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.
Arctic National Wildlife Refuge The House Natural Resources Committee marked up their portion of the Budget Reconciliation bill that includes repeal of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge oil and gas program and a buy-back of all existing leases. The language will now be merged into the full reconciliation bill and taken up by the full House. This successful effort was led by the excellent lobbying work by Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ARDC).
The comment period for the Notice of Intent of scoping for the Supplemental EIS (SEIS) is open until October 4, 2021. BLM is holding six virtual scoping meetings for the SEIS that will take place September 14, 15, and 16. If the reconciliation bill is enacted with the House language that terminates the Arctic drilling leases, this exercise will become moot. A new threat to the Coastal Plain emerged with an SF 299 application by Kaktovik Inupiat Corporation (KIC) for a winter right-of-way across the tundra in a wilderness study area. KIC claims to be an inholding according to provisions of ANILCA, like the claim made by King Cove for a road through the Izembek Wilderness. KIC had previously been granted an emergency permit to move school modules across the ice in winter, but this request is for an annual permit to move goods and supplies across land each year. Like King Cove, Kaktovik seems not to qualify as an inholding since it has marine access and other alternatives for the proposed uses. The Fish and WIldlife Service (FWS) review of their application must be completed by October 5 to determine the additional information that KIC will need to include to complete the application.
Izembek National Wildlife Refuge
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. Trustees for Alaska did an outstanding job of arguing our position. During this session, the Court suggested a possible stay of the proceedings until after Secretary of the Interior Haaland’s scheduled September 17 visit to King Cove. The Court was concerned that after her visit, the Secretary might take actions that would effectively resolve the lawsuit and waste the resources of the Court if the proceedings were not stayed. The plaintiffs indicated that we would not oppose a stay of the proceedings, but the Government and the State opposed a stay. However, on September 6, the Department of the Interior (DOI) announced that Secretary Haaland postponed her trip due to concerns about the high level of Covid-19 infections in Alaska. We have not heard how this latest development might influence the Court’s decision regarding a possible stay of the proceedings.
The Fish and Wildlife Servic (FWS) denied the use of helicopters to access the Izembek Wilderness in special use permits requested by the State Department of Transportation to inventory cultural resources and wetlands for the proposed Isthmus Road. The FWS issued permits that required access by foot, but the State has refused to sign the permits without helicopter access. We are very pleased that there will be no on-the-ground-activity this summer.
Sturgeon Decision There has been no further action following the Supreme Court decision in Sturgeon v. Frost, 139 S. Ct. (1066) 2019. Based on this ruling and ANILCA Sec. 103, the State of Alaska asserted primary jurisdiction over navigable waters on federal lands in Alaska.
Other Refuges We have no significant updates on Kenai Refuge regulations, Yukon Flats Refuge oil exploration in Doyon inholdings, the Mulchatna caribou her and possible predator control in Yukon Delta and Togiak Refuges, and the BLM Central Yukon Plan.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
. 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