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October Advocacy Report: when we know, we can act.

by David Raskin, Friends Board President

Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
The Budget Reconciliation bill includes repeal of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge oil and gas program and a buy-back of all existing leases. However, the reconciliation bill has been delayed due to negotiations with conservative senators and representatives over their objections about its size and timing and is expected to be taken up by the full House later this month. 
 
Extensive comments on the Notice of Intent of scoping for the Supplemental EIS (SEIS) were prepared by many organizations and experts and were organized and submitted by Trustees for Alaska. Friends and more than 20 other organizations signed on to the comments. The scoping report by the BLM is expected by the end of the year.
 
The threat to the Coastal Plain concerning the SF 299 application by Kaktovik Inupiat Corporation (KIC) for a winter right-of-way across the tundra in a wilderness study area continues. The USFWS reviewed their application and determined that KIC will need to provide additional information to complete their application. There will be a 30-day review period of an updated application. The significance of this effort by KIC is related to the Izembek application for a similar inholding right-of-way. Both claims of a surrounded inholding without access ignore the facts that Kaktovik and King Cove have marine access and other options. If these questionable gambits succeed, it will make that process available for similar claims in other refuges and possibly in national parks and all federal conservation units. That would be a disaster for all national conservation lands.
 
The contractor’s evaluation of the Kaktovik claim of historical vehicle use for subsistence activities in the Arctic Refuge tundra, including Wilderness study areas, is progressing and should be completed sometime in December. The decision will be made by the Arctic Refuge Manager.


Izembek National Wildlife Refuge
There has been no word from the Court since oral arguments were held before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on August 4 concerning the defendants’ appeal of our second successful lawsuit that stopped the illegal land transfer for the proposed road. However, on September 6, Department of the Interior (DOI) announced that Secretary of the Interior Haaland postponed her trip due to concerns about the high level of COVID-19 infections in Alaska, but we have not heard how this latest development might influence the Court’s decision regarding a possible stay of the proceedings. In the meantime, the State has appealed the decision by USFWS that denied the use of helicopters for the Special Use Permits for activities in designated Wilderness. The final decision will be made by the USFWS Acting Regional Director in Anchorage. We expect that the appeal will be denied. 

Other Refuges
We have no significant updates on Kenai refuge regulations, Yukon Flats refuge oil exploration in Doyon inholdings, the Mulchatna caribou herd and possible predator control in Yukon Delta and Togiak refuges, and the BLM Central Yukon Plan

Sturgeon Decision
We are unaware of further action following the Supreme Court decision in Sturgeon v. Frost, 139 S. Ct. (1066) 2019. Based on this ruling and Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) Sec. 103, the State of Alaska asserted primary jurisdiction over navigable waters on federal lands in Alaska.




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Tuesday October 19, 2021, 5pm AKDT

From Caribou Corrals to Seaplane Hangars: A Cultural Resources Overview of Alaska’s National Wildlife Refuges

 Tuesday, October 19, 2021, 5-6pm (AKDT) 
Jeremy Karchut,
Regional Archaeologist/Regional Historic Preservation Officer USFWS, Alaska Region

Webinar Recording 

Join us to discover the rich cultural and historic legacy of Alaska’s Refuges.  Jeremy Karchut will provide an overview of the refuges’ vast array of cultural resources representing 14,000 years of human history.  Sites range from those associated with the earliest humans to set foot in North America to mid-20th century aircraft hangars. Prehistoric archaeological sites in the Arctic, rock art on the Kodiak coast, historic cabins on the Kenai Peninsula, WWII battlefield sites in the Aleutians, and historic Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) facilities critical to the agency’s Alaska mission are some of the cultural resources to be highlighted in this talk.

The FWS recognizes cultural resources as fragile, irreplaceable assets with potential public and scientific uses, representing an important and integral part of the heritage of our Nation and descendant communities. It is FWS policy to identify, protect, and manage cultural resources located on refuge lands.  Jeremy will consider some of the challenges and rewards of managing these nonrenewable resources in an era of rapid environmental change and include highlights of key federal historic preservation legislation.

B-24D Liberator Bomber that crashed in 1942 on Atka Island, in what is now part of the Alaska Maritime NWR. Photo by Steve Hillebrand, USFWS.

Jeremy is the FWS Regional Archaeologist in Anchorage.  He is interested in high altitude and high latitude archaeology and for more than 20 years he’s been involved with projects focusing on the effects of climate change on archaeological resources and what archaeology can teach us about how humans adapted to environmental change in the past. Jeremy is a native of Colorado, having earned a BA in Anthropology from Fort Lewis College, Durango in 1998, and a MA in Archaeology and Ancient History from University of Leicester, UK in 2003. He has served as a federal archaeologist since 1995, including with the US Forest Service and the National Park Service in the US Southwest, Central and Southern Rocky Mountains, Great Plains, and 12 years in Alaska.



This presentation was recorded; view below.






 




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2021 Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival Recap

Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuges and Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge co-sponsored the 29th Annual Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival in Homer, Alaska, May 6-9, 2021.

Festival Coordinator’s Wrap Up  by Melanie Dufour  

The annual Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival, held on traditional Sugpiaq and Deni’ina lands in Homer, Alaska, happened in 2021 like never before.  It was my first year as Festival Coordinator, we, I especially, learned a lot!  I appreciate all those on the Shorebird Committee who supported me and let me lean on their years of experience.

This year the Festival was a hybrid, holding space for virtual speakers, workshops, and fun activities alongside new and old guided birding excursions, wildlife viewing, and kayaking tours– offered for people of all ages and abilities. The locations of these events ranged from the head of Kachemak Bay to Lake Clark, and along the river and ridges of our community.

And of course, the birds arrived as did the people! At least 17 different species of birds were spotted, including the Ruddy Turnstone which was chosen as this year’s bird of the festival.  

The Festival Artist Oceana Wills, and our community volunteer artists who gave their time painting a 6”x6” canvas for the Art & Adventure Auction, added beauty. Every single tour operator, guide, and organization that partnered with us, as well as the generous donors and businesses in our community, ALL gave so much to ensure a welcoming, safe, and memorable experience that will no doubt draw people back when the shorebirds make their stopover next May. 

This 29th Annual Festival was like no other. We are all looking forward to the 30th Annual Festival to be held May 4th -8th 2022 where along with the ‘feet on a trail, boat on the water explorations, and fun’ of this year, we hope to add sitting together in a room, applauding our speakers, sharing that perfect frame in our binocs– and our smiles!– while still livestreaming all of it across the world. 

The Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuges continues to be a great sponsor with continuous support of the Festival and the Coordinator role in this year of transitioning coordinators.  The AK Friends work well in partnership with US Fish and Wildlife Service’s Maritime National WIldlife Refuge. We look forward to many more Festivals to come in the future.

 




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Meetings are BACK! Tuesday September 21, 2021, 5pm AKDT

Surveying the Unknown: Invasive Species in the Northern Refuges

 



Tuesday, September 21, 2021, 5-6pm (AKDT) 
Lisa Dlugolecki,
Fish & Wildlife Service Northern Refuges Invasive Species Program

Webinar details

From weed pulls to gelding feral horses, Friends have been concerned and involved in invasive species on Alaska Refuges.  We continue that involvement with Lisa Dlugolecki sharing her results and thoughts from this summer’s field work surveying several northern wildlife Refuges for invasive species. Refuges in northern Alaska have been traditionally spared from invasive species, but the risk of introduction is increasing. This is especially true for Refuges along or downstream from the road systems. Consistent surveying for invasive species has also been challenging in this region because of the large land mass and unavailability of staff resources. From Kanuti Refuge to Tetlin Refuge, Lisa’s team conducted road surveys looking for invasive plants such as white sweet clover. Some findings included finding white sweet clover growing along the Dalton Highway, but finding none growing on the gravel bars in the surrounding waterways.  Friends volunteered for many years eradicating white sweet clover along the Dalton in the hopes of preventing its spread downstream into the refuges.  Join us on Zoom to hear the latest on what else she discovered and what her thoughts are on the future of invasive species management on northern refuges.


(pc: USFWS)

Lisa Dlugolecki is the “North Region Early Detection Rapid Response Project Manager Alaska” for the Fish and Wildlife Service.  She is based out of Fairbanks. Lisa has worked across the country in wildlife and habitat management.  She began working full time for Fish and Wildlife Service in 2015 in invasive species management and habitat restoration. Before moving to Alaska to continue her work in invasive species management, Lisa worked in Idaho on Endangered Species Act consultations.

 

OR:
Join by phone:

Dial(for higher quality, dial a number based on your current location):
US: +1 253 215 8782 or +1 346 248 7799 or +1 669 900 6833 or +1 301 715 8592 or +1 312 626 6799 or +1 929 205 6099
Webinar ID: 848 4313 9530
Passcode: 018201
International numbers available: https://zoom.us/u/aBX3IPxrw

Download PowerPoint presentation




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Summer Pause on Meetings & Newsletters

Membership Meetings & Newsletters   
Our monthly meet-ups and newsletters provide unique opportunities for us all to listen, learn, and speak up about important and fun happenings on Alaska’s 16 Wildlife Refuges.

We’ll be taking a pause for the summer, so look forward to a July/August Newsletter and set a reminder for 9/21/2021 when we’ll all meet again for our membership meeting!

pc: After a long winter of feeding on tree bark, the North American porcupine (Iluqtaq) is on the search for nutrient rich food sources. In addition to fresh leaves and buds, you may notice chew marks from porcupines on antlers, bones, glued plywood and even paint.  What summer meal are you looking forward to?   Photo of porcupine eating fresh green leaves by Moosealope FlickrCC/Selawik NWR




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Membership Meeting, Tuesday, April 20, 2021, 5pm AKDT

Insight into Izembek:  From Unangax Culture to the Incredible Wildlife of its Magnificent Lagoons    

Tuesday, April 20, 2021, 5-6pm (AKDT) 
Patrick Magrath, Izembek National Wildlife Refuge

Recorded Meeting Video

If you love gigantic bears, clouds of migrating birds filling the skies, waves of salmon running up the rivers and truly wild conditions — then you will love Izembek Refuge.   Patrick Magrath will give you a whirlwind tour of the anthropological history, biodiversity, and significance of Izembek’s magnificent lagoons with their extensive eelgrass meadows. In addition, long time Arctic nesting waterfowl researcher, David Ward, will contribute to this presentation. Most of the world’s population of Pacific Black Brant as well as Steller’s Eiders, Emperor Geese and Cackling Geese visit these lagoons during migration.   Located in Southwest Alaska, it is the smallest of the National Wildlife Refuges in Alaska but mighty in terms of sheer numbers of birds and species diversity.  It was the first area in the US to be recognized as a Wetland of International Importance by the Ramsar Convention and was designated as a Globally Important Bird Area by the National Audubon Society.

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Brown Bear at Grant Point, Izembek Refuge, pc Kristine Sowl/USFWS

Patrick Magrath grew up outside the nation’s capital.  He would get in trouble for skipping classes to hike in solitude and visit the National Zoo.  Where traditional studies were lacking, Patrick found his education being supplemented by nature and museums.  He gained a footing in public lands through the conservation corps with the Forest Service in central Idaho in 2013.  Since then, he has worked at: 6 National Parks, 2 National Monuments, and 1 other National Forest, all before arriving at Izembek for the Fish & Wildlife Service.  His esotericism includes art, wilderness, ruins, and international cuisine.  Good wine, good cheese, and a great conversation make for an entertaining night for Patrick and his far better half Kayleigh.   Patrick lives in Cold Bay, Alaska headquarters for the Izembek Refuge.
 
David Ward recently retired as a research wildlife biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey- Alaska Science Center.  During his 33 year career, he led an international research program on the population ecology of arctic-nesting waterfowl and their use of coastal habitats, principally seagrass ecosystems.  He has authored numerous papers on the waterfowl and eelgrass habitats of Izembek Refuge.  

Pacific Black Brant in Izembek Lagoon, pc Kristine Sowl/USFWS


This meeting and presentation was recorded.







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Membership Meeting, Tuesday, March 16, 2021, 5pm AKT

Wild, Outstanding, and Remarkable: Meet the Seven Wild and Scenic Rivers Flowing on Alaska’s National Wildlife Refuges    

Tuesday, March 16, 2021, 5-6pm (AKDT) 
Jennifer Reed, Arctic Refuge and FWS Wild and Scenic Rivers Program Lead

Recorded meeting below

Jennifer Reed of the Arctic Refuge will bring you on an unforgettable adventure exploring each of these distinct and thriving waterways.  While Alaska’s Refuges TEEM with countless amazing rivers, the rivers Congress deemed superlative and distinct within the Alaska  Refuges include:  Andreafsky (Yukon Delta); Beaver Creek (Yukon Flats); Ivishak, Sheenjek, and Wind (Arctic Refuge); Nowitna (Nowitna Refuge); and Selawik (Selawik Refuge).  Some are great salmon highways; others host more northern species like grayling and sheefish.  Some are corridors for vast caribou migrations and all furnish important riparian habitat and travel routes for waterfowl, songbirds, furbearers and all grazing species.  People have used them as transportation corridors and food sources for millennia,  since they are within the homelands of Alaska’s indigenous peoples. Subsistence users have now been joined by  adventurers and fisherfolk seeking solitude and the joy of rivers.

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Sheenjek Wild and Scenic River, Arctic Refuge (USFWS/A. Bonogofsky)

Jennifer Reed is the national and regional Fish and Wildlife Service lead for the Wild and Scenic Rivers Program.  She has lived between the Alaska Range and the Brooks Range since finishing college and leaving Detroit for her first Alaska job as a Denali Park Ranger.  She taught school for 8 years, part of the time on Nelson Island, before developing a federal career focused on connecting people with their public lands.  Jennifer confessed that she was not initially a rivers person beginning her  love affair with landscape-meets-human as a backpacker. Dog mushing and hiking are more natural to her but she became a boater because of her dedication to relating to the visitors to the Arctic Refuge. Since then she has boated most of the major rivers in the West.  Jennifer lives in Fairbanks. 



View Recorded Meeting:





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Membership Meeting, Tuesday, February 23, 2021, 5pm AKT, 6pm PT

Vets, Kids and Fly Fishing;
Finding Healing and Leadership in Wild Places    

Tuesday, February 23, 2021, 5-6pm (AKDT)
Friends monthly meeting with guest speaker, Chad Brown of Soul River Inc.

Recorded meeting video

Navy Veteran Chad Brown was homeless and medicated for PTSD when he discovered fly fishing and the healing power of rivers.  Brown said that the first tug on his line from his first fish was like a bolt of nature’s electricity bringing him back to life.  He founded Soul River, Inc. to share what rivers and fishing had done for him.  He pairs vets and inner city kids  on “deployments” to wild rivers including several trips to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.  Amid the grandeur of the Refuge, the vets found purpose as mentors and the youth flourished in this new world of nature, adventure and fishing.  

Brown will share with us his story, the success of Soul River and how his mission has grown into protecting the Arctic Refuge and being of service to Native  communities.  He will tell us about his new non-profit, Love is King, which is dedicated to creating equitable and safe access to the outdoors for people of color.

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Chad Brown grew up in Texas hunting and spending time on his grandparents farm.  He joined the Navy to get the GI Bill and served in Desert Storm, Desert Shield and Restore Hope Somalia.   After the military, he earned a Master of Science in Communications Design and had a successful career as an art director and  photographer before his PTSD caught up with him and brought him down.  After fishing and rivers and the VA healed him he started Soul River as well as serving as creative director of Chado Communication Design and Soul River Studios.  Besides being an avid fly fisherman he is a bow hunter, outdoor adventurer and conservationist. 

Brown is a Board member of the National Wildlife Refuge Association. He has been featured on BBC, CBS, as well as in national publications such as Outside Magazine and The Drake, and in various Pacific Northwest publications. Additionally, Brown was the first recipient of the Breaking Barriers Award Presented by Orvis, as well as the Bending Toward Justice Award from Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley. Chad Brown resides in Portland, Oregon.

Soul River videos



This meeting was recorded; watch below:




Chad Brown pc: Corey Arnold




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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: