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Togiak Refuge Biologists Reassess Wilderness Work Approaches
Alaska Region, October 25, 2011
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Andy Aderman looks over a radio collared caribou.
Andy Aderman looks over a radio collared caribou. - Photo Credit: USFWS- Togiak Refuge staff
Mark Lisac stitches up a Kanektok River rainbow trout after outfitting the fish with a radio transmitter.
Mark Lisac stitches up a Kanektok River rainbow trout after outfitting the fish with a radio transmitter. - Photo Credit: USFWS- Togiak Refuge staff
At over 2.2 million acres, there's a lot for biologists to work with on Togiak Refuge's Wilderness Area.
At over 2.2 million acres, there's a lot for biologists to work with on Togiak Refuge's Wilderness Area. - Photo Credit: USFWS- Togiak Refuge staff

Refuge lands are special lands, with safeguards in place designed to maintain their natural integrity for the foreseeable future and beyond. This is particularly true for lands specifically designated as Wilderness. The Wilderness Act of 1964 was created to “establish a National Wilderness Preservation System for the permanent good of the whole people, and for other purposes”. Such safeguards exist not only for those who visit wilderness, but for those who are charged with its care as well.

Four land management agencies, including the USFWS, have been given the tremendous responsibility of managing the diverse lands of the National Wilderness Preservation System. While each managing agency receives guidance and direction from the Wilderness Act of 1964, each also addresses its specific management mission in its own unique way, with its own goals, objectives and protocols.

In August 2010, the Alaska Region of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service updated its policy for management of Wilderness lands. As a result, the Togiak Refuge Biological Program reassessed all of its administrative actions occurring in Wilderness. This was no small task. At well over 2.2 million acres, Togiak’s Wilderness Area is the tenth largest in the National Wilderness Preservation System and the second largest managed by the USFWS, after Arctic’s Mollie Beattie.

Four Togiak biologists who work extensively with projects that occur on Togiak’s Wilderness Area were recently recognized for their efforts to ensure that their work is providing for and promoting the ideals of the Wilderness Act to the fullest. Andy Aderman (large mammal capture operations), Michael Winfree (water quality and quantity monitoring), Michael Swaim (water temperature monitoring) and Mark Lisac (fish radio telemetry tracking flights) were all required to evaluate the need and methodology behind their work on Wilderness lands. They were each required to prepare a Minimum Requirements Analysis, which underwent multiple reviews and revision. As a part of that analysis, current practices were examined, alternatives were considered and a best possible approach, in accordance with new Region policy, was determined. Each analysis was ultimately signed. The biologists involved displayed exceptional team spirit in working with other staff members of the Togiak Refuge Biological Program as they learned and implemented this new process. Each analysis was completed thoroughly and on time, and each person contributed to Togiak Refuge leading the way in the Alaska Region National Wildlife Refuge System’s implementation of new Wilderness policy. (It should be noted that Togiak Refuge continues to reassess its other programs and practices in terms of MRAs and Wilderness; those assessments are expected to be completed this winter)

The Wilderness Act in part defined wilderness as an area where “in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.” Biological research, conducted with an eye towards preservation of Wilderness character, is critical to the management of Wilderness and its wildlife, while still providing the opportunities for which the Wilderness Act was created. Thanks to the efforts of these four biologists, Togiak Refuge continues to guide the way to solid biological practices on Wilderness lands.

For more information about the biological projects mentioned in this article, contact Pat Walsh, Supervisory Biologist, at 907-842-8402.


Contact Info: Terry Fuller, 907-842-1063 ext. 8419, terry_fuller@fws.gov



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