Big Lake, Alaska and The Susitna Valley News, Weather, Events, And More

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Saturday, February 24 2018 @ 10:53 AM AKST


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What happened to Second Saturday at AWBR?

Natureby AWBR

Alaska WildBird Rehab Center has been celebrating Second Saturdays along with the Valley Arts Alliance ever since they moved into their new quarters June, 2013. People have looked forward to visiting the Center and getting to know more about what is done to help injured birds and to meet the education birds. This has been an important part of the education and outreach program and enjoyed not only by the visitors but by the volunteers from the Center as well. There was not a Second Saturday in March, the last one being the “Owlentine’s Day” in February. So what happened to Second Saturday?

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Legislature Honors Bison Biologist

NatureMembers of the 29th Alaska Legislature honored retired Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologist Robert O. Stephenson last week with a citation recognizing Bob’s career achievements and his contribution to the restoration of wood bison to Alaska.

Stephenson is credited with conceiving, researching and moving the wood bison restoration program forward beginning in the early 1990’s. He retired from his permanent position with ADF&G in 2007, continued with the project on a non-permanent basis until 2012, and finally as a volunteer until late 2013.

ADF&G finally was able to release 100 wood bison into the wild in the Lower Innoko/Yukon Rivers area on April 3, 2015.

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State to Open Round Island with Help from Donors, Federal Grant

Nature(Juneau) — Round Island, the widely photographed centerpiece of Alaska’s Walrus Islands State Game Sanctuary, will be in full operation this summer and open to visitors thanks to donations from a group of private partners dedicated to the study and conservation of walrus, and a federal grant.

Funding for the Round Island program was eliminated last year after declining oil revenue resulted in state budget cuts. In the wake of public concern that the Round Island program continue, donations were received from the Annenberg Foundation, Alaska SeaLife Center, Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium of Tacoma, Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta, Milwaukee-based Oceans of Fun, Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium, and the Pacific Walrus Conservation Fund, along with an existing federal grant from the Coastal Impact Assistance Program to study Steller sea lions.

Courtesy of F&G

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April 11-17 is Wildland Fire Prevention and Preparedness Week

NatureWith low snowfall and warm winter temperatures across much of the state, the threat of an early fire season in Alaska this year is a very real one.

As part of a multi-agency effort to draw attention to the danger of wildfire in Alaska, Governor Bill Walker has issued a proclamation designating April 11-17 as Alaska Wildland Fire Prevention and Preparedness Week.

While wildfire is part of a natural cycle to help maintain the health of the forest and enhance wildlife habitat in Alaska, it also poses a threat to public safety. The proclamation emphasizes the need for public awareness of wildland fire prevention practices and preparedness measures and encourages citizens to help reduce the number of human-caused fires in the wildland urban interface through individual efforts and community programs. A list of recommended practices and measures for the general public is provided below.

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Wood Bison Free in Alaska

NatureThe United States has a population of wild wood bison for the first time in more than 100 years.

On Friday, April 3, 100 wood bison which had been kept in temporary pens near Shageluk, Alaska, for just over a week were lead by Alaska Department of Fish and Game Biologist Tom Seaton across the Innoko River to freedom.

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Scenes Around Big Lake: Spring Dance

NatureCaptured this while out for a walk the other day. To me it looks like a Happy Dance, the end of winter and the welcomed spring.

Happy Ice Ghost Photo by Dennis Garrett

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Applications for McNeil River Bear Viewing Permits Due March 1

Nature(Anchorage) — The application deadline for lottery permits to visit Alaska’s premier brown bear viewing site at McNeil River State Game Sanctuary is fast approaching. Online applications must be submitted by midnight on March 1, or mailed and received by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game by March 1.

Online applications and printable application forms are available at through the “Permits” tab and “Viewing Permits” link. More information about visiting McNeil River is available on the website or by calling (907) 267-2257.

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Join us on Saturday, February 14 from 12-2 PM at the Center for our Owlentine's Day event


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A Sandhill Crane’s Point of View …

NatureBy Andrea Weimer

"I am a volunteer for Alaska WildBird Rehabilitation Center (AWBRC), and am privileged to be the caretaker of Sandy, the Sandhill Crane. Sandy is a fascinating bird, and provides many incredible moments to remember, but I have to share the latest and most amazing experience so far.

"A few evenings ago, I went out to read a little bedtime story and “tuck” Sandy in for the night. I opened the door to her enclosure, or mew, closed it behind me, looked up and there was Sandy, right in front of me, gazing at a precious little Saw-whet Owl sitting on her perch, acting like it owned the joint! I had thoughts of concern - is Sandy going to hurt this gorgeous little guy? Did she already? What is it doing in here?  On and on the many questions came to mind, as you can imagine, all flooding in at once. Then it got very quiet, and all I could hear was my inner voice, yelling TAKE A PICTURE!  No one will believe this! Well, of course, I had no camera with me. I never do when I want one the most, when spectacular events occur. Sandy was not in the least concerned about this new cell mate.

Cute Baby Sandhill Crane, photo courtesy of AK WildBird

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State marine debris cleanup efforts boast successful field season

Nature(ANCHORAGE, AK)– The 2014 field season for the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) marine debris clean-up project has resulted in the collection of 176 tons of inert (non-hazardous) marine debris from shorelines across Alaska. The cleanup was funded by a donation from the Government of Japan to the United States and a gift to the State of a collection of over 400 private donations from Japanese citizens. An additional 91 tons of debris were collected through projects funded by a 2013 legislative appropriation, as well as funds from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council. The 267 total tons of debris is cached and ready for removal and disposal next spring.

DEC is the lead state agency coordinating clean-up efforts for the increased volumes of marine debris washing ashore in Alaska as a result of the 2011 Japanese tsunami. The agency manages Alaska’s share of the clean-up funds donated to the United States by the Government of Japan.

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Land and Water Conservation Fund seeks Alaska grant applications

Nature(Anchorage, AK) – The Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation is accepting preliminary applications for grants it administers through the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).

The federal LWCF program provides up to 50 percent matching funds for acquisition or development of parks and other outdoor recreation facilities. State, regional and local governments with the authority to provide park and recreation services on public lands are eligible to apply.

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Division of Forestry harvests spruce cones for future reforestation

Nature(Fairbanks, AK) – While many Alaskans focus on berry picking and moose hunting at this time of year, foresters with the Division of Forestry in the Fairbanks area were busy in recent weeks gathering thousands of white spruce cones to provide seeds for future timber sale plantings.

Seeds harvested from the cones are planted in areas where the division has held timber sales. The Alaska Forest Resources and Practices Act requires prompt and adequate reforestation of timber plots, and planting is one of the reforestation methods specified in the act.

Harvested spruce cones are sent to the Division of Agriculture’s Alaska Plant Materials Center for cleaning, conditioning and storage. The cones are dried and tumbled to extract the seeds, which are tested to ensure adequate regeneration. The seeds must have a germination rate of 70 percent or better to be accepted by a nursery, according to Palmer-based forester Jeff Graham, who manages the division’s seed bank. The seeds are then stored in a walk-in freezer at the center until they are needed.

DOF already had a large quantity of seeds in storage dating back 30 years but germination deteriorates over time and Graham said he wanted to replenish the seed bank with a fresh crop of Fairbanks seeds. White spruce cones from the Kenai Peninsula are also cleaned, conditioned and stored at the Plant Materials Center for future plantings in that region.

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Elodea found in remote Mat-Su lake

NatureDNR seeking public input on recreational use of impacted waterways

(Anchorage, AK) – Elodea, an invasive freshwater aquatic plant known to threaten fish habitat, disrupt recreational activities, and lower property values, has recently been found in Alexander Lake in Southcentral Alaska. This is the first confirmed infestation of Elodea in the Matanuska-Susitna Basin, and as a result, the number of infested lakes and slow-moving rivers in Alaska has grown to 18. Infestations have previously been discovered in Fairbanks, Cordova, Anchorage, and the Kenai Peninsula.

Elodea spreads easily. Its leafy stems detach from the parent plant, float away, root, and start new plants. Even small fragments of Elodea have the potential to start a new infestation. This popular aquarium plant can arrive via the dumping of aquariums and hitchhike to new waters on boats, trailers, float planes, and other recreational equipment. Remote locations such as Alexander Lake are not immune to the impacts of Elodea.

When it arrives in a new waterbody, Elodea grows rapidly, overtaking native plants and filling the water column with thick vegetative mats that can degrade fish habitat, foul boat propellers and floatplane rudders, impede paddling and boat launching, navigation, and fishing.
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Scenes Around Big Lake - Puffballs

NatureThis is one of my favorite times of year, Mushroom Hunting Season. Many people don't know that Puffballs are edible, nutritious and tasty. They are also among the easiest mushroom to identify. For years I have been collecting, spreading, and cultivating many types of fungi around my property, including Puffballs.

Lycoperdon perlatum. Photo by Dennis Garrett

While most puffballs are not poisonous, some often look similar to young agarics, especially the deadly Amanitas, such as the death cap or destroying angel mushrooms. It is for this reason that all puffballs gathered in mushroom hunting should be cut in half lengthwise. Young puffballs in the edible stage, before maturation of the gleba, have undifferentiated white flesh within; whereas the gills of immature Amanita mushrooms can be seen if they are closely examined.

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Wood Bison to be Reintroduced in Alaska

NatureAugust 5, 2014, Juneau, Alaska - Governor Sean Parnell announced today that work will begin early this fall to prepare to restore wood bison to the Alaskan landscape in spring 2015. Wood bison were last seen roaming wild in Alaska more than 100 years ago. The Department of Fish and Game will release 50-100 bison in the Lower Yukon/Innoko River area from the captive herd currently held at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center. The reintroduction area was selected because it has excellent habitat and strong local support.

"This is the culmination of many years of hard work and a triumph for conservation,” Governor Parnell said. “Our vision is that these animals will be restored to the landscape and provide additional hunting opportunity once the species is firmly established.”

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