Refuges in the Time of Covid 19

Like for all of us, things are changing fast and refuge staff are unable to predict what happens next.  All visitor centers and offices are closed and most staff are working from home.  Staff necessary for health and safety, such as law enforcement on the Kenai Refuge, are still out and about on the refuge.  Check individual refuge web pages for information on how to contact staff.  Events, most notably the Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival, are canceled but some events are still on the books for May although that may change soon.  The spring environmental education season is canceled, and all schools statewide are closed, but some refuges have stepped up to the plate with virtual field trips (see Happening on a Refuge Near You).  Announcements will be out soon as to any closures of refuges’ summer stewardship camps.  Most refuges have not yet decided if field work can happen this summer.  The Alaska Maritime has postponed the sailing of the M/V Tiglax until at least June.  
The good news is that refuge land and trails are still open to the public as long as you can and will follow the guidelines issued by the State of Alaska for travel between communities and CDC guidelines on social distancing.  Many trails on the Kenai Refuge, however, are closed due to damage and hazard trees from the Swan Lake Fire.  Some of these trails aren’t marked as closed yet, so check with the refuge.  The cabins on the Kenai Refuge are open for cabin rental if you can do so within the state guidelines for travel. Campgrounds on the Kenai Refuge are also open with very limited maintenance.  You are advised to bring your own toilet paper!

The refuges are very concerned about the health of the local communities and respect the over 125 orders and resolutions from local governments and tribal organizations concerning traveling and visiting their areas.  This is not the time to fly to Bethel for some early fishing or river floating.  We are all very lucky to have these big vast expanses of public land to use and enjoy while isolating ourselves, but please check with your local refuge to see what their specific regulations might be. All the refuge websites can be found here.
Needless to say, all Friends volunteer projects are on hold until we find out what events and field work projects will still happen.  You can check out what was planned on our volunteer page here.  If you are interested in a project, contact our volunteer coordinator, Betty Siegel, so she can keep you apprised of whether the project is a go or no go.  Her contact information is on the volunteer page.
This is a good time to connect with refuges on Facebook.  Some are putting up a lot of interesting new content from videos to bird ID games, to virtual presentations.  Each refuge has their own Facebook page so search for them by name.  
Be safe.  Respect the safety of the local communities, and know that migration isn’t cancelled.  The birds will come, and the fish will return, and we will be out on our beloved refuges again.