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Creamers Field Wildlife Refuge gains 530 acres in state acquisition

Published: Oct. 20, 2020 at 2:29 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - It was announced Tuesday that the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and The Conservation Fund acquired 530 acres for the anticipated addition to the Creamer’s Field Migratory Waterfowl State Game Refuge in Fairbanks, Alaska. As part of the State Refuge System, the property provides wetland habitat for waterfowl and wildlife, and access to the public for recreational hunting, birdwatching, skiing and dog mushing.

Addition of this land—which is mostly wetlands—was an objective of the Creamer’s Field Refuge Management Plan and a priority for ADF&G. The Conservation Fund purchased the land from the University of Alaska and a private owner in multiple phases. In September 2020, the Fund transferred that land to the State of Alaska. It will be managed by ADF&G consistent with current refuge management goals until its included in the Creamer’s Field Refuge.

“Creamer’s Field is a gem for Fairbanks,” said John Wros, Alaska Associate at The Conservation Fund. “This level of access to wildlife and wildlands just a stone’s throw away from such a major city is uniquely Alaskan. The Refuge was established by community members more than five decades ago and the community was passionately involved in this latest expansion. Inclusion in Creamer’s Field ensures important trail sections and key habitat lands are available to Alaskans forever.”

Refuge Manager Ryan Klimstra, a wildlife biologist for ADF&G, said this new land will provide habitat for migratory waterfowl, an ongoing goal for the refuge. “So, this land addition directly supports the Creamer’s Field Migratory Waterfowls Refuge’s mission and goals, providing migratory bird habitat. This addition will also benefit many other species of wildlife that can be found throughout this area, he said. "Really, we’re proud of this accomplishment, it’s a really unique opportunity to increase continuous lands within an urban area whereas in the rest of the United States the opposite, also known as land fragmentation, is usually the case.”

“Conserving this land in our community will ensure that all ages and all user groups will have continued access to the many opportunities such as birdwatching, hunting or trapping, dog mushing, as well as countless educational programs. This refuge in particular is deeply cared about by our community, and has been an escape for many right here in the heart of Fairbanks for over five decades. This is especially true during the times of COVID, so this land addition is just one way that we can give back to the community,” Klimstra continued.

Creamer’s Field Refuge is a National Audubon Society Statewide Important Bird Area, providing important habitat to resident bird species and a remarkable number of migratory bird species. It is an important spring and fall staging area for cranes and waterfowl, particularly the sandhill crane and lesser Canada goose, and is regularly used by shorebirds and songbirds during migration. It is a popular destination for bird watchers and hunters alike. The additional 530 acres will protect access for the Refuge’s thousands of annual visitors and conserve critical wetland habitat.

The acquisition was funded, in part, by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) through Walmart’s Acres for America program, which supports the conservation of lands and wildlife habitat of national significance, and to benefit local communities and local economies. This was the first Acres for America grant in the state of Alaska.

Federal funding was provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (USFWS) Wildlife Restoration Program (Pittman-Robertson) program. This federal grant was essential to ADF&G’s purchase of the land from The Conservation Fund. The program provided $448,464 to acquire the additional property at Creamer’s Field with funds raised through excise taxes on firearms and ammunition. Hunters and shooters help generate funds to acquire habitat for hunting access projects when they purchase firearms and ammunition. The excise tax is paid by manufacturers and distributed to state fish and game agencies by USFWS. This year $24,970,580 is available for wildlife restoration projects in Alaska.

Kyle James of USFWS Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program said, “This is one example of many projects in Alaska that benefit the general public by providing legal access for hunting or other wildlife-oriented recreation. It’s all made possible by our strong partnership with The Conservation Fund and ADF&G.”

The Alaska Congressional delegation that represents the Creamer’s Field Migratory Waterfowl State Game Refuge includes U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski, U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan, and U.S. Representative Don Young.

“I welcome the announcement that the State of Alaska has used Pittman-Robertson funds to expand the Creamer’s Field Migratory Waterfowl Refuge in Fairbanks,” Senator Murkowski said. “This is a good example of how federal, state, and private funding can be leveraged together to ensure continued recreational access in our state.”

“Today’s announcement is not only good news for the birds and other species that call Creamer’s Field home, but an important day for Fairbanks and the community-at-large,” said Congressman Young. “As both a conservationist and a sportsman, it is crucially important that these lands are protected for hunting, birdwatching, and many other outdoor activities; acquiring them will help ensure this. I am very pleased to see successful public-private partnerships, and I applaud the efforts of all involved whose work will help defend our unique ecosystem for years to come.”

Creamer’s Field Migratory Waterfowl Refuge currently encompasses about 1,800 acres in the heart of Fairbanks. Formerly a working dairy, the mosaic of open farm fields and ponds, with surrounding natural wetlands and forest, are managed to protect and enhance wildlife habitat, and to provide for compatible public uses.

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