Category Archives: Featured Content

Celebrate USFWS Refuge Week This Weekend

Lisa Hupp/USFWS

The following press release is courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: 

Celebrate the great outdoors during National Wildlife Refuge Week, October 14-20, 2018. Abounding with wildlife from tiny warblers to half-ton bison, the National Wildlife Refuge System, managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, encompasses the natural heritage of America.

“Our public lands are our greatest treasures,” said U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke. “Public access to public land is a heritage we have passed down from one American generation to the next – from the contemporaries of Teddy Roosevelt to the outdoor enthusiasts of the modern day. With newly expanded public access across hundreds of thousands of acres within our Refuge System, I look forward to Americans of all ages enjoying recreation on our public lands in the years to come, whether that is hunting, fishing or wildlife watching. I encourage every American to get out and visit a nearby refuge.”

Sportsmen and sportswomen can celebrate with expanded hunting and fishing on refuges from coast to coast with new opportunities to pursue migratory birds, upland game and big game, as well as a range of fish species. Hunting, within specified limits, is permitted on 377 wildlife refuges. Fishing is allowed on 312 wildlife refuges.

“Reconnect with the great outdoors at a national wildlife refuge near you,” said Cynthia Martinez, Chief of the National Wildlife Refuge System. “National wildlife refuges are home to many wildlife species and are premier destinations for birding, wildlife hikes and drives, photography and much more.”

During National Wildlife Refuge Week, held annually during the second full week of October, refuges across the country host special events, festivals, tours and even volunteer opportunities to help wildlife and learn how refuges protect green spaces and improve communities. People of all ages enjoy refuges and the outdoor recreation opportunities they offer.

The Refuge System includes 567 national wildlife refuges and 38 wetland management districts covering more than 150 million acres of land and waters. More than 53 million Americans visit refuges every year. Refuges generate $2.4 billion per year and more than 35,000 jobs to regional economies. There is a refuge in every state and within an hour’s drive from most major metropolitan areas.

This year’s Refuge Week wraps up a year-long celebration of America’s rivers and trails, marking the 50th anniversaries of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act and National Trails System Act. More than 340,000 miles of river and over 2,100 miles of trails wind their way through the nation’s wildlife refuges.

Just in time for Refuge Week, a new Animal Planet TV series will debut highlighting two of Alaska’s premier national wildlife refuges — Kenai Refuge and Kodiak Refuge. The series, titled “Into Alaska,” will premier Monday, October 15, at 9 p.m. ET/PT. For the men and women of the Service, it’s a rewarding job to conserve these wild spaces and amazing wildlife.

 

Alaska Site Among EPA Pollution Funding Grants

The following press release is courtesy of the Environmental Protection Agency:

Seattle (October 16, 2018) – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently awarded $450,000 in pollution prevention grant funds to local projects in Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington.

“EPA supports and encourages Pollution Prevention through grant funding because it works,” said Chris Hladick, EPA Region 10 Administrator in Seattle. “Projects like these have demonstrated that we can reduce pollution and water use while saving energy, conserving raw materials and improving businesses’ bottom line.”

Pollution Prevention (P2) means reducing or eliminating pollutants from entering any waste stream or otherwise being released into the environment prior to recycling, treatment, or disposal.  All grant awards will support the delivery of P2 technical assistance and/or training for businesses, and the identification, development, documentation and sharing of P2 best management practices and innovations.

Here are some “snapshots” of interesting programs and projects that have been awarded two-year funding across the region:

In Idaho ($75,117) Idaho projects will provide technical assistance to businesses in Idaho in support of all three P2 National Emphasis Areas. The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality (IDEQ) will partner with Idaho Tech Help on a Lean Six Sigma “Green the Green Belt” course for food manufacturers, evaluate safer solvents, and provide outreach on choosing safer chemicals. Other outreach will include technical assistance to businesses to reduce the use of hazardous air pollutants in coatings, cleaners, and degreasers. (Contact: Ben Jarvis/208-373-0146)

In Alaska ($118,860)- The Knik Tribal Council Alaska will receive $118,860 to partner with the Alaska Forum to advance and sustain pollution prevention activities and source reduction efforts in Alaska. Technical assistance and training will be provided by the Green Star® Award and Certification Program. (Contact: Kurt Eilo/907-230-9805)

In Oregon ($99,539) – The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality’s Oregon Pollution Prevention (P2) and Toxics Reduction Program will use this funding to assist three pollution prevention projects that are already underway:

1) Partner with Oregon Sea Grant to deliver an internship program placing 14 paid students with businesses to conduct on-site P2 research;

2) Train Oregon agency staff and businesses on assessing and selecting safer alternatives and green chemistry approaches, and support regional chemical alternatives assessment pilot projects for priority chemicals and industry sectors through the Safer Chemical Alternatives Training and Assessment Pilots; and,

3) Design Phase I of a “Toxics Reduction Outreach Initiative for Metal Finishing, Coating and Manufacturing” program that will identify chemical and process alternatives and promote source reduction within the sector. The project will also target reductions in use and emissions of chemicals listed in 2014 Toxics Substances Control Act (TSCA) Work Plan and DEQ Toxics Strategy Focus chemicals. (Contact: Lisa Cox/503-229-5181)

In Washington ($157,284) – Washington Department of Ecology’s project provides training to businesses in multiple states on safer chemicals through an OSHA/Ecology collaboration. It will support the use of chemical hazard assessments in advising businesses and promote the use of Safer Choice products. Opportunities at businesses for pollution prevention will be identified during “kata” lean training and its implementation as well as during examination of a supply chain. (Contact: Ken Zarker/360-407-6724)

To learn more about EPA’s pollution prevention grants: https://www.epa.gov/p2/grant-programs-pollution-prevention

These Alaskans Will Stand For Salmon On Election Day

Local Alaska businesses have been on the crusade to pass the Salmon Habitat Initiative, which would provide better clarity pertaining to projects that may endanger salmon waters in the state. (LAKEVIEW OUTFITTERS)

The following appears in the October issue of Alaska Sporting Journal:

BY DAVE ATCHESON   

 Throughout history, salmon have been part of a David versus Goliath struggle, but unlike the biblical parable, the fish have mostly been on the losing end, first in Europe and later in the continental United States. Fortunately, Alaska continues as one of the few remaining strongholds of wild salmon left on the planet, thanks mostly to its remote location and due to a few key changes in law made at statehood. Many of us worry, however, that without proper protections and updates to antiquated laws, that all might change, and in a hurry. 

In recent years, for instance, we have seen the specter of the Chuitna coal mine and the Susitna River dam move forward, coming very close to reality. In fact, the biggest reason these projects did not forge ahead was due primarily to economic factors and had nothing to do with the destruction they would have wreaked upon invaluable and irreplaceable salmon habitat. If those developments had proceeded, along with the proposed Pebble mine, which is still very much in play, Alaska would have been well on its way to joining the Lower 48 and the rest of the world in hastening the demise of one of our most valuable renewable resources, our salmon.

That’s why 13 of us – an eclectic group of Alaskans made up of guides, commercial fishers and retired biologists – penned a proposal to the Alaska Board of Fisheries asking them to urge the legislature to update current habitat permitting, using scientific criteria to bring our laws into the 21st century. 

The board voted unanimously to support this, and as a result Rep. Louise Stutes put forth House Bill 199, designed to develop science-based, statutory standards for permitting decisions in anadromous fish habitat. Regrettably, there was no serious consideration of the bill by the legislature.

Fortunately, the state constitution gives Alaska residents an initiative process, by which citizens can use a vote of the people to take up issues the Legislature fails to address. That’s what Ballot Measure No. 1, the Salmon Habitat Initiative, is: A response by the citizens of Alaska, signed by more than 49,000 of them, asking for a fair and common-sense permitting system that protects our fisheries well into the future.

“There has been considerable pushback to the initiative, especially among large corporations that see protecting salmon habitat as a hindrance to some of their projects and to their profits,” author Dave Atcheson writes. (FLYOUT MEDIA)

CHANGE NEEDED 

As it stands, the current law is simply inadequate to assure suitable protection of our anadromous fish stocks. Written almost 60 years ago, it simply states, “The commissioner (of ADFG) shall issue a (habitat) permit unless the plans and specifications are insufficient for the proper protection of fish and game.” 

The problem is that this statute and its underlying regulations provide only this nebulous description with no defined parameters for what constitutes the proper protection of fish and game, with each administration interpreting it in its own way. What the Salmon Habitat Initiative does is it directs those within the Department of Fish and Game to define those parameters, using science-based standards – thus creating certainty in the permitting process – so every applicant will know what to expect and we can be assured that a robust permitting process will be employed for projects that threaten significant harm to salmon habitat. 

Under the initiative, habitat permits would be separated into those with “major” and “minor” impacts. Those in the minor category would be streamlined, while scrutiny would be increased for major projects such as the proposed Pebble Mine. 

It also allows ADFG to authorize blanket “general permits” by region for activities with comparatively little to no impact, such as ATV use, trails, and docks. The initiative also gives added voice to the people, with the inclusion of public notice and comment periods before ADFG issues a fish habitat permit that falls into the major category. 

The initiative would also cut down on the amount of public funds used in permitting by requiring project developers – not the state – to pay for the costs associated with gathering information for their fish habitat permits.

Alaska’s salmon fishing industry and local conservationists have come together during this fight, which includes the Pebble Mine project. (BRANDON HILL)

DIGGING IN FOR A FIGHT 

There has been considerable pushback to the initiative, especially among large corporations that see protecting salmon habitat as a hindrance to some of their projects and to their profits. Almost immediately a rather formidable group was created to counter the initiative. They dubbed themselves Stand for Alaska. They have been busy gathering funds from various corporate interests, including Donlin Gold, BP and Pebble. 

The Goliath in this battle, they have amassed more than $9 million by the time of this writing, with which they have launched an extensive advertising campaign, bombarding the airwaves and print media with what many see as fear mongering and outright distortions. 

One of Stand for Alaska’s biggest claims is that this initiative would shut down any and all development. It’s an incorrect assumption in any case, but one that should be completely put to bed since a recent Alaska Supreme Court decision concluded otherwise. 

The court, in allowing the ballot measure to go forward, removed two provisions it found were too restrictive on
ADFG’s ability to issue permits for projects having permanent impacts to salmon habitat. It ruled that the remainder of the initiative gave ADFG sufficient leeway to issue permits considering scientific standards and the public interest.  

 Even with these two provisions removed, those of us deep in the trenches in our fight for salmon believe this still represents significant progress in the effort to protect our dwindling natural resources. Among those taking up the grassroots effort to push the initiative forward, the Davids in this case are the likes of sportfishing business owners, tribal councils and commercial fishers. They stand alongside conservation groups such as Cook Inlet Keeper, the Wild Salmon Center and Trout Unlimited. These groups, working mostly on a shoestring budget with the support of local members, are doing their best to get the word out and counteract the juggernaut of advertising being put out by foes of the initiative.

 A CHANCE TO AVOID REPEATING HISTORY

When it comes down to it, the simple fact of the matter is this: If a company adjusts its development plan to address anadromous fish habitat, its project can go forward. This is the minimum we should expect so that Alaska doesn’t repeat the mistakes that have been all too common in Europe and the Lower 48. 

Bringing this law into the 21st century is just plain common sense and good policy. It’s the least we can do for our salmon, our children, and ourselves. I would urge everyone who’s voting on Nov. 6 to take a look at the initiative itself. 

For more info, go to standforsalmon
.org and savebristolbay.org. ASJ

Editor’s note: Dave Atcheson is with Trout Unlimited Alaska. He is also an author whose latest book is Dead Reckoning, Navigating a Life on the Last Frontier, Courting Tragedy on its High Seas. For more on the author, check out daveatcheson.com.

 

 

 

Op Ed: Board of Fisheries Should Act to Protect Wild Salmon Stocks

By Kevin Delaney

When the Alaska Board of Fisheries meets in Anchorage later this month, it can act to place the protection of wild stocks of salmon above expansion of hatchery production of pink salmon in the Gulf of Alaska.

The issue before the BOF is whether the expansion of hatchery production of pink salmon by the private, nonprofit hatcheries in Prince William Sound is in the best interest of the wild stocks of salmon or if the sheer magnitude of the hatchery releases and the documented straying poses a clear and present threat to other stocks and species. While these issues rarely come before the BOF, it has the authority to amend by regulation the number and source of salmon eggs taken for hatchery production.

State of Alaska law (Policy for management of sustainable salmon fisheries – 5 AAC 39.222) mandates that hatcheries shall operate without adversely affecting natural stocks of fish. The policy states that the effects and interactions of introduced or enhanced salmon stocks on wild salmon stocks should be assessed, and that wild salmon stocks and fisheries on those stocks should be protected from adverse impacts from artificial propagation and enhancement efforts.

The request before the BOF at its upcoming work session is to halt the currently permitted expansion of hatchery production of pink salmon. Nearly 800 million eggs are currently taken for incubation. The expansion at issue calls for an additional 20 million eggs. Halting this incremental expansion will have little effect on overall hatchery production of pink salmon or the economic value to the commercial fishery, but by halting the expansion, the BOF will be taking an important step forward, placing all parties on notice that the issue at play here is very important and needs to be addressed.

Pink salmon that showed up in streams across Lower Cook Inlet in 2017 weren’t all local stocks — in some streams, up to 70 percent were releases from PWS hatcheries. These PWS hatchery pink salmon were present in every Lower Cook Inlet stream sampled. Overall, PWS hatchery pinks composed 15 percent of the pink salmon escapement in LCI in 2017.

In addition to the straying issues, recent scientific publications (building on past published reports and internal Alaska Department of Fish and Game reviews) have provided cause for great concern over the biological impacts associated with continued release of very large numbers of hatchery salmon. Credible scientific speculation ties this year’s failure of runs of sockeye and chinook in places like the Copper River, Chignik and the Kenai to competition issues with the massive numbers of hatchery pink salmon in the marine environment.

Protection of wild stocks is job one for Alaska. The PWS hatcheries are vitally important to the commercial fishery in that region, but it is time to halt expansion of those hatcheries and take time to let the best available fishery science guide us forward. It is time for the burden of proof to shift from the state needing to prove that harm to wild stocks is occurring to those who propose significant changes to the ecosystem to show no harm.

The Alaska Board of Fisheries can and should take the first step to placing us on this path forward.

Kevin Delaney is the former director of the Sport Fish Division of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and is currently a fisheries consultant with Kenai River Sportfishing Association.

 

ADFG Releases Angler Survey Results

Photo by Tony Ensalaco

 

The following press release is courtesy of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game

(Anchorage) – Earlier this summer, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) surveyed resident and non-resident anglers about how well they understood and could access Alaska sport fishing regulations. The results of the survey were released this week after nearly 4,000 anglers participated in the online survey.  According to the survey results, a majority of people find the regulations at some level, complex and confusing. The survey results also included responses about how effective ADF&G is in communicating current regulations, and how easy the regulations are to find. Respondents also provided suggested methods that could be used by ADF&G to improve access to sport fishing regulations.

“We are extremely grateful to those who took the time to respond,” stated Division of Sport Fish Assistant Director Lisa Holt. “This feedback will be used to develop new methods to make accessing sport fishing information easier, especially if our regulations are keeping anglers from enjoying a day on the water.”

The report provides seven specific recommendations to ADF&G about how to help people better understand sport fishing regulations and identified preferences on how anglers want to receive information from ADF&G. Recommendations ranged from the development of a smartphone app that would provide location specific regulation information to anglers, to simplifying the regulations to make them easier to understand.

“The Division of Sport Fish leadership is committed to exploring each of these recommendations,” stated Holt. “Work is already underway based on many of the recommendations.”

You can review the DJ Case and Associates entire survey report on the ADF&G website. For further information, Lisa Holt can be reached at lisa.holt@alaska.gov or (907) 267-2330.

ADFG Confirms Largemouth Was Bass Pulled From Sand Lake

ADFG poster after an invasive bass was caught in Sand Lake, near Anchorage .

The following press release is courtesy of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game:

(Anchorage) – The Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G), Division of Sport Fish (division) recently received confirmation about the species of bass caught in Sand Lake in early September. Genetic testing conducted by the University of Alaska Fairbanks confirmed it to be a largemouth bass, which are not native to Alaska.

“Immediately following the discovery of the illegal introduction of a bass into Sand Lake, ADF&G staff began surveying the lake,” stated Fisheries Research Biologist Kristine Dunker. “We were concerned that there might be more bass, and potentially, a reproducing population of bass in the lake.”

After several days of surveying Sand Lake using various types of nets and traps, as well as, fishing with hook and line, no additional bass have been found. ADF&G has not received any additional reports of bass being caught from anglers. The division intends to continue to survey the lake over the coming weeks and months to ensure the lake is bass-free. ADF&G would like to remind everyone that introducing non-native fish into any Alaska waters is illegal and can be harmful to native stocks.

Largemouth bass are an aggressive predator and will eat a variety of prey. As adult fish, they are often the top predators in the lakes they inhabit. Because of this, bass have the capacity to change entire food webs, and potentially wipe out entire species within lakes they are illegally introduced.

Anglers are reminded to bring in any fish caught to local ADF&G offices that are not believed to be a native Alaska fish species. Anglers can also report any suspected non-native species by calling (877) INVASIV or (877) 468-2748 or by visiting the ADF&G Invasive Species Online Reporting webpage.

For more information, please read the October 2018 Alaska Fish and Wildlife News article “Why Non-Native Fish Introductions Can be a Pain in the Bass.”

Troopers Say Massachusetts Hunters On Unguided Moose Hunt Charged

ADFG photo

Disturbing news out of Alaska this week. Two hunters from Massachusetts were on an unguided hunt, and took two moose but apparently didn’t match up the antlers to the meat they brought back with the antlers.

Here’s more from KTVA TV:

The case against 42-year-old Matthew Kelley and 44-year-old Michael Dagilus was reported Sunday night by Renfro’s Alaskan Adventures, according to an online dispatch from Bethel-based Alaska Wildlife Troopers. The company had transported the men on an unguided moose hunt in the area, but told troopers they returned with “moose meat that didn’t match up with the antlers when picked up in the field.”

“Investigation indicated [Kelley] had taken a smaller bull moose on [Thursday] and then on [Sunday] took a larger bull moose, removing only the antlers from the second moose,” troopers wrote.
Troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters said the illegal moose kill occurred about 120 miles northwest of Bethel.

 

Here’s the full Alaska Widlife Troopers dispatch, including setting a future court date when the men will face charges of wanton waste of moose meat, take moose over the legal limit and other violations:

AK Wildlife Troopers

  • Date: 9/30/2018 11:31:26 PM

    AK18070982

    Location: Bethel
    Type: Wanton Waste – Moose

    Dispatch Text:

    On 9/30/18 at about 1845 hours, Bethel AWT received a report from Renfros Alaskan Adventures that two transported hunters who had been on an UN-guided hunt had moose meat that didn’t match up with the antlers when picked up in the field.  Investigation indicated  Matthew Kelley, 42 of Bolton MA had taken a smaller bull moose on 9/27/18 and then on 9/30/18 took a larger bull moose; removing only the antlers from the second moose.  Kelley was charged with Wanton Waste (moose), take moose over bag limit, unlawful possession and transportation, failing to affix big game locking tag and failure to validate moose harvest ticket.  His hunting partner, Michael Dagilus, 44 of Leyden MA was also charged with wanton waste in this crime.  Court was set on for October 1, 2018 in Bethel District Court.

    Bethel AWT thanks Renfro’s Alaskan Adventures for their professionalism and timely reporting of these crimes.

ADFG Kicking Off Pike Eradication Project On Tote Road

Photo by Mike Lunde

The following press release is courtesy of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game:

(Soldotna) – The Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G), Division of Sport Fish will be using a fish pesticide called rotenone from October 8 through October 12, 2018, about five miles south of the City of Soldotna to remove invasive pike. Rotenone will be applied to a group of eight lakes and connecting streams located in the Tote Road area. Pike are not native to Southcentral Alaska and were illegally introduced decades ago to multiple areas on the Kenai Peninsula and the result has been devastating to native fish species.

ADF&G staff carefully evaluated various eradication alternatives and sought public comment before the decisions was made to treat the waters with rotenone. This application will provide a safe, cost efficient, and permanent solution to remove pike from these waters.

“ADF&G would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge our appreciation to the many residents that have provided valuable insight, feedback, and understanding as we move forward with this important project to protect Kenai Peninsula fisheries,” stated Soldotna Fishery Biologist Rob Massengill.

Prior to the treatment, signs will be posted along nearby roads notifying the public when the work will begin and that access to these waters is prohibited while the rotenone is being applied. The rotenone is expected to remain active until spring when increasing sunlight and temperature will naturally degrade it. If post-treatment surveys indicate the eradication effort was successful, ADF&G will release wild native fish; rainbow trout, coho salmon, and threespine stickleback, into these waters during the summer of 2019.

For additional information about the Tote Road area pike eradication project, including an Environmental Assessment and related Finding of No Significant Impact, please visit the ADF&G Current Rotenone Projects in Alaska webpage.

For questions, please contact Soldotna Assistance Area Management Biologist Jenny Gates at (907) 262-9368.

Selling Moose Meat On Facebook? Only In Alaska; And Perhaps Illegal?

Moose meat for sale on Facebook? You probably wouldn’t see that too often, but it’s feasible to have it happen in rural areas of Alaska. A Bethel man could be in trouble for doing just that, though it is a slippery slope. Here’s more for Alaska’s KTOO Public Media via Bethel’s KYUK:

Last week, a post advertising moose meat popped up with a picture of what appeared to be one-gallon, plastic Ziploc bags, saying, “Moose meat and ribs $25 a bag. Text this phone number.”

Alaska Wildlife Trooper Walter Blajeski called the number and spoke with a man named Arnold Lupie. Lupie confirmed that, yes, he had posted the ad, but said that, no, he had not sold any meat. Blajeski issued Lupie a citation and an order to appear in court. The citation is a minor violation, equivalent to a traffic ticket. If Lupie had sold the meat, he could have received a misdemeanor charge.

“Now obviously, each situation is going to be somewhat different,” Blajeski explained. “The scale and size and scope of that operation will be taken into account.”

 

 

 

 

Separate Bear Incidents Leave One Dead, Another Critically Injured

Two separate bear incidents in the last few days, including one attack, left one man dead and another with life-threatening  injuries.

Two hunters on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson shot a bear along a ridge. When they went to retrieve the animal below a ridge, it didn’t go well. Here’s more from KTUU

The bear then rolled down the slope, dislodging rocks in the process. Troopers say McCormick was struck by both a rock and the falling bear. Tennyson was reportedly uninjured, but McCormick was hand carried to a LifeMed helicopter and transported to Anchorage Providence with life threatening injuries.

In Southeast Alaska, a mine contractor employee was reportedly killed in a bear attack.

Here’s KTUU again on this separate incident:

 

Alaska Wildlife Troopers have identified the contract employee who was reported dead in a bear mauling near the Greens Creek Mine in Southeast Alaska as Anthony David Montoya, 18 of Hollis, OK.

Troopers responded to the attack, which was reported at 8:44 a.m. Monday. They say Montoya was mauled by a sow and two cubs. All three bears were killed prior to Troopers arriving on scene.

Next of kin has been notified. Montoya’s body will be sent to the State Medical Examiner’s office for autopsy.