Open post

Conserving the Whole Lifecycle of Salmon: Gravel to Gravel in Alaska


Tuesday, April 16, 5-6 pm AKDT

Presented by Boyd Blihovde
Senior Advisor for Conservation, USFWS Alaska

Friends Membership Meeting
ALL welcome!

Join us at the following locations:

  • Anchorage – LIVE at BP Energy Center, Spruce/Willow Room,1014 Energy Ct. Speaker reception begins at 4:30 with light refreshments.

  • Homer – Watch Party at Alaska Maritime Refuge Visitor Center (Islands & Ocean), 95 Sterling Hwy.

  • Soldotna – Watch Party at Kenai Refuge Visitor Center, 33398 Ski Hill Road

  • ZOOM link will be posted HERE before the event – join the meeting from anywhere

Salmon have been in trouble in western Alaska and for a long time.  The people of the rivers who depend on salmon for much of their food resources and cultural identity are hurting.  Boyd Blihovde, head of the Fish and Wildlife Service’s new Gravel to Gravel Initiative, will share with us this situation and his hopes for what this new approach will bring.  Boyd, then manager of the Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge,  was in the thick of it in 2022 when salmon conservation discussions reached a peak in the villages of Western Alaska and beyond.  Protecting Pacific Salmon’s entire lifecycle (from the spawning grounds to the ocean, and back to the spawning grounds) was not a new concept.  

Yukon River smokehouse.  Putting up salmon for the winter.  pc  S. Zuray

However, during several hearings and listening sessions with villages and tribes, it became clear that rebuilding salmon runs across Alaska was critical for indigenous people and other rural subsistence users. Leadership from the Department of Interior heard this message from the Tribes and responded with Gravel to Gravel.  It is one of nine “Keystone Initiatives” in the United States that are being prioritized by the Department of Interior to focus agency attention and resources on priority conservation issues. The primary goal of Gravel to Gravel is, through tribal engagement and participation, to restore salmon streams and ensure food security to subsistence users within the lower-Arctic, Yukon, and Kuskokwim region of Alaska and into Canada.   However, Boyd added that “we hope our efforts just bring back salmon numbers for everyone and all users.”  Our vision is: “With Tribes centered, we unite to care for salmon, from gravel to gravel.


Fish drying racks and fishing boats are a key part of life in the salmon dependent villages of western Alaska pc USFWS

Bio: Boyd Blihovde is the Senior Advisor for Conservation at the USFWS Regional Office in Anchorage. He was the Refuge Manager at the Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge based in Bethel, Alaska, from 2020 to August 2023. Prior to moving to Alaska, Boyd was the Refuge Manager at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, located in Los Fresnos, Texas.  He began his Service experience in 1989 as a GS-3, Youth Conservation Corp member at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge eventually moving on to the University of Central Florida, receiving a bachelor’s and master’s degree in biology.  Boyd studied and researched sea turtles on Archie Carr Refuge Canaveral National Seashore, and Puerto Rico and conducted research and wrote his thesis on the terrestrial behavior and site fidelity of gopher frogs.

More recently, Boyd and his wife Gisela have focused more attention on their twins (Ava and Taylor). Boyd writes “The kids have been a lot of fun and have changed our focus from work and self to family and fun.”




Open post

Three Amazing Rivers of the Central Yukon Watershed with Refuge Manager David Zabriskie

Friends Membership Meeting
This event was held on Tuesday, March 19, 5-6 pm AKDT



Friends joined us at the following locations: 
Homer
– Watch Party at Alaska Maritime Refuge Visitor Center, 95 Sterling Hwy.

Soldotna – Watch Party at Kenai Refuge Visitor Center on Ski Hill Road

Anchorage– Watch Party at BP Energy Center, Spruce/Willow Room,1014 Energy Ct.

Three wildlife-rich refuges along the central Yukon River are named after the rivers that define them – Koyukuk, Innoko and Nowitna.  Ecologically speaking, these rivers are the heart and lifeblood of the three National Wildlife Refuges.   They are also the primary access to the refuges for the people of the central Yukon and beyond. Refuge Manager David Zabriskie who is the manager for all three refuges, will share with us his work to protect the Nowitna River, a National Wild and Scenic River, and more broadly the role all three of these rivers play in the lives of the wildlife and the people of the Central Yukon River Watershed.  For a preview of this beautiful river David will be sharing with you, check out this two minute video.
 
The Nowitna River with the Kokrine Hills in the background.  pc: USFWS

David Zabriskie’s Bio: After working as a U.S. Navy Aviation Electronics Technician for four years, David pursued his passion for conservation, completing a bachelor’s and master’s degrees in wildlife/forestry and began his Fish and Wildlife Service career through the Student Career Experience Program at Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge in Alabama. From there, he gained valuable experience working in the diverse landscapes of Mississippi, remote Pacific Islands, Tennessee, Alaska, and Arizona before returning to Alaska to work in Galena as the Deputy Manager and now Refuge Manager.  


David Zabriskie on the Selawik Refuge

David’s travels have provided him with the opportunity to work with diverse partners and communities across the country on amazing rivers like the Tennessee River and Colorado River. He has also led the Alaska Region’s first Comprehensive River Management Plan for the Nowitna Wild and Scenic River. In his spare time, David’s interests in photography and herpetology often lead him to remote locations around the planet for new discoveries.




Open post

2/20/24 What We Think We Know: The Deep Past of the Ancient Unangan Aleut. With Archeologist and Author Debra Corbett

Tuesday, February 20, 5-6 pm AKT

Friends Membership Meeting, ALL welcome.
The Zoom Recording of this event can be viewed below.

We ALL thank you so much Debbie for sharing your experience and knowledge with ALL of us.  It was great! 

Since then, exploring and trying to understand the ancient human history of these islands has been an all-consuming passion.  Along the way I worked with amazing people and experienced transcendently beautiful land and seascapes. The past and old ways lie close to the surface if you listen. Ever so gradually we learned about the people, the culture and the rich history tied to this place.  I will talk about my experiences working in the islands for 30 years and hit some of the highlights of our research. 


Debbie Corbett photographing a site on Hawadax in 2001. pc WAAPP

For 9000 years people flourished in the Aleutian Archipelago, a 1000-mile chain of islands stretching from mainland America nearly to Asia.  The rich marine environment supported 40,000 people before the coming of the Russians compared to a scant 8000 today.  In spite of this long human history and complex and interesting social organizations of the ancient Unangax, very little archeological work was done in the Aleutians perhaps because of the remoteness or the weather.  Debbie’s work was pioneering, and she is considered the foremost Aleutian archaeologist today.  Most all of the Aleutians are in the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge.  

Debbie’s hot-off-the-presses book that she coauthored with Diane Hanson, Culture and Archaeology of the Ancestral Unangax/Aleut of the Aleutian Islands, Alaska, will be available for purchase and signing at the talk in Homer.  The book is available online from multiple sources. 


Biography by Debra Corbett

At age seven I decided I would be an archaeologist; no other option ever entered my mind.  I got my BA at the University of Arizona, and worked for a few years in Idaho and Arizona before heading north in 1983, to work for the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA).  The job was investigating historic sites claimed by the newly created Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, Native Corporations.

That summer BIA sent two crews to Adak Island.  Since I had actually been in a small boat, I was picked for one of the crews.  Of the 12 of us, ONE, not me, knew anything about the Aleutians and none of us had been there before.  My crew spent three months in a rat-infested cabin with an inflatable boat, in the Bay of Islands one of the most beautiful spots on earth.  I was completely enmeshed in the magic of the islands.

I worked for the BIA until 1989 then went on to get an MA in Fairbanks, studying–you guessed it–the Aleutian Islands.  One day my advisor approached me with a phone number on a scrap of paper and said “This crazy bird biologist in Kansas wants to find an Aleutian archaeologist.  Call him!” and my future was set.  After completing my degree, I went to work for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), largely because the agency manages the islands as part of the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge.  Unusual for any agency, FWS allowed me to participate in a multi-year research project with the crazy biologist, Dr. Douglas Causey, and some of his colleagues.  From 1997-2003 we were the Western Aleutians Archaeological and Paleobiological Project (WAAPP).  Along the way we experienced the best and the worst the Aleutians have to offer, shipwreck, injury, laughter, frustration, fear, transcendent joy, and unbelievable archaeology.  

In December 2012 I discovered I was eligible for retirement and left the best job in the world so I could spend more time doing research and writing on the prehistory of the Aleutian Islands.  Long time friend and colleague Diane Hanson here at University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA) talked me into writing a book on the prehistory of the Aleutians Islands.  We finished that book and here I am, to tell you all about 30 years in the Best Place in Alaska







Open post

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.




Open post

10/17 Membership Meeting: Waterfowl on the Yukon Delta

Tuesday, October 17, 5-6 pm AKDT, Randall Friendly, Waterfowl Biologist

This presentation was recorded; watch recording below.


Bethel – Randall, Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge Waterfowl Biologist, will be speaking live at the Refuge Visitor Center (across from the hospital) with potluck to follow. Bring your favorite dish to share.
Homer – Watch Party with snacks at Alaska Maritime’s Islands & Ocean Visitor Center
Soldotna – Watch Party at Kenai Refuge Visitor Center on Ski Hill Road
Kodiak – Watch Party at Kodiak Refuge Visitor Center

The vast, watery Yukon Delta Refuge nestles between Alaska’s largest rivers, the Yukon and the Kuskokwim Rivers, where the tundra meets the Bering Sea. At 19 million acres, Yukon Delta has edged out the Arctic Refuge as the largest wildlife refuge in the country. Its diversity of habitats supports one of the largest aggregations of waterbirds in the world.  Presenter Randall Friendly was raised on this land, went off to college and has recently returned as waterfowl biologist for the Yukon Delta Refuge. Let him show you his homeland and hear from him why waterfowl has so inspired him. He will talk about how and why the refuge manages waterfowl from banding programs with Cackling geese and Brant and capture-mark-recapture with Emperor geese.


Greater White-fronted Goose, Kigigak Island, Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge pc:  Kristine Sowl, USFWS

Biography by Randall Friendly.  I am from Tuntutuliak a Yupik village of about 800 people.  It is located along the Kuskokwim River on the Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge in western Alaska about 40 miles downriver from Bethel, the largest town on the Delta.  I grew up with a subsistence lifestyle of hunting and fishing with my family.  I found out I wanted to work with ducks and geese after my first season working as a technician for the US Fish and Wildlife Service working in remote places on the Yukon Delta. I saw how incredible it was to see the diversity of nesting birds like on Kigigak Island. Since then, I decided one day I wanted to continue working with waterfowl and learn more about them. With mentoring by ANSEP (Alaska Native Science & Engineering Program) I studied for my Bachelor’s at the University of Alaska Anchorage in biology.  I completed my Master’s from the University of Alaska Fairbanks this summer in wildlife biology.  My thesis was on threatened Spectacled Eiders and how their wintering conditions affect reproduction. While in college, I had a chance to work on Kodiak, and Arctic Refuges as well as Yukon Delta.  What I like most about my job is that I get to work with amazing people who are enthusiastic about wildlife and that I get to work outside of the office environment.

I recently moved to Bethel to work full time for the Yukon Delta Refuge as a waterfowl biologist.  I have been enjoying some family time after being away for college for quite some time. I like to spend time outdoors whether it is fishing, hunting, or gathering. Having moved to Bethel, I am looking forward to the opportunities to enjoy the outdoors with family and friends.

Read an interview with Randall about how the ANSEP program welcomed a boy from the village and helped him realize his dreams. And hear from Randall in this podcast about his hopes for his work, a chance to inspire others and his masters work on spectacled eiders. 




Open post

Walk for the Wild 2023, Across Alaska!

Let’s take a moment to celebrate the incredible Refuge Staff and Friends Volunteers that have taken action to help Wildlife Thrive in Alaska! AlaskaTeam16! held 4 LIVE events, drawing 130 participants, which were held in.

We also offered Virtual option for folks to Walk for the Wild wherever they were, along with a link to podcasts on our Refuges to be listened to while walking and folks from throughout the country did just that

We had a dream goal of $16,000… one day! We raised $1704 with help from the PLA Amplifier Fund. Our Team was 15th in the country! Those funds will be deposited into the Friends unrestricted funds for allocation to refuges in response to requests.

Walk for the Wild is a signature event of the NWRS Rebranding Campaign, a multi-year rebranding and activation campaign to invite new generations of Americans to fall in love  with America’s national wildlife refuges and increase private support for the National  Wildlife Refuge System and expand the demographics of Friends members and volunteers. PLAN on participating in 2024! 





Open post

February Advocacy Report: Looking forward, working hard

by David Raskin, Friends Board President

We continue to wait for the U.S. Senate to confirm Acting Director Martha Williams as the new Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). We expect that after her confirmation, the Executive Review Board will act to appoint a successor to Regional Director Greg Siekaniec who retired last August. We also hope that a Special Assistant for Alaska will be appointed soon..


Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

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 seems doomed after Senators Manchin and Sinema failed to support the bill passed by the House. We are hopeful that a compromise version will eventually be approved, and the Arctic Refuge lease repeal will remain in a revised version of the legislation. This may not occur before summer, if at all. In the meantime, USFWS and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) have begun the lengthy and expensive process of developing the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) required by order of the Secretary. This is an unfortunate waste of scarce resources if it is ultimately rendered moot by repeal of the leasing program. The Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority (AIDEA) filed suit to stop the process and was joined by the State. We anticipate that many conservation organizations will intervene on behalf of the government.

The threat to the Coastal Plain continues after the completion of the SF 299 application by Kaktovik Inupiat Corporation (KIC) for a winter right-of-way across the tundra in a wilderness study area. The validity of their claim that Kaktovik lands are an inholding without adequate and reasonable access must be decided by the Secretary in consultation with the Solicitor. If KIC prevails, there must be a notice of intent and a NEPA process. The significance of this effort by KIC is related to the Izembek application for a similar inholding right-of-way. If these questionable gambits succeed, it will make that process available for similar claims in other refuges and possibly all federal conservation units. That would be a disaster for all national conservation lands.

The contractor hired by the USFWS composed a draft of the results of its evaluation of the Kaktovik claim of historical vehicle use for subsistence activities in the Arctic Refuge tundra, including Wilderness study areas. However, they are waiting to receive additional evidence from the applicant to support their claim.
Award-winning Arctic Refuge Manager Steve Berendzen transfers on February 11 to manage a refuge complex in the Lower 48. He will be greatly missed for his outstanding work to protect the Arctic Refuge from the continuing threats of development and incursions into its pristine wilderness.

Izembek National Wildlife Refuge
There still is 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. We also await a final decision by USFWS regarding the State’s appeal of the denial of helicopter use in the designated Wilderness. The findings by the Acting Regional Director in Anchorage have been sent to Acting USFWS Director Martha Williams and then to the Assistant Secretary and the Deputy Secretary. A decision probably will not be issued until Martha Williams is confirmed but we expect that the State’s appeal will be denied. Also, we have no word on plans for the Secretary of the Interior’s visit to King Cove.

Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge
The comment period closed on the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) Draft Environmental Statement (DEIS) for the Lower Cook Inlet oil and gas development lease sale of approximately 1.09 million acres of seafloor from Kalgin Island in the north to Augustine Island in the south. The proposed developments would create drilling platforms and underwater pipelines, pose a high risk of oil spills, and greatly increase industrial transportation in Lower Cook Inlet that could seriously impact lands and wildlife.in the Maritime Refuge. We await the issuance of the EIS.

Other Refuges
We have no significant updates on Kenai Refuge regulations or Yukon Flats Refuge oil exploration in Doyon inholdings.

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.




Open post

January Advocacy Report: Changes that may make a difference

by David Raskin, Friends Board President

We hope that the U.S. Senate will vote this month to confirm Acting Director Martha Williams as the new Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). We expect that the Executive Review Board will act soon to appoint a successor to retired Regional Director Greg Siekaniec. During a productive meeting in Anchorage between representatives of national conservation organizations and Undersecretary Beaudreau, we expect that a Special Assistant for Alaska will be appointed soon.


Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

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 stalled after being passed by the House. This was caused by Senator Manchin’s refusal to support the House version. We are hopeful that a compromise version will eventually be approved, and the Arctic Refuge lease repeal will remain in a revised version of the legislation. In the meantime, USFWS and BLM must begin the lengthy and expensive process of developing the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) required by order of the Secretary. This will be an unfortunate waste of scarce resources if it is ultimately rendered moot by repeal of the leasing program.


There has been no development concerning the threat to the Coastal Plain posed by the SF 299 application by Kaktovik Inupiat Corporation (KIC) for a winter right-of-way across the tundra in a wilderness study area. The significance of this effort by KIC is related to the Izembek application for a similar inholding right-of-way. If these questionable gambits succeed, it will make that process available for similar claims in other refuges and possibly all federal conservation units. That would be a disaster for all national conservation lands.

The contractor hired by the USFWS continues its evaluation of the Kaktovik claim of historical vehicle use for subsistence activities in the Arctic Refuge tundra, including wilderness study areas.

Izembek National Wildlife Refuge
There still is 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. None of the parties asked for a stay, so we await further word from the Court. We also await a final decision by USFWS Acting Regional Director in Anchorage regarding the State’s appeal of the denial of helicopter use in the designated Wilderness, but we expect that the appeal will be denied.

Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge
The comment period closed on the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) Draft Environmental Statement (DEIS) for the Lower Cook Inlet oil and gas development lease sale of approximately 1.09 million acres of seafloor from Kalgin Island in the north to Augustine Island in the south. The proposed developments would create drilling platforms, underwater pipelines, and greatly increased industrial transportation in Lower Cook Inlet and pose a high risk of oil spills that could seriously impact lands and wildlife in the Maritime Refuge.

Other Refuges
We have no significant updates on Kenai Refuge regulations or Yukon Flats Refuge oil exploration in Doyon inholdings. 

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.




Open post

December Advocacy Report: Wildlife refuges are places where a majority of our nation’s animals find the habitat they need to survive.

by David Raskin, Friends Board President

The U.S. Senate held a confirmation hearing for Acting Director Martha Williams to become Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). We expect that she will be confirmed soon and will be a strong supporter of the Refuges. We still have no word on the possible successor to Regional Director Greg Siekaniec.  The Acting Regional Director is Karen Clark Cogswell, Brian Glaspell will become the Deputy Acting Regional Director, and Socheata Lor will become the Acting Regional Chief of Refuges 


Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
The Budget Reconciliation bill was passed by the House and includes repeal of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge oil and gas program and a buy-back of all existing leases: Section 20001 of Public Law 115–97 is repealed, and any leases issued pursuant to section 20001 of Public Law 115–97 are hereby canceled, and all payments related to the leases shall be returned to the lessee(s) within 30 days of enactment of this section. The legislation is now in the lengthy Senate process and may receive a final vote this year or possibly in January. We expect that the Arctic Refuge lease repeal will remain in the final version of the legislation. In the meantime, the BLM issued the scoping report for the Supplemental EIS on the leasing program. Significantly, the USFWS was elevated to co-manage the Supplemental EIS with BLM. This was a very positive development due to successful efforts by USFWS to play a major role regarding this proposed development on a national wildlife refuge managed by the USFWS! Hopefully, this process will be rendered moot after the Budget Reconciliation becomes law.

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 is waiting for KIC to provide additional information to complete their 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 all federal conservation units. That would be a disaster for all national conservation lands.

The contractor hired by the USFWS continues its evaluation of Kaktovik’s claim of historical vehicle use for subsistence activities in the Arctic Refuge tundra, including wilderness study areas. Since in-person interviews in Kaktovik must be held as part of the process, it is doubtful that the final report will be completed before next year.

Izembek National Wildlife Refuge
There still is 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. None of the parties asked for a stay, so we await further word from the Court. 
 
The State had appealed the decision by USFWS that denied the use of helicopters for the Special Use Permits for activities in designated Wilderness. No final decision has been announced by the USFWS Acting Regional Director in Anchorage, but we expect that the appeal will be denied. 

Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) issued the Draft Environmental Statement (DEIS) for the Lower Cook Inlet oil and gas development lease sale of approximately 1.09 million acres of seafloor from Kalgin Island in the north to Augustine Island in the south. The proposed developments would create drilling platforms, underwater pipelines, and greatly increased industrial transportation in Lower Cook Inlet and pose a high risk of oil spills which could seriously impact lands and wildlife in the Maritime Refuge. You can provide written comments at: boem.gov/ak258. Click HERE  for more information. The public comment period closes December 13.

Other Refuges
We have no significant updates on Kenai Refuge regulations or Yukon Flats Refuge oil exploration in Doyon inholdings.  The Yukon Delta Refuge closed hunting on the Mulchatna caribou herd, but there are abundant moose to support subsistence hunting. The State continues to monitor predation of the herd with regard to possible predator control in the Yukon Delta and Togiak Refuges. However, existing evidence indicates that predation is not the primary cause of recent declines in the caribou population.




Posts navigation

1 2