Two weeks ago this Saturday, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to speak with a new organization that is slowly taking shape here in Alaska. The group was meeting at our new Environmental Education Center and I was substituting for the refuge manager who had long-scheduled plans for that day. This group is in the beginning stages of forming the Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuges. These folks believe that, because of the size of the state and the generally small size of our cities and towns, a group associated with all the refuges in the state will be a more effective advocate than a few small groups. A representative from the Kenai Refuge Friends group was part of the gathering.
This group has 17 founding members from around the state, including representatives from Wisemen, Bethel, Unalaska, King Salmon, Anchorage, Soldotna and Homer. One member is currently in Colorado, but planning to be in Alaska soon. The unifying factor is their belief in the non-profit group’s basic mission: To promote the conservation of the natural resources of the Alaska national wildlife refuges. The president of the group is David Raskin of Homer, who is a retired professor.
I was a little overwhelmed at the goals they have set for themselves:
· Educate the public and decision makers on local, national, and international levels about Alaska’s national wildlife refuges;
· Develop and implement tools to facilitate communication among the Friends group network;
· Raise money for projects through grants and fund raising;
· Identify and prioritize specific refuge issues and needs annually;
· Seek new members to assist with projects, gain funds, and serve as advocates.
Two of the first things they want to do are to develop a brochure which explains their mission and increase their membership. They are hopeful that the brochure will be an effective outreach tool to make those memberships numbers grow. I know they would like to hear from anyone who shares their interest in Alaska’s national wildlife refuges; if that includes you, you can contact the group’s secretary, Penny Bauder, in Anchorage, via e-mail, at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Returning to that Saturday, I was asked to briefly provide the group some basic information about Kenai Refuge, including subjects that were currently on our radar screen. (I can get away with using that cliche, because I actually worked on the radar system in F4 Phantom jets when I was in the Air Force.) Well, after giving them the basic information size, acres of designated wilderness, most visitation of any Alaska refuge, miles of trails, campgrounds, combat fishing at the Russian River Ferry, etc. choosing a starting point for the remainder of my talk was certainly not an easy task.
However, after a little reflection, I decided to start with the fact that increasing development around the boundaries has to be the most critical issue influencing the management of the refuge. More roads and houses being constructed closer and closer will mean that what we refer to as the “urban interface” will increase. There are many things that come with those developments including potential ATV trespass, increasing domestic animal interactions with wildlife, the potential for introduction of invasive plant and animal species, and other factors.
The Kenai Peninsula population is growing, and that is generally not a bad thing. My hope is that as the population grows, Kenai Refuge will enjoy the attention of more friends who share the interests of the Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuges.
Bill Kent has been the supervisory park ranger at the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge since 1991. He and his family live in Sterling.
For more information on the Refuge or to view previous Refuge Notebook articles visit http://kenai.fws.gov/. You can check on new bird arrivals or report your bird sighting on the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge Birding Hotline at 262-2300.
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