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
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