Kenai refuge winds up on conservation group's list of threatened sites

Posted: Monday, March 12, 2001

KENAI (AP) -- The Kenai National Wildlife Refuge has landed on the National Audubon Society's list of environmentally vulnerable sites.

The conservation group chose the refuge and nine others from 530 nationwide to illustrate critical threats to the refuge system.

''At Kenai, the threat is representative of a threat here, which is development,'' said Perry Plumart, director of federal relations for Audubon in Washington, D.C. ''Chugach Electric Association wants to put a power line through the heart of the refuge, and that fragments habitat for brown bears, which have been listed as a species of special concern by the state of Alaska.''

The Kenai entry in Audubon's ''Refuges in Crisis'' report -- posted this winter at on the Internet -- includes a paragraph about the powerline proposal, a photo of trumpeter swans and a photo of 55-gallon drums by a pit of oily waste.

''Kenai Refuge historically has been a stronghold for trumpeter swans, but habitat loss on the refuge puts them in greater jeopardy,'' the text reads.

Audubon's report says refuges nationwide face similar threats. But the refuge system is unable to deal with the dilemma as it faces a backlog of $1.6 billion in unmet operations and maintenance needs.''

''Hundreds of refuges have no staff and no visitor center, no signs, brochures or restrooms, no way to serve the public and few avenues through which to aid resident wildlife populations,'' according to the report.

Mike Dalton, Audubon assistant director in charge of refuges, said he can't think of a single federal refuge that meets its full capacity to protect wildlife. Plumart said refuges are chronically underfunded.

The Kenai refuge also was one of seven sites The Wilderness Society named last year in its Endangered Wildlands Watch List. The society cited the Chugach powerline proposal and added, ''Continuing oil and gas development in the refuge's Swanson River oil fields threatens the adjacent wilderness areas.''

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