Yukon Flats, Alaska – Our Sister Refuge

What do San Pablo Bay and Yukon Flats Refuges have in Common?

San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge is one of 567 National Wildlife Refuges (NWR) managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to provide habitat for the animals, fish and birds that are part of our nation’s natural heritage.  The Sister Refuge program provides opportunities to highlight the wildlife connection between refuges that may be hundreds of miles apart but are used by the same wildlife.  Waterfowl stop at multiple refuges strategically located along the Pacific Flyway from their nesting grounds in Alaska to warmer wintering locations in the Lower 48.  Yukon Flats NWR seized on just such an opportunity to educate the public in Alaska and around the North Bay about the critical need for canvasback wintering habitat provided at San Pablo Bay NWR and nesting habitat provided in Yukon Flats.

The Friends of San Pablo Bay were privileged to facilitate and participate in multiple events in California and Alaska developed as part of the Sister Refuge relationship between Yukon Flats and San Pablo Bay refuges. Heather Bartlett, Wildlife Refuge Specialist, Nathan Hawkaluk, Deputy Refuge Manager, Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge, and Julie Mahler special envoy from the Chalkyitsik Village of Athabascan natives traveled to San Pablo Bay NWR in February 2017 to participate in Flyway Festival activities. The Friends arranged for classroom visits during which students touched wolf, lynx and other animal pelts. Public presentations describing managing life and wildlife refuges in Alaskan were made. The Alaska team returned to San Pablo Bay and spoke with hunters who are keenly interested in Canvasback duck habitat.  Friends member Justin Bodell arranged for the Yukon Flats refuge manager to speak with  North Bay hunters about canvasback ducks’ 2,000 mile migratory flight between the two refuges, see the “Feeding the Flyway” poster. 

In June 2017 Friends of San Pablo Bay founder Francesca Demgen flew with the Yukon Flats team north of the Arctic Circle to the Chalkyitsik Village Open House held in and around the Belle Herbert Community Hall. She sewed and brought pencil pouches with the Friends logo for each of the village children to stamp their names onto and brought the elementary school a copy of the Friend’s endangered species books “A Home for Salty” and “Sardis and Stamm”.  Back in Fairbanks, Francesca helped at the Friends of Alaska NWR’s Dragonfly Day with kid projects and by introducing netting and identifying aquatic invertebrates to the day that centered around collecting adult dragonflies.

Additional Resources regarding the relationship between San Pablo Bay NWR and Yukon Flats NWR

Canvasback connects ‘sister refuges’ in AK, CA

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