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Managing for Climate Change. National Wildlife Refuges in Alaska. Danielle Jerry, USFWS-AK. 16 refuges Over 76 million acres (82% of the Refuge System, and 18% of Alaska) 18.5 million acres of Wilderness in 10 Alaska Refuges. ANILCA’s 4 Basic Purposes for Alaska Refuges.

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Managing for Climate Change

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Managing for Climate Change

National Wildlife Refuges in Alaska

Danielle Jerry, USFWS-AK


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  • 16 refuges

  • Over 76 million acres

  • (82% of the Refuge System,

  • and 18% of Alaska)

  • 18.5 million acres of Wilderness

  • in 10 Alaska Refuges


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ANILCA’s 4 Basic Purposes for Alaska Refuges

“(i) Conserve fish and wildlife populations

and habitats in their natural diversity…;

(ii) Fulfill the international treaty obligations ... with respect to fish and wildlife and their habitats;

  • (iii) Provide … consistent with the purposes…

    • (i) and (ii), the opportunity of continued subsistence uses by local residents;

(iv) Ensure water quality and necessary water

quantity within the refuge.”


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Inventory and monitoring of climate effects on refuges --

  • Develop/revise Refuge I & M plans – emphasis on ecosystem priorities.

  • Starting Regional I & M plan to set regional priorities.

  • Snow depth markers/ Automated weather stations

  • Stream flow data collection

  • Traditional wildlife monitoring – e.g., waterfowl, moose,

  • Kenai Refuge Long Term Ecological Monitoring Program -- effects of abiotic and biotic factors on species distribution.


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Research on climate effects on Refuges

  • Alaska Maritime Refuge – SE Bering Sea carrying capacity

  • Innoko Refuge – Studying effects of changing water levels

    on white- fronted geese.

  • Koyukuk Refuge – Climate change effects on subsistence

    species (UAF-Chapin)

  • Kanuti Refuge – Fire effects on sensitive plant

    communities (lichens and sage steppe).

  • Yukon Flats Refuge – Studied changes in water surface &

    quality, and invertebrate abundance in wetlands from

    1984-2003.


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More management under the Endangered Species Act as listings in Alaska increase and causes of decline obscure.


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As AK species petitioned for listing grow…recovery actions become globally political, and past successes seem inherently easier.


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Managing change in fire regimes --

1) Frequency and location– lightning strikes in new areas, season duration

2) Severity – drier, wildland/urban/rural interface expands, smoke

3) Habitat Effects – drier, more grass, insects, less permafrost

Larger seasonal fire program

More fuels management; prevention outreach; and agency coordination

Manage for wildland fire use;

Research and monitoring


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Existing regulatory bodies will address the

challenges of climate change on subsistence.

1) Change in abundance and harvest patterns of fish and wildlife resources.

2) Melting sea ice-- limits harvest of marine mammals and increase danger.

3) Disproportionate impact on subsistence users of changes in salmon populations.

  • Federal Subsistence Management per ANILCA;

  • Alaska Migratory Bird Co-management Council.

  • Marine Mammal Co-Management Commissions;

  • Endangered Species Act regulations.

  • Federal Subsistence Management per ANILCA;

  • Magnusson/Stevens Act;

  • State Fisheries management.


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Water Resources Challenges

  • Absence of baseline hydrologic data

  • Integrating science, management and law of water resources to ensure refuge needs are protected

  • Integrating Federal mandates State law

  • Education

    • Water is not a renewable resource

    • Water rights are property rights

    • Functioning Ecosystems are good for wildlife and the local economy


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“To preserve in their natural state extensive unaltered arctic tundra, boreal forest, and coastal rainforest ecosystems…”

  • The ANILCA advantage

  • For conservation, geography and size matter


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