Connecting with communities: creating a sense of place in Alaska

The 24 kids from around the world look shyly at each other from inside the tent.

“Hola!” says a boy from Iraq. He speaks English and Arabic, too, but he wants the three girls from Mexico to feel welcome.

The girls giggle into their hands. “Hola,” they say together.

As they imprint alder leaves and aster flowers on their nature journals, someone asks the question on everyone’s mind.

“Are we going to see a bear?”

The kids, ranging in grade level from kindergarten to high school, are refugees who have found a new home in Alaska. They have come to the BLM Campbell Tract, 730 acres of forested public land in Anchorage and home of the BLM Campbell Creek Science Center, for the three-day learning- and adventure-based Eco-Explorers program.

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Alaskan youth say yes to Y.E.S.!

Story by Amanda Friendshuh, BLM Intern. Photos by Amanda Friendshuh, BLM Intern; Kaylee Rodriguez, BLM Intern; The Wrangell Institute for Science and Environment.

In order to get youth involved in nature, BLM-Alaska attended the annual Youth Environmental Summit (YES), hosted by the Native Village of Gakona, where kids can learn about the area’s natural resources.

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Kicking Off Labor Day Weekend with the #mypubliclandsroadtrip Recap in BLM Alaska!

The summer roadtrip in Alaska explored the approximately 72 million acres of landscapes, wildlife and resources managed by the BLM - like the stunning Delta Wild and Scenic River.  

The Delta Wild and Scenic River Watershed originates south of the Denali Highway and includes all of the Upper and Lower Tangle Lakes, the Tangle River, and the Delta River. The Delta River drains north through the Alaska Range, eventually joining the Tanana River and emptying into the Yukon River. The watershed includes 150,000 acres of land, 160 miles of streams and 21 lakes, providing excellent habitat for over 100 species of migrating birds and waterfowl as well as grayling, whitefish, lake trout, burbot, and longnose suckers. Much of the watershed is surrounded by arctic tundra with grasses and sedges makitg it a popular place for berry picking and for migrating caribou.  Photos by Bob Wick, BLM.

Check out all BLM Alaska roadtrip photos on My Public Lands Flickr, and view the storymap roadtrip journal.


On This Day in 1980 President Jimmy Carter signed the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act into Law 

With the signing of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, the BLM became responsible for managing six Wild and Scenic Rivers, nine study rivers, one National Conservation Area, one National Recreation Area, and one National Scenic Highway. Enjoy these photos of the Delta Wild and Scenic River, Gulkana Wild and Scenic River, and Beaver Wild and Scenic River in celebration of Alaska’s vibrant waterways!


Mars Lite: Alaska’s Dalton Highway in Winter 

In the following essay, excerpted from BLM’s 2016 Dalton Highway Visitor Guide, recently retired BLM Alaska park ranger Lisa Jodwalis uses a recent Hollywood science fiction movie to highlight the challenges (and thrills) of a winter visit to the remote Dalton Highway, which connects Interior Alaska and the North Slope.

Lisa Jodwalis worked as a park ranger and ran the Arctic Interagency Visitor Center in Coldfoot from 2001 to 2008. She assisted the BLM hydrologist with snow surveys along the Dalton Highway from 2011 to 2013 and has driven the road in every month except January. She always made it home without freezing any digits.

In the book and movie “The Martian,” astronaut Mark Watney struggles to survive alone on a desolate desert planet where the average temperature is -80ºF. Although he has trained for this and @nasa has provided some awesome tools, anything that can go wrong, does. Only his determination, resourcefulness, and know-how keep him alive. But that’s science fiction, right? 

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If you visit Nome, Alaska, this summer, head out Kougarok Road and find solitude at the BLM Salmon Lake Campground. This tucked-away little gem, located at mile 40, is popular with locals and visitors alike.  

The primitive campground features six campsites, fire rings, picnic tables, bear-proof trash bins, a natural boat launch and a new outhouse built in 2015. What you WON’T find: lines of RVs, dump stations or fees. The campground opens in late June and remains open until October, depending on snow and road conditions. While in the area, look for the historic Wild Goose Pipeline, a wooden structure built to carry water for sluicing from Grand Central River to nearby claims during the gold rush.

Salmon Lake is spawning grounds for the northernmost run of sockeye salmon in the U.S. The lake also contains Arctic grayling, Dolly Varden, least cisco, round whitefish and burbot, so bring a fly rod. Birders, bring your binocs. Bluethroat, red-necked grebe, red-throated loon, long-tailed duck, red-breasted merganser, mew gull and glaucous gull may be spotted here.

A solid #mypubliclandsroadtrip camping pick for solitude, endless views and amazing wildlife!

Photos courtesy of Evelyn Mervine


#WomeninSTEM: Today’s #mypubliclandsroadtrip Goes Behind-the-Scenes with Stacey Fritz, Anthropologist/Subsistence Specialist in BLM’s Arctic Field Office

Where do you work and how does your job fulfill the BLM mission?

My office manages the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska (aka NPR-A), which includes 23 million acres of Alaska’s western Arctic. I coordinate BLM’s NPR-A Subsistence Advisory Panel  to ensure oil and gas lessees and permittees consult directly with potentially affected communities. And I regularly meet with residents and tribal governments in the NPR-A about land management issues.

What previous experience/education prepared you for your job?

For my doctoral research at University of Alaska Fairbanks, I traveled the western arctic coast by sailing a canoe over the course of two seasons and participated in community activities such as hunting and fishing trips.  This field work was a fantastic way to meet people and learn about the land and the history of the Arctic North Slope. I was also a PhD fellow in an interdisciplinary program with great attention to climate change in Alaska and sustainable land management.

What is the best thing about your job?

To me, the greatest thing about Alaska is the state’s powerful and rich array of Alaska Natives living a rural lifestyle, hunting and fishing in their traditional homelands. Those residents generously share that experience with others who respect it.

Landscape photos by Bob Wick, BLM


Today, the #mypubliclandsroadtrip heads to the National Petroleum Reserve - Alaska, with a quick stop at the Central Arctic Management Area.

The Central Arctic Management Area - a BLM Wilderness Study Area - sits between NPRA and Gates of the Arctic National Park in Alaska. This little-known 320,000 acre area is starkly beautiful and made up of rolling tundra and snow covered peaks.

Photos by Bob Wick, BLM


This #WomeninSTEM Wednesday: Two BLM-Alaska ANSEP Interns Take Aim at Invasive Plants 

This summer, Jessica Mute and Patrice DeAsis are working with BLM Alaska to limit the spread of invasive plants in urban areas like Anchorage to other parts of the state, where the plants displace native plants and degrade moose and salmon habitat.

The two recent high school graduates were among the 25 Alaskan students who received paid internships this summer through the Alaska Native Science & Engineering Program (ANSEP). Both plan to major in biology at the University of Alaska Anchorage in the fall.

ANSEP interns help the BLM with many types of field work, including bird surveys, mining compliance inspections, data gathering, and invasive plants management. Partnering with ANSEP is one of the ways BLM is engaging the next generation to help manage and conserve Alaska’s public lands and resources.

Intern photos by Chris Arend Photography; BLM Alaska photos by Bob Wick


Gold Rush prospectors gave the Fortymile River its name because it joins the Yukon River about 40 miles below Fort Reliance, an old Canadian trading post. In 1980, 392 miles of the river in east-central Alaska were designated as a Wild and Scenic River by the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act. The BLM manages the wild and scenic river corridor as well as three campgrounds and Fort Egbert in the Eagle Historic District National Historic Landmark. 


Thanks for following the #mypubliclandsroadtrip in BLM Alaska! View the Alaska roadtrip journal here:

This week, the roadtrip heads to Nevada for unique desert landscapes, wildlife and behind-the-scenes stories.


Happy Alaska Day – the anniversary of the formal transfer of the territory from Russia to the United States!

The BLM manages approximately 72 million surface acres of public land in Alaska. These diverse lands -– majestic mountain ranges, vibrant wetlands, unique coastal marine environments and vast expanses of tundra – offer amazing outdoor recreation opportunities.  

Check out last summer’s #mypubliclandsroadtrip stops for great fishing, hiking, sledding and more in Alaska:


#itstartswithaSEED: Keeping Seeds Native

Over the course of the next few weeks we will be sharing stories about ongoing projects happening across BLM. Visit the My Public Lands Flickr for a full collection. 

BLM Alaska Forester Eric Geisler has a task that doesn’t have to do with trees. He has to figure out how much native seed is needed for revegetation or restoration projects statewide over the next five years. That’s about how long it takes to go from initial seed collection to processing, production, and storage for the necessary quantities.

BLM Alaska’s Seeds of Success partners with several others to collect and promote the use of Native Seeds. The tree main partners are the Alaska Plant Materials Center, Alaska natural Heritage Program and the Chicago Botanical Garden Conservation Land Management intern program.  

The interns hired by Chicago Botanical Garden serve a five month term where they learn Alaska species and collect seeds and along with herbarium specimens.  The interns work under the direction of the Alaska Natural Heritage program that helps BLM make decisions on where to collect seeds each year and which species to target.  While the emphasis is always on species for revegetation or workhorse species, the Natural Heritage program and the interns collect as many other species as are available from the sites they visit throughout the summer.  These collections are then sent to the Alaska Plant Materials Center for processing.  Alaska’s Seeds of Success program collects seeds from over 50 geographically distinct plant varieties each year. READ MORE HERE.

Photos by Kim Mincer, BLM Alaska.


Take the Backroads – #mypubliclandsroadtrip explores the sights along the Steese Highway in Alaska!

Modern day travelers can follow historic mining trails on the Steese Highway that once guided a torrent of prospectors to Interior Alaska’s goldfields.  Here you can explore the vast landscape of the Great Interior, traditional home of the Athabascan people, and encounter local people who still hunt, trap, and mine in the same spirit as earlier Alaskans.

The 175-mile-long Steese Highway (Alaska Route 6) connects Fairbanks with the small town of Circle on the bank of the mighty Yukon River. Only the first 80 miles of the Steese Highway are paved, but the road is maintained year-round.

In addition to its own scenic and historic attractions, the highway also provides access to a world of outdoor adventure on BLM-managed public lands north of Fairbanks. From the Steese Highway, you can explore the Steese National Conservation Area, the White Mountains National Recreation Area, Beaver Creek Wild and Scenic River, and Birch Creek Wild and Scenic River

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#TravelTuesday with Guest Photographer Bob Wick to A Road Less Traveled – The Denali Highway in Alaska.

Between 1957 and 1971, the Denali Highway was the only route to Denali National Park.  The partly paved but mostly gravel surface road was then replaced by the more direct Parks Highway, which shortened the drive from Anchorage.  For those who don’t mind slowing down, and who agree that the journey is as rewarding as the destination, the Denali Highway is right for you and will reaffirm your view and more! The route parallels the southern flank of the Alaska Range with glacier-clad peaks rising to 12,000 feet. At Maclaren Summit, the road climbs above 4,000 feet into vast rolling tundra and is the second highest roaded pass in the state.  

Photographers will find it difficult to choose what subjects to focus on with each mile revealing outstanding scenery as well as wildlife and bird viewing opportunities.  Numerous waterfowl including trumpeter swans can be seen in the lakes, and caribou and moose are included among the wildlife. Fishing is excellent for grayling and lake trout if you focus on clear streams and lakes. The BLM maintains two developed campgrounds along the highway and two more along the nearby Galkana Wild and Scenic River.  Both the Galkana and Delta offer multi-day boat trips into remote settings. This is a stretch of wild Alaska that is pretty much unspoiled, relatively accessible and drop-dead beautiful.

Photo tip: The adage “the golden hour” describes the hour or so near sunrise and sunset where light angles are low and photos take on their richest quality. In Alaska, with its low light angles, this timeframe is multiplied several fold, and photographers have many hours of golden light to work with.  Use this extra time to scout the perfect locations and get additional angles.

Check out our @esri Alaska Denali Highway multimedia storymap of the area:


Hit the Road with #mypubliclandsroadtrip 2016 –  Week 1, Places That Rock!

For the geologists, rock collectors and earth science lovers, this week is for you. The #mypubliclandsroadtrip 2016 heads out to find Places That Rock! on your public lands.  All week, roadtrip stops will feature landscapes shaped by cool geological processes and formations – caves, volcanoes, hoodoos and more.

Our first stop is Sukakpak Mountain, one of the most visually stunning areas on ‪‎BLM‬‬ managed public lands along the Dalton Highway in northern ‪Alaska‬‬ (MP 203). A massive wall of Skajit Limestone rising to 4,459 feet (1,338 m) that glows in the afternoon sun, Sukakpak Mountain is an awe-inspiring sight. Peculiar ice-cored mounds known as palsas punctuate the ground at the mountain’s base. “Sukakpak” is an Inupiat word meaning “marten deadfall.” As pictured here from the north, the mountain resembles a carefully balanced log used to trap marten.

Sukakpak Mountain was designated in 1990 as a BLM Area of Critical Environmental Concern or ACEC to protect extraordinary scenic and geologic formations.

Follow all #mypubliclandsroadtrip stops in our @esri storymap journals: Explore #yourlands.


#mypubliclandsroadtrip heads out this week for extreme adventures on your public lands.  And there’s no better place to start that adventure than the wild and rugged landscapes of Alaska.  

Until recently, floating Beaver Creek Wild and Scenic River through Alaska’s White Mountains National Recreation Area required either a pricey pickup flight by air taxi or a three-week commitment to float 360 miles all the way to the Yukon River and the Dalton Highway bridge (considered the country’s longest road-to-road river trip). The popularity of compact, light-weight packrafts has now added a third option – one that involves floating the most scenic part of the river and then hiking 30 to 50 miles back to the start through the heart of the 1-million-acre national recreation area. 

The float itself is relaxing and scenic, with mostly class I whitewater. The hike out, on the other hand, is not for the faint-hearted – you’ll need to find your own route over jagged limestone ridges, across soggy tundra, and through ice-cold streams, all while swatting mosquitoes and watching out for bears. Your reward is an unforgettable hike through some of Interior Alaska’s best scenery, a landscape that most people only see in much chillier and darker conditions via the BLM’s extensive network of winter trails and public use cabins. Visit in summer, and you’ll likely have the place all to yourself!


Located at mile 21.5 on the Denali Highway, the Tangle Lakes in Alaska are the perfect place to take a break from a busy summer and drop a line! A series of long, narrow lakes provide a geographic divide between the Delta and Gulkana rivers, both designated National Wild and Scenic Rivers. The BLM Tangle Lakes Campground and the BLM Delta Wayside provide easy access points and boat launches to the lakes and the Delta River.

A new study showed that the density of Arctic grayling in the Delta River was the greatest ever observed among published density estimates for Alaska Rivers.  Recently, anglers have found these fish to be extremely cooperative, catching and releasing anywhere from 30 to 100 grayling per day with most averaging 10 to 16 inches on beadhead nymph flies and dry flies.

Visitors who bring canoes, kayaks, or float tubes to the area frequently direct their fishing efforts towards lake trout instead of (or as well as) grayling. In the spring and fall, lake trout can be found near the mouths of the creeks that enter or drain the lakes. Spinners or streamer flies tend to be most effective at this time of year because they imitate the aquatic insects and forage fish that are available in the shallows in the spring.

Moose, caribou, bears, and other smaller Alaskan animals are also common features of a trip out to the Tangle Lakes. The fishing and wildlife, combined with prolific wildflowers and breathtaking views of the Alaska Range only add to the unique and enchanting area that is the Tangle Lakes. A #mypubliclandsroadtrip this summer is sure to include lots of fish and a good time!