Public Comment Needed on Cattle Issue on Wosnesenski

The US Fish and Wildlife Service is inviting the public to comment as it identifies issues, and alternatives to address what it calls "unauthorized grazing" by cattle on the two refuge islands, Wosnesenski and Chirikof.  This effort is known as “scoping” and it is an early step in a process to develop either Environmental Assessments or Environmental Impact Statements in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).  These documents will identify the need for action and authority to act, summarize potential issues, evaluate a reasonable range of alternatives, and describe the affected environment and environmental consequences of alternatives. Cattle ownership and compatibility with purposes of the refuge will also be addressed.

Both Wosnesenski and Chirikof islands, located in remote Southwest Alaska, are uninhabited and part of the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge.  The Refuge was established in 1980 to conserve marine mammals, seabirds and other migratory birds, and the marine resources upon which they rely. Wosnesenski and Chirikof islands have sustained severe impacts to wildlife habitat, native vegetation, and archaeological sites from grazing by unauthorized cattle left behind when ranchers left the islands years ago.

The deadline to submit your ideas on issues and alternatives to be considered in the NEPA documents is February 20, 2014. Submission will be accepted by any of the following methods:

Letter:  Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge; Attention:  Cattle, 95 Sterling Hwy, Suite 1, Homer, AK 99603

Phone: 907-235-6546, or Fax: 907-235-7783

You will also have an opportunity to comment on the draft Environmental Assessment or Environmental Impact Statement documents after they have been prepared.

All comments received, including those from individuals, become part of the public record, and are available to the public upon request in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act, NEPA, and Departmental policies and procedures. Before you include your name, address, phone number, e-mail address, or other personal identifying information on your comment, be aware that your entire comment, including this information, may be made available to the public upon request. You can ask us to withhold your personal identifying information from public review, but we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so.

If you would like to receive future correspondence regarding the unauthorized cattle issue, please contact us by any of the methods listed above.

More information and project updates will be posted at

The Qagan Tayagungin Tribe has commented on what it views as preferred alternatives to this issue on Wosnesenski Island. 

Preferred Option:  Allow the Osterback family to renew their lease and manage the herd to a level determined to be agreeable by both the Osterback family and the Fish and Wildlife Services Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge. 

     *  The Osterback family has a history with the island of Wosnesenski where they were allowed grazing rights for a family owned ranch.  This lease was continued until ownership of the island came into question with ANCSA land selections.

Second Option:  If the Osterback family is not allowed to renew their lease, consider allowing the Qagan Tayagungin Tribe to assume a lease and manage the herd to a level mutually agreed upon by the Qagan Tayagungin Tribe and the Fish and Wildlife Services Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge.

     *  The Shumagin Corporation has demonstrated the ability to successfully manage a grazing animal (buffalo) on Popof Island.  The Qagan Tayagungin Tribe took it's initial base enrollment from the Shumagin Corporation, and therefore has access to the same knowledge base in which to manage cattle on Wosnesenski.

Least Preferred Option:  If the Fish and Wildlife Services Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge should tragically decide no cattle are allowed to remain on the island, the Qagan Tayagungin Tribe must INSIST the cattle NOT be slaughtered and left to rot as occurred on Simeonof, Catins, and Chinaburra Islands, but harvested and distributed to the communities of Sand Point and King Cove for utilization.

The blatant waste and disregard of a valuable subsistence resource utilized by the communities of Sand Point and King Cove would be tragic and immoral.  We hope you understand our concern at the thought of this, as the refuge has already demonstrated the willingness to act in this abhorrent manner when it slaughtered the cattle on Simeonof, Catins, and Chinaburra Islands with no meaningful effort made to harvest the animals so this available meat could benefit the surrounding communities.