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DCC files Agenda Change Request to introduce wolf buffer at 2016 Board of Game meeting

July 17, 2015

We urge our members to support this Agenda Change Request also (see below for how)

Background:
Recent declines in the population of wolves who den and raise pups inside Denali National Park, and are often seen in the park, have caused concern in the local community, increased the support for buffers throughout the state and NPS itself, and have fueled controversy on how this can be achieved.

In 2010, the National Park Service introduced a proposal at the Alaska Board of Game Interior Region meeting in Fairbanks that would retain existing closed areas and add lands in the Wolf Townships, based on data showing that wolves often range into these specific lands and have specific vulnerability there.

Map of possible "no wolf take" area

Map of possible “no wolf take” area  .  .  .

Unfortunately the Board of Game, at that time, allowed all wolf buffers to sunset and placed a moratorium on discussion of this topic until 2016. During the interim, as wolf numbers and viewability have continued to decline, emergency petitions and requests for closures have been the only tools available. Recently, when in 2015 three wolves from Denali’s East Fork Pack suffered losses through hunting and trapping activities, the Commissioner of the Department of Fish and Game issued an Emergency Order closing the last two weeks of hunting season.

Because the moratorium on discussion wolf hunting/trapping buffers will expire in 2016, we consider it imperative to file a Board of Game proposal in 2016. However, recent changes in Board of Game process have bumped the 2016 Interior Region meeting to 2017, making it almost two years before this critical issue can be addressed in a normal Board of Game process.

Our Response: An Agenda Change Request
The response of the Denali Citizens Council and the Alaska Wildlife Alliance has been to make every effort to get a buffer proposal onto the Board of Game’s March 2016 meeting schedule. Because the March 2016 meeting is not specific to the Interior Region (Region III), we can only introduce a proposal onto the agenda by using an Agenda Change Request, which we filed in late June. This ACR will be considered by the Board of Game in a special teleconference on August 7, 2015. You may view the ACR at the link
ACR for No wolf-take proposal 2016. To view the agenda for the entire meeting, click here.

 

We urge you to send comments supporting this ACR (#7). Due July 30, 5 pm

Go to the Board of Game website at http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=gameboard.main.  Click the button in the middle of this page to submit comments.  You will be commenting on ACR #7 for the August 7th Board Teleconference.  You may fax comments to 907-459-6094.

Note that ADF&G is asking that comments be confined to reasons why the Agenda Change should be accepted. Unfortunately the reasons are narrowly construed – a conservation concern, a change in regulations or an error in regulations.

Ideas for your comments:
Grant ACR #7 (Denali Wolf buffer zone) for the following reasons –

  1. Public policy: The moratorium on consideration of wolf buffers from 2010 to 2016 was not good public policy. Adding another year onto this moratorium, in a climate of intense public interest, disrespects public discourse.
    (A large number of Alaskans are concerned about the Board of Game’s avoidance of an issue that is important to them. Many of these Alaskans submitted comments on the recent Emergency Petition and the requests for Emergency Closure in May. It was truly an unforeseen change when the Board delayed an expected 2016 interior region meeting where, for the first time in five years, a buffer proposal could be heard.)
  2. Public policy: A viewability study specifically requested by the Board of Game has recently been completed. The Board of Game should hear the results of this study as soon as possible, since it was the Board of Game that asked for the study.
  3. Conservation: The overall population health of wolves in GMU 20 does not mean that a subunit-level conservation issue does not exist. We do not understand the Department’s insistence on a region-wide interpretation of population health here. The data from GMU 20C are not indicative of wolf population health.
  4. Impact of hunting/trapping: The fact that habitat and prey may be limiting numbers of wolves in 20C to densities near the lower management limit argues for considering stressors that can be controlled, such as hunting and trapping.
  5. Impact of hunting/trapping: Although, from the numbers standpoint, human harvest of wolves in areas northeast of Denali National Park is low, the loss of just one wolf can disrupt the pack, if breeders are taken. This has been shown in a recent study. Since hunting season moves through the entire breeding season and into the denning season, breeders can be and have been taken.

 

 

 

 

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Wolf hunting on state lands next to Denali closed by Emergency Order – what’s next for Denali wolves?

July 11, 2015

NPS photo

NPS photo

After three deaths of Denali’s East Fork Pack wolves this spring, all caused by human activities on state lands next to Denali, DCC members and others called for an Emergency Closure of these lands to wolf hunting for the rest of the season, May 31st in Game Management Unit 20C. On May 14th, the Director of the Alaska Division of Wildlife Conservation, Bruce Dale, signed an order to establish the closure.

While we are certain that the abundant public request for this closure influenced the decision, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game assured us that our arguments were not convincing and that the decision was made for a very specific and narrow reason – the unforeseen consequence of recently adopted regulations placing more hunters in the field during spring brown bear baiting activities.

At this point, wolf hunting will open on August 10, 2015 on state lands surrounding the national park and will continue until May 30th, 2016, barring any new closures or orders. Meanwhile, advocates for creating a no wolf-take area surrounding the northeast corner of the park are continuing the pressure, including a group that recently met with Governor Bill Walker and Commissioner Sam Cotten in support of a buffer easement, a land management designation that would bypass the Board of Game decision-making process.  The DCC Board has preferred to use the Board of Game process, and we have collaborated with the Alaska Wildlife Alliance to draft a Proposal for the Board of Game’s 2016 meeting. Look for copies of our Proposal in another post. We are acutely aware that the Board of Game has not been receptive to proposals advocating non-consumptive use allocations recently. However, we remain hopeful that with wolf numbers low, and given the importance of the Denali region for wolf viewing and for NPS’s wolf-study program, the evidence for a buffer is mounting.

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NPS releases report on trial Winter Road opening at Denali

May 20, 2015

Winter-plowing-coverIn 2014, after completing an Environmental Assessment in 2013, Denali National Park began plowing the road earlier, starting February 1st and continuing on into the spring season when the road is normally cleared.  The early plowing began at park headquarters and ended at the Mt. Vista Rest Stop, where there is a parking lot.

This activity was considered to be a “trial” for 3 – 5 years, while staff would monitor impact on financial and natural resources and visitor experience.  The report attached to this post describes monitoring done by NPS during the 2014 and 2015 seasons of early opening.

Originally, it appeared that early opening of the park road was done to accommodate commercial tourism, including winter visitors brought on tour buses from Fairbanks. So far, most of the use appears to have been by private vehicles and vans, and commercial use, for whatever reason, has not been dominant.

DCC’s concerns have included impacts on wildlife who inhabit this area of the park (including two known wolf dens), impacts on access by local mushers and skiers, and incremental advance of sophisticated infrastructure into the designated Wilderness core park. In particular, we opposed any noise-making infrastructure, such as generators to support plug-ins, for example, at the Mt. Vista rest stop.

This report is illuminating and we recommend clicking on the link below to read it. The report is large and will take a little time to download.

Monitoring Report on Winter Road Plowing

 

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Open Letter to Alaska Director of Wildlife Conservation supports closure

May 9, 2015

From: nancy@denalicitizens.org
Sent: Saturday, May 09, 2015 12:55 PM
To: bruce.dale@alaska.gov
Subject: Denali wolves emergency closure

Dear Mr. Dale,

I spoke with you briefly at the recent Board of Game meeting regarding wolf numbers in Unit 20C overall and adjacent to Denali Park. At that time I mentioned that ADF&G had, in its most recent management report, established a density goal for wolves, and that numbers both inside the park portion of 20C and in the GMU as a whole are well below that density number.

Although it is unclear if the Department intends to adopt management practices to support that density goal, it is nevertheless in print as a goal. Despite this goal, the Board of Game recently increased the hunting bag limit from 5 to 10 wolves in 20C, next to the park, and continues to maintain a late hunting season, until May 31st.  Now, with wolf numbers lower inside Denali and packs vulnerable to hunting in the townships north of the park, the density numbers will fall again.

I, and my organization, the Denali Citizens Council, support an emergency closure of the remaining wolf hunting season on state lands northeast of Denali National Park, as a way to support wolves who den in the park and predictably venture into the Wolf Townships, and as a way for the department to manage for its stated density goals.  This pattern of wolf out-migration from Denali has been in place since the 1980s and happens whether or not the park has a “prey problem,” following late winter cyclic-migration of caribou. It is well known that the East Fork wolves denned close to the northern boundary this year, and the pack has already suffered three trapping/hunting losses, one a pregnant female. There are 22 days left in the season and no guarantee that the alpha female of the East Fork pack will not be shot.

It is well within your purview and authority to do an emergency closure now, based on Fish and Game-stated density goals and management vision for wolves. The fact that the statewide population of wolves is not threatened should not be an impediment to making this closure, as the Department often manages at the subunit level when the situation demands. Many folks have stressed to you the importance of these wolves to those who visit the Denali region. Their importance for the viewing public is not simply a National Park goal, it is a stated goal in published ADF&G documents.

In the history of this issue, there has been a tendency for the biologists to tell us that we must go the board of game and then for the board of game to send us back to the biologists. This reluctance to address the issue of Denali wolves from either side of your department has placed it in a sort of regulatory limbo for almost six years now.  Meanwhile the wolf numbers have declined inside Denali to numbers so low that every single death gains significance, especially if the wolf is pregnant.  Controlling human take at such times can be an effective tool for supporting Department goals.

The Denali Citizens Council is composed of close to 300 members, most of whom have lived or now live in communities around the park. Many of our members recently wrote to the Commissioner asking for this closure.  Please don’t hand this closure off to the Board of Game.  They will not be able to handle it before the end of the season. If you or the Commissioner do not perform this closure, it will not happen.

 

Respectfully,

Nancy Bale
Denali Citizens Council

 

 

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DCC joins others in asking for Emergency Wolf Hunting Closure

May 9, 2015

wolfAfter the loss of three individuals, one a pregnant female, to the East Fork pack, which last year denned very close to the northern boundary of the park, DCC joined a number of local and regional voices in requesting an Emergency Closure to wolf hunting of state lands adjacent to the northeast corner of Denali National Park, for the rest of the season, which ends May 31st.  Although time is ticking along and we’ve heard nothing yet from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, we are watching carefully for word.

 

Dan Bross of KUAC radio has done an excellent series of broadcasts on this topic. See his latest one at http://fm.kuac.org/post/denali-wolf-shootings-add-population-decline

 

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Wolf Monitoring report details three human-caused deaths this spring

May 6, 2015

Denali wolves remained highly vulnerable this spring, with two dens east of the Savage River and one pack, East Fork,  subject to attrition through both hunting and trapping. A report detailing the situation of Denali wolves was made available this week. Read it below.

Denali Wolf Monitoring 2015 – 5-5-2015 Update

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Jan-Feb DCC News now online

April 28, 2015

Cover page DCC NewsRead why we supported a recent emergency petition for wolf buffers, information on small hydro in the Denali Borough, the Community debate on coal, and updated news on the Stampede State SRA proposal. This is a large file, and will take a little time to download.

Jan-Feb DCC News 2015

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DCC signs Emergency Petition to Protect Denali Wolves

March 4, 2015

2012-Emergency-Wolf-Buffer-The eight-member DCC Board voted unanimously at its February 2nd teleconference to support an Emergency Petition to establish a “no wolf take” area on state lands adjacent to Denali National Park, similar to one brought to the Alaska Board of Game in 2010 and in petitions filed over the past few years by the Alaska Wildlife Alliance, NPCA, and several individuals.   NPS fall 2014 wolf counts show no rebound from low numbers (approximately 50 wolves) in the spring, a serious finding.  Low numbers of wolves throughout the state Game Management Unit 20C, which includes most of Denali wolf habitat and state lands stretching north, are a recognized situation. No doubt there are a number of influences upon low numbers, among them weather and prey availability.  However, the situation is now severe enough for the Board of Game to consider hunting and trapping closures, allowing time for the wolf population to recover to sustainable numbers in this area.

The petition urges the Board of Game to look beyond overall, GMU-wide wolf population health and focus in on this specific area. Wolves tend to use the eastern Stampede lands preferentially in winter because of prey and habitat characteristics. Two active dens in the eastern areas of the national park are within a day’s walk of state lands where predator hunting and trapping are legal. The unlimited trapping and the 10 wolf hunting bag limit on these state lands make it possible for an entire pack to be taken. Even the loss of one breeder can be quite damaging to pack integrity, according to a recent analysis by NPS.

Read a copy of the Emergency Petition sent to the Board of Game at the following link;
2015 Emergency PetitionFINAL.

Although the Board of Game has been historically unresponsive to calls for closures, we are hoping for a new spirit of compromise as we support this Emergency Petition at the BoG March 2015 meeting in Anchorage. We invite you to sign DCC’s informal petition, in which we hope to gather the names of Alaskans who support this closure. Visit the link below or on the front page of our website.

http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/restore-protections-for-denali-wolves-on-state?

 

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DCC submits comments on Preliminary Permit request for a Hydroelectric project on Carlo Creek

March 1, 2015

CarloOn February 6, 2015, DCC submitted comments to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on a Preliminary Permit to establish a hydroelectric project on upper Carlo Creek, in an area where a number of local individuals hold private property.  A number of locals have objected to the construction of this project.  The Preliminary Permit will almost certainly be granted, and will authorize studies only, to be conducted over the next two to three years by project sponsors.  DCC is carefully following this proposal. We submitted comments and a motion to intervene, which can be viewed at the links below.

DCC Carlo Creek Comments P-14645 2.6.15

DCC Carlo Creek Motion to Intervene P-14645 2.6.15

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DCC submits comments on Bruskasna Dam Preliminary Permit Application

March 1, 2015

BruskasnaOn February 13th, Denali Citizens Council submitted comments to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on an application for a Preliminary Permit to construct a hyrdroelectric project on Bruskasna Creek, a tributary of the Nenana River upstream from the first bridge across the Nenana north of Cantwell.  This area is popular with area boaters and fishermen.

The Preliminary Permit would authorize a variety of studies on economic, environmental and physical impacts of this proposed project. Studies are expected to take up to three years.

To read DCC’s comments on the Preliminary Permit application, click on the link below. In addition, DCC filed a “Motion to Intervene” to establish our organization’s standing over the course of the project. You may read the motion by clicking the link.

DCC Bruskasna Creek Comments P-14652

DCC Bruskasna Creek Motion to Intervene P-14652

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DCC submits comments on FERC Preliminary Permit for Jack River Dam

January 31, 2015

Click on the image for a larger version

On Friday, January 30th, 2015, DCC submitted comments to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on a request for a Preliminary Permit for a 4.2 Megawatt hydroelectric project on the Jack River, near Cantwell, Alaska, in the southern part of the Denali Borough.  The site is approximately 12 miles from the closest boundary of Denali National Park, and three miles south of the Denali Highway. The dam is proposed to be 250 high, and the reservoir, according to maps included in the permit, would be five miles long, stretching up into the Talkeetna Mountains.

The FERC Preliminary Permit is not a permit to build, but to study the concept. Preliminary FERC permits are usually granted, Read more

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Public comment invited on Hydroelectric Projects on Carlo Creek and the Jack River

January 11, 2015

Northwest Power Services, Inc., based out of Wasilla, Alaska, has submitted preliminary permit applications with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to conduct feasibility studies on hydroelectric projects on Carlo Creek and the Jack River in the southern Denali Borough.  This company is acting as an agent for two separate corporations, CC Energy, LLC for the Carlo Creek project, and Yedatene Na, LLC for the Jack River project.  Both of these new corporations, established in October 2014, list Gordon Carlson, with the Native Village of Cantwell, as a secondary contact. The local contact for Northwest Power Services is listed as Brent Smith of Wasilla, at 907-414-8223.

According to a recent article in the Fairbanks Daily News Miner, the Village of Cantwell “is looking for a viable alternative energy project to generate revenue by providing electricity to the Golden Valley Electric Association grid,” but cautioned that the proposal is still in preliminary phases.

The permits do not authorize any land-disturbing activities.  Instead, the applicant would be permitted Read more

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