an R-44 helicopter, we applied the same methodology to evaluate range that was used in 1989. Within these 40 20×50 cm quadrats, we estimated ground cover for each species including lichen, shrubs, forbs, grasses, bare ground, rocks, and even scat. In 10 of these quadrats, we measured production by a double sampling clip and weigh method. Changes in ground cover and productivity will tell us how grazing has affected the range. Certain lichens are favorites of reindeer and can be depleted to bare ground exposure when overgrazing occurs. For invasives, we scouted disturbed areas in Mekoryuk by foot and in our monitoring areas, combing the tundra for anything out of place. Roads, barge ports, ATV trails, airstrips were all observed by foot in search of non-native species and plots with a high percentage of bare soil. 

Pulling out our broad-stoke brush, range was surveyed between the established transects. Using NRCS reconnaissance methods, we scored range conditions based on evaluating the amounts of lichen, bare soil, presence of grazing and scat on two acres between transects.  For our invasive species broad brush, we evaluated bare soil vectors for invasive species to get to the interior of the island. We used aerial imagery of ATV trails and disturbed areas to help us identify potential hot spots for introduction of non-native plants to the ecosystem. 

One of our 20×50 cm quadrats used for sampling ground cover to assess the condition of the range.  

What did we uncover? Well, good news and bad news. The good news is there are no invasive species on the Yukon Delta Refuge. The bad news is we did find some fall dandelion on the road leading to the airport and up to the sewage lagoon in Mekoryuk. We removed as much of the fall dandelions as could be done by hand and notified the village council president of our finding. Our range evaluation showed that the western side of Nunivak was heavily grazed, but the rest of the island has high quality grazing range for reindeer to enjoy!

Plot transects laid out by Karin Sonnen and Katie Schmidt (L) while Blaine Spellman collects data (R) on an established transect.  All three work for the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Secretary Haaland visits the Kenai Refuge

Sara Boario, USFWS Alaska Regional Director (left), and Andy Loranger, Kenai Refuge Manager, hosted the Secretary during her visit to the Kenai. “It means so much that the Secretary takes time to meet with us when she visits Alaska," Boario said. "On each of her three trips she has prioritized time to listen and learn from our employees and share her support and encouragement for our work.”  pc Lisa Hupp/USFWS
Sara Boario, USFWS Alaska Regional Director (left), and Andy Loranger, Kenai Refuge Manager, hosted the Secretary during her visit to the Kenai. “It means so much that the Secretary takes time to meet with us when she visits Alaska,” Boario said. “On each of her three trips she has prioritized time to listen and learn from our employees and share her support and encouragement for our work.”  pc Lisa Hupp/USFWS

Church friends who are drummers and spouses bringing in their famous salmon dip created a warm and homey welcome for Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland’s October visit to the Kenai Refuge.  She didn’t want a formal presentation so the refuge enlisted their friends the Heartbeat of Mother Earth drummers and called on their partners in the Kenaitze tribe including Tribal President Bernadine Atchison to help welcome the Secretary to the Refuge Visitor Center.  She was particularly moved by the drummers.  Staff reported she took the time to meet everyone and hugged elders and engaged children.  

Earlier in the day she visited an upcoming fish passage project on Ninilchik Native Association lands that will allow salmon to return to a tributary of Deep Creek that flows from the refuge.  Financed by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL), the project is a partnership between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), the Kenai Peninsula Borough, the Ninilchik Native Association Inc., and the Ninilchik Traditional Council. Ninilchik Tribal leaders, President Greg Encelewski and Executive Director Ivan Encelewski, spoke with the Secretary about vital cultural traditions and the importance of salmon to Indigenous people.  USFWS biologist Kyle Graham shared about the priority and need to increase habitat connectivity.  Borough Mayor Peter Micciche also added his support.

Later in the day, she visited the refuge’s newly improved access to Kenai River at Jim’s Landing, partially funded by the Great American Outdoors Act. The Secretary walked the edge of the river, took photos as a pair of bald eagles flew overhead, and witnessed the final salmon lifecycle stages typical of late fall in Alaska. 

Secretary Haaland (center) on her visit to the FWS booth at AFN in Anchorage
The Secretary also visited the Fish and Wildlife Service booth at the Alaska Federation of Natives (AFN) convention in Anchorage, where she met Refuge Information Technicians and Tribal Liaisons from across the state. Crystal Leonetti, Fish and Wildlife Service’s Alaska Native Affairs Specialist, reflected, “the Secretary so graciously shook each of our hands, asked us our names and where we work, and spent a few minutes with a youngster at one of the booth’s highlights – a kid’s coloring activity. It was a dream to spend just a few moments with her.

Even K9 Officer Togo turned out with all the Kenai Refuge staff to be photographed with the Secretary in front of the Kenai Refuge’s Moose.  pc  Lisa Hupp/USFWS

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Meet the New Refuge Managers!

By:Poppy Benson, Friends Board Vice President

One holds dual citizenship and moved to Fairbanks from Amsterdam; one came to Alaska after googling “Duck Jobs”; the third’s passion is herpetology but his refuge only has one amphibian – the wood frog – and no reptiles.  Arctic, Selawik and the Koyukuk/Nowitna/Innoko complex all have new refuge managers, and their stories are fascinating.

Merben Cebrian has taken what has to be the most unusual and worldly path to Refuge Manager of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.  Not only does he hold dual US/Dutch citizenship and have a Dutch wife, but he grew up in the Philippines where he spent much of his childhood in nature.  The US Army took him to Africa, the Middle East and Fairbanks where he ended his military career and enrolled in the University of Alaska Fairbanks earning a wildlife biology degree.  Merben spent 20 years in Alaska as a wildlife biologist on the Tetlin Refuge and with the Bureau of Land Management in Fairbanks, Anchorage and Glenallen.  

Merben Cebrian, Arctic Refuge Manager with a tufted puffin chick on the Alaska Maritime Refuge where he took a seasonal job last summer as a “trial run” for a return to Alaska.
He left Alaska to become the Bureau of Indian Affairs Midwest regional biologist and program manager working with 36 federally recognized tribes.  This was challenging with intensive human-nature interactions in a highly political landscape.  The past few years he has lived with his family in the Netherlands working as a free-lance biologist.  But Alaska was on his mind.  So last summer Merben took a seasonal job on the Alaska Maritime Refuge as an opportunity to experience a new ecosystem, check out job possibilities and see how his family would do with him away. Arthur Kettle, his supervisor on that job, called him a “big thinker” and very diplomatic.  That is what Friends noted as well when we met with him in Fairbanks last month. Merben says he hopes his broad background will serve him well in dealing with the challenges and opportunities of the Arctic Refuge.
Yes, googling “Duck Jobs” and a passion for waterfowl hunting got Wil Wiese to Alaska even though neither Alaska or the Fish and Wildlife Service was on his radar.  His background of growing up hunting and fishing in Wisconsin, a biology degree and, most of all, lifelong experience running skiffs and fixing motors won him a volunteer waterfowl survey job in the Arctic.  He was smitten by the Arctic coastal plain, working in remote field camps and the village of Kaktovik and never left.   Wil was hired permanently by the  Arctic Refuge before becomingSelawik Refuge’s Deputy Refuge Manager and now Manager.  Wil switched from biology into management because, “I do like wildlife a lot but I actually like people a lot better.  Working with people and helping them come up with solutions to conflict is what really gets me excited.”
Wil Wiese, Selawik Refuge Manager, said “I love living as a guest of the Kikiktagrukmuit and being surrounded by Iñupiat Ilitqusiat (values). I’m welcomed by the respect, humility, generosity, and humor that abound, and admire the hard work and adaptability required of folks.”

Wil writes that Selawik Refuge in northwest Alaska is a place often overlooked by those seeking scenic vistas but he finds stunning beauty in the snow-covered, seemingly endless tundra, spruce blanketed Waring Mountains, and meandering bends of river and stream.  The best part of the refuge to him is in what it provides for the people who live in it and from it.  You can’t eat scenery, but you can eat from Selawik Refuge because its waters teem with sheefish, whitefish, pike, and salmon; the wetlands are thick with waterfowl, expanses of tundra are blanketed in berries, and caribou migrations flow across the landscape. You can hear more about Wil’s personal journey in a podcast My Life Wildlife.

_______________________________________________________________________________When I asked David Zabriskie, “What is a snake guy doing in Alaska?” he responded “Making money to fund my snake hunting trips!”   David has the most experience of the three with the National Wildlife Refuge System having begun his career as a student trainee at the Wheeler Refuge in Alabama, followed by refuges in Mississippi, on remote Pacific Islands, Tennessee, Alaska, and Arizona before returning to Alaska to work as the Deputy Manager and now Manager of the Koyukuk/Nowitna/Innoko Refuge Complex on the Yukon River.

David Zabriskie, Koyukuk/Nowitna/Innoko Refuge Manager on Johnston Atoll in the North Pacific where he was working at the time.

I also asked David what he liked most about his refuges and he replied, “These three refuges are in the heart of salmon country. These intact ecosystems support an amazing plant and wildlife diversity. The opportunity to work with the indigenous communities along the Yukon River on resource management is fulfilling.”  Managing three refuges, two of which are bigger than any refuge found in the Lower 48, is a daunting task.  Add to that David was the lead on the Alaska Region’s first plan for a Wild and Scenic River, the Comprehensive River Management Plan (CRMP) for the Nowitna River. I asked him what he saw as his biggest challenge and he said, “Besides limited staff and budgets, the biggest management challenges are climate change and food security for the subsistence users in this region.”

Congratulations to our new managers!  Friends look forward to working with you.

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Our Motto “Where we go, they go” Alaska’s Resource Protection K9 Teams

By Federal Wildlife Officers/Canine Handlers,                                                        Pete Harvey and Robert Barto

Alaska’s Resource Protection Teams: Patrol Captain/ Canine Handler Rob Barto with Eider and Senior Federal Wildlife Officer/ Canine Handler Pete Harvey with Togo. pc. Lisa Hupp

Imagine you are a Federal Wildlife Officer on a very busy National Wildlife Refuge. You just received a call from a concerned citizen stating they heard gunshots near a refuge lake while they were observing nesting migratory birds. The bird watcher stated they saw a huge flock of birds leave their nests as soon as the shots were fired. When the flock cleared, three birds lay motionless on the ground. It was not hunting season.

You respond to the area and try to locate the individuals responsible, but they are gone. So begins your investigation. The large lake is surrounded with high grasses. You follow a trail of flattened down grass to an area where it looks like someone had laid down. You search in vain through the grass to try and locate any shell casings or other evidence. Where do you go from here? 

You know that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has nine Resource Protection Canine Teams throughout the country, and one of the teams is located in your area. You call up the team and ask for their assistance. 

Eider ready to go to work,. pc: Lisa Hupp  

This is where Federal Wildlife Canine Togo or Eider and their handlers Peter Harvey and Rob Barto come in.  We are certified as Resource Protection Teams. This means Togo and Eider can detect illegally taken wildlife (currently certified in caribou, moose, brown bear and black bear detection), locate evidence of illegal activity (casings, knives, bullet fragments, etc.), track for missing persons, and help apprehend dangerous and violent offenders.  Togo and Eider are one of the very few K-9s in the world that are trained for wildlife detection AND handler/public protection. 

In this scenario, we would be able to use Togo and Eider’s unique ability to locate “articles” or “evidence” that has human odor. For instance, they would be able to locate any shotgun shells or rifle casings. Both canines are trained to perform a specific function that alerts us to when they have located evidence with human odor. Such evidence could be used in either our or other officer’s investigations.  

Both teams are based on the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge but work throughout the state.  In addition to the Kenai, the K9s have worked on the Yukon Delta and Tetlin Refuges and assisted the BLM during caribou hunting season along the Steese and Taylor highways.  They have participated in search and rescues and duck, moose and caribou hunter law enforcement. In one case with a happy ending, Pete got a call about a hunter harvesting a sub legal moose.  Togo was sent out and quickly found the car but the harvested moose turned out to be legal!  Both dogs live with their handlers in kennels but not as house pets.  

Federal Wildlife Canine Togo was born in the Czech Republic and came to Alaska after training in Pennsylvania. Togo and Pete got to work in August of 2022. Togo got his name from the famous dog team that carried lifesaving medicine to the town of Nome, Alaska, during the 1925 Serum Run. He enjoys being active outdoors, hiking, swimming and eating milk-bones.  Federal Wildlife Canine Eider is a four-year-old German Shepard and Belgian Malinois mix. He came from Belarus and was trained in Michigan in 2020.  Eider was the first FWS K9 certified for both wildlife detection and handler protection. 

Meet the Dogs

Do you want to see these dogs in action?  Come to our indoor/outdoor presentation at the  Kachemak Bay Shorebird  Festival in Homer, Saturday May 6, 2 pm for adults and 4:30 pm for Junior and Teen Birders.  You must register because space is limited, but you can do that online here.

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Few Moose, Few Wolves: What is the Story on the Yukon Flats Refuge? 1/17, 5pm-6pm (AKT)

Presented by Bryce Lake, Wildlife Biologist, Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge

Speaker Reception with Bryce and light refreshments: Morris Thompson Cultural Center, 101 Dunkel Street, Fairbanks, or join others at Alaska Maritime Refuge Islands & Ocean Visitor Center, 95 Sterling Hwy or Kenai Refuge Visitor Center, 33398 Ski Hill Road or Kodiak Refuge Visitor Center, 402 Center St.

Doors open at with light refreshment at 4:30pm, presentation begins at 5pm at all 4 locations!


Bryce Lake with sedated wolf after the radio collar was attached. His red coat was a deliberate choice so the helicopter capture crew could  easily find Bryce in the expansive landscape to deliver a wolf to him for collaring.

Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge is unique because wolves and moose occur there at some of the lowest densities in North America. With moose the only large prey available to wolves on the Yukon Flats, how does the low prey density change the wolves behavior?  Do wolves eat fewer moose when moose are scarce (wolf kill rate)?  How do wolves adapt to few prey (search behavior)?  Join Yukon Flats Wildlife Biologist Bryce Lake to hear his stories about his four years of field work trying to answer these questions.   He will share moose numbers, wolf numbers, and what he has learned about this unusual predator/prey situation.

Yukon Flats Refuge, a vast complex of wetlands, is the third largest refuge in the country.. pc: USFWS

Bryce Lake says the most rewarding aspect of his job is the inspiration he draws from interacting with and learning about the hidden ways of nature, some of which he will share in this talk. Bryce has been a wildlife biologist for the Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge since 2008.  He has broad experience in Alaska having spent 13 summers from 1998 to 2008 living in a tent and working as a field technician on the Copper River Delta, North Slope, Yukon Delta, and the Interior. He has had prior experience on other Alaska National Wildlife Refuges including Yukon Delta Refuge and as an intern at Kanuti Refuge. Bryce’s job as a wildlife biologist is to conduct biology to inform management decisions. This usually means aerial surveys to count wildlife, capture and radio collar birds and mammals, and band ducks. His latest experiment is using trail cameras to monitor furbearers, particularly lynx. You can read about surprising things that Bryce has discovered with his trail cameras in the Science Corner of our February 2021 issue of our newsletter. 

Bryce holds a master’s degree from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. His thesis focused on how early environment shapes the growth of goslings. In his spare time, he enjoys all things outdoors, usually fishing, camping, hunting, and hiking with his two dogs. He also enjoys watching a close hockey or football game. Bryce lives in Fairbanks.


Moose and wolf research takes place during the lovely but often brutally cold winter with temperatures frequently below zero. pc: USFWS

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    Chasing Eiders: My Summers in the High Arctic

    Please join us on Tuesday, October 15, 2019, 5-6pm (AKDT), for our Friends October membership meeting with featured guest speaker, Elyssa Watford.


    Want to hear an eider’s heartbeat?  Be taken along through ice and fog to the off-shore world of the barrier islands of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge?  Wonder what it would be like to live and work in a remote field camp on the edge of the Beaufort Sea?  Then join us, the Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuges, to hear Elyssa Watford share stories and stunning photos and videos of her three years of eider research on the barrier islands.  Elyssa, a PhD candidate at UAF, has been working with Common Eiders, North America’s largest duck, for three years.  The focus of her work has been the potential impacts of climate change on these special birds and their habitats.  Come learn about these birds and this important work and find out about volunteering and advocacy opportunities.

    Elyssa will be at the Fairbanks meeting; our other gatherings will join via Zoom Meetings. 

    • Fairbanks: Noel Wein Library, 1215 Cowles, reception at 4:30; meet at 5
    • Anchorage: Fish & Wildlife Service Regional Office, 1011 E. Tudor, gathering and snacks at 4:30, meet at 5 p.m.
    • Homer: Islands and Ocean Visitor Center, 95 Sterling Highway, meet at 5
    • Soldotna: Kenai National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center, Ski Hill Road, meet at 5

      If you can’t make it in person, join us by phone or by computer:

    • By phone:
      Dial-in number: 720-707-2699
      Meeting ID: 619 207 040
      (Press ‘#’ if you are asked for a participant ID)

    • By computer:
      Join Zoom Meeting
      (We are only using audio in this meeting; please join this meeting without video.)

    If you are joining us by phone or computer, please download Elyssa’s presentation and follow along:
    Download Presentation (PowerPoint .pptx)


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

    Speaker/Presentation (30-40 minutes) –
    Elyssa Watford
    Topic: Chasing Eiders 

    Next Meeting: Tuesday, January 21, 5-6pm Guest Speaker TBA
    Six meetings yearly: January, February, March, April, September, October


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    2019 September Membership Meeting

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

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

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

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

    Wildlife and Wildlands in These Trying Times

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

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

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

    PDF version:


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

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

    Next Meeting: Tuesday, October 15, 5-6pm Guest Speaker TBA
    Six meetings yearly: January, February, March, April, September, October

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    Alaska On Fire! (July 2019)

    by Poppy Benson, Outreach Coordinator

    Alaska is burning and so are Alaska’s National Wildlife Refuges.  Over one million acres in 400 separate fires are burning across the state.  Forty-five of these fires are on refuges with 200,000 acres aflame.  Almost every one of Alaska’s 16 refuges has had a fire with the majority of the fire activity on Kenai, Yukon Flats, and Arctic Refuges.  The largest refuge fire is the 100,000 acre Swan Lake Fire on the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.  This fire was started by lightning in early June in a limited fire management area. Firefighting efforts are concentrated on protecting the towns of Sterling and Cooper Landing, the highway, and HEAs power line while allowing the fire to burn in the wild part of the refuge.   Backfires lit along the Sterling Highway and on the western edge of the fire have been very successful in boxing in the fire and preventing it from spreading in the direction of Sterling. 

    A real benefit of this fire is that it is burning up heavy fuels which will make the towns and the refuge much safer for decades from the risk of a more catastrophic fire. Kenai Refuge biologists learned in earlier studies that black spruce burns about every 80 years, and it has been 80 years since this area last burned.  In the higher elevations, the fire is burning up spruce bark beetle-killed white spruce.  It is a fire-dependent landscape and will adapt.  Positive impacts on wildlife will come as the fire will alter the habitat to an earlier successional stage where “moose food” such as aspen and birch will sprout in the burned areas.  The fire has exhibited some extreme fire behavior burning in the tundra and riparian areas.  The negative impacts of that on wildlife are yet to be determined.  The biggest human impact from the fire has been the smoke which has been particularly hard on communities east of the refuge.  Numerous refuge trails, campgrounds, and public use cabins have been closed due to smoke and fire crews working in the area but none have been damaged so far.  The famed Swan Lake Canoe Route, just west of the fire, has also not been impacted.  

    Fire conditions have been extreme because a series of high-pressure domes parked on top of the Kenai Peninsula for weeks preventing rain, creating record temperatures, drying fuels and preventing smoke from rising into the high atmosphere.  According to USFWS Regional Fire Management Coordinator Doug Alexander, “I’ve been up here 10 years and I can’t believe how hot it is.  It is nearly 90 degrees every day on that fire.”   Record high temperatures have been recorded throughout the state with Anchorage hitting 90 degrees for the first time ever.  Fortunately, in just the last few days, the normal marine airflow has begun to return, giving firefighters a break by moderating fire behavior.  You can follow the progress of the Swan Lake fire here

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    2019 April Membership Meeting

    Please join us on Tuesday, April 16, 2019, 5-6pm, for the Friends membership meeting.

    In person: Homer (Alaska Maritime), Fairbanks (Watershed School, 4975 Decathlon), or Soldotna (Kenai NWR) Call in a few minutes before 5pm: (866) 556-2149, code :8169747#

    Guest Speaker Presentation: John Morton, Kenai National Wildlife Refuge –

    Effects of a Rapidly Warming Climate on the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge
    The Kenai Peninsula is one of the best-studied parts of the state for climate change effects and John Morton, a supervisory biologist for the Kenai Refuge,  has been a key part of that.  Managing the effects of rapid climate change on the 2 million-acre Kenai National Wildlife Refuge will be a challenge to its primary purpose of conserving natural diversity.  In 50 years, the treeline rose 50m in the Kenai Mountains, wetlands decreased 6-11% per decade, the Harding Icefield lost 5% in surface area and 21m in elevation, and available water declined 62%. Late summer canopy fires in spruce are being replaced by spring fires in bluejoint grasslands. Water temperatures in nonglacial streams already exceed physiological thresholds for salmon during July. Bird species are moving north and more than 130 exotic bird species have become established. Climate-envelope models portray a very different future landscape with alpine tundra replaced by forests and lower elevation forests replaced by hardwoods or possibly catastrophic deforestation.  How can the Refuge or any of the refuges manage for biodiversity under this scenario?

    Download Presentation


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

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    2019 March Membership Meeting

    Please join us on Tuesday, March 19, 2019, 5-6pm, for the Friends membership meeting.

    In person: Homer (Alaska Maritime) or Soldotna (Kenai NWR) Call in a few minutes before 5pm: (866) 556-2149, code :8169747#

    Guest Speaker Presentation: Ray Born– “Yukon Delta NWR – A Complex and Wonderful Place”

    Birds fill the skies of the watery vast world of the Yukon Delta. The 19.3 million acre refuge is the country’s most important shorebird nesting area. Add in a million ducks and half a million geese plus 40,000 loons and 100,000 swans and you can see why it is considered one of the world’s largest aggregations of nesting waterbirds. But it isn’t just about birds. The refuge is famous for trophy rainbow and salmon fishing since the Yukon, the Kuskokwim and their tributaries such as the Kisaralik flow through the refuge. Even muskox are found on Nunivak Island. The Delta is also noted for its thriving Native villages where the Yupik language and subsistence culture flourish. Come discover the Delta and learn what Refuge projects we Friends may be able to help with.   DOWNLOAD PRESENTATION


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

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