Ken Adkisson was interviewed on February 7, 2020 by Leslie McCartney and Katie Cullen at the Bering Land Bridge National Preserve offices in Nome, Alaska. In this interview, Ken talks about his observations of environmental change in the region, including weather patterns, snowfall, travel and access, marine ecosystem, ocean temperature, permafrost, vegetation, moose, beaver, caribou, bears, fish, sea birds, and marine industrial traffic. He also talks about park and wildlife management issues, subsistence, cultural change, archeological research, and human adaptation.
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Personal background, education, and working for National Park Service
Coming to Alaska
Working at Bering Land Bridge National Preserve in Nome, and structure of the staff in the early days
Traveling around the Preserve, and early management issues
Park and community relationships
Managing for subsistence
A typical winter patrol trip
Observations of change in weather patterns, storms, and wind
Observations of change in snowfall
Observations of change in travel conditions and maintaining safety
Observations of change in the marine ecosystem, vegetation, moose, and beaver populations
Erosion and flooding at Serpentine Hot Springs, and management implications
Observations of change in the permafrost and lake drainage
Observations of cultural change seen in the archeological record
Effects of permafrost thaw
Subsistence access issues
Observations of change in ocean temperature
Role of the National Park Service in adapting to change, and managing for Native allotments, village relocations, and access
Observations of change in caribou
Management implications of designating a new Seward Peninsula Caribou Herd
Observations of change in moose
Moose and caribou hunting regulations
Observations of change in bears and wolves
Sea bird and fish die-offs
Observations of change in storms
National Park Service research priorities and resource stewardship plan
Pollution and community preparedness and response to disasters
Speed of change and human adaptation
Difficulty of predicting the future
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LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Today is Friday, February 7, 2020, and we’re at the National Park Service here in Nome, the Bering Land Bridge National Preserve Offices.
I’m Leslie McCartney, and we’re here with Katie Cullen. And we are also here with Ken Adkin -- Adki -- KEN ADKISSON: Adkisson. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Adkisson. Thank you so much, Ken, for coming in today.
Um, I’ll just have yourself both introduce yourselves so we can hear you on the recording, and then we’ll start.
KATIE CULLEN: I’m Katie Cullen. I’m the interpretation and education program manager here at Bering Land Bridge National Preserve, headquartered in Nome, Alaska.
KEN ADKISSON: And I’m Ken Adkisson. I’m currently the Bering Land Bridge program manager for the combined natural and cultural resources program here.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Great. Well, thanks again, Ken, for coming in and sharing your knowledge with us. KEN ADKISSON: You’re welcome.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: You’ve been here a long time. We’ll just start off, a little bit of biographical information about where you’re from and how you came to work in the Park Service and come to Alaska.
KEN ADKISSON: Well, I mean, basically, I mean, at my age, that’s a pretty long story, so.
But in a nutshell, I mean, I grew up -- my father was in the military, and I grew up moving all over the country and some overseas.
When I got of school, out of high school, when I graduated from high school back in 1960, I went in the military.
And when I got out of the military, I decided I wanted to be an anthropologist or archeologist, and so I went to the University of New Mexico and spent the next bunch of years kicking around the American Southwest.
And um, in 1968, I went to work for the Park Service as a seasonal archeologist in Chaco Canyon, New Mexico. KATIE CULLEN: Hm.
KEN ADKISSON: And um, I had left college by that time, and then went as a seasonal to Grand Canyon. Spent a couple years or so as a seasonal in Grand Canyon.
And then got a permanent job back at Chaco Canyon. And then moved over to Hubble Trading Post in Arizona.
And from there I got in a kind of a Park Service development program. It was pretty strange. Anyway, from there -- so I got in that and finished that.
And then I did a couple assignments fal -- in Northern Arizona with what’s called -- at the time -- or Southern Arizona, what was called the Southern Arizona Group Office based in Phoenix, which administered kind of a number of parks.
And then, um, from there basically went to the panhandle of Texas. Spent a few years there, couple years, and then --
I had been to Alaska when I was in the military and I -- when I was in college, I developed a real interest in -- in the anthropology and archeology of the North.
And I actually did a summer of fieldwork in the Northwest Territories in Canada. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Hm. Whereabouts? KEN ADKISSON: Uh, up in an area called -- called -- around what was -- is called Fort Liard. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Yeah, Fort Liard, I know it well. KEN ADKISSON: Yeah. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Yeah. The hot springs are there.
KEN ADKISSON: So uh, yeah, well we were way out kind of in the bush, but that was sort of the jumping-off point -- LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Right. KEN ADKISSON: -- for the bush flight out to where we were actually working.
And when I was in college, we had just gotten a new chairman in the anthro department who -- a guy named John Campbell who was -- did a lot of work in the Arctic.
And um, so they -- they were kind of somewhat shifting the emphasis of the program, and they were trying to pump a lot of their grad students onto projects and things in the north.
So I had developed -- in college, I continued developing a real interest in it. And so from the Texas thing, I had a chance to go to Sitka. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Hm.
KEN ADKISSON: And that was kind of neat and novel. And I did that for four years, and then went and transferred back to northern Idaho for eight years. And then came up here when I really had a chance.
At the time, I was -- could have gone to Yukon-Charley (National Preserve) or maybe Gates (Gates of the Arctic National Park) or whatever. I had a couple-three choices.
And I thought, "Well, I really want to learn something about this and not the Interior stuff." ’Cause like, Yukon-Charley, I’d seen the boreal forest. I spent a summer working in it, so I -- I really wanted to get further north and get closer to the Arctic. So this was the job.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: And that was -- KEN ADKISSON: Came up here in January of ’85 and have been here ever since.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Always based in Nome? KEN ADKISSON: Yeah, with a lot of little travel around.
I mean, there was a period when we were merged with Kotzebue. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Hm. KEN ADKISSON: The Park Service office in Kotzebue, so I spent a lot more time traveling up there than I do now.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: So have your jobs evolved then, ever since you started? I mean --
KEN ADKISSON: Well, yeah, I mean, I started with the Park Service as a seasonal archeologist and went to a sort of a seasonal park -- or park technician to a permanent park technician to a, um, sort of a chief ranger kind of job in smaller parks usually, so it’s a combination of resource management, interpretive functions, and law enforcement combination.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: So when you first started in Nome, what was your actual -- ?
KEN ADKISSON: I actually came up here as kind of the park ranger, the only park ranger. I was the third person that they hired up here.
They had already hired the superintendent and an admin tech. So, basically, I was the third one, and then we -- right after I got here, they hired a resource management specialist.
KATIE CULLEN: Where was the office then? KEN ADKISSON: Hm? KATIE CULLEN: Where was the office? Was that when the office was down -- ?
KEN ADKISSON: Well, the office when I first moved up here in ’85, our offices were actually initially in where the chiropractor's offices are? KATIE CULLEN: Mm. Um-hm. Um-hm. KEN ADKISSON: There. In the post office building. KATIE CULLEN: In the post office building?
KEN ADKISSON: Yeah. New ol -- The old -- yeah, the post office building. So that's a -- Anyway, yeah, just in that -- that far eastern corner. KATIE CULLEN: Hm. KEN ADKISSON: Eastern side of it. The southern part of it, actually.
And then we -- ’cause I think maybe BLM might’ve had -- there was another office just kind of north of ours in that same thing, and they’ve I think remodeled and done something like that.
So eventually, we had that whole thing. And then, eventually, we kind of kept the superintendent up there for a while, and a bunch of us moved down to the basement.
And then the superintendent moved down to the basement, and so we vacated that main floor. KATIE CULLEN: Um-hm. Um-hm. KEN ADKISSON: And relocated in several offices down there in the basement. KATIE CULLEN: Hm.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: So as the first park ranger, was the park still the same configuration that it is today? KEN ADKISSON: What’s that?
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: When you came here first in the 1980’s as the first -- as the third park ranger. KEN ADKISSON: Yeah.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Was the park the same configuration that it is today, or had it -- did it -- has it grown over time? And I’m sorry, I should know that. KEN ADKISSON: No. No, it -- it’s pretty much stayed the same. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: It’s pretty much the same?
KEN ADKISSON: And maybe it’s decreased in a little in Anchorage and stuff, with some allotments and stuff that are -- I mean like, we’ve gone through a number of --
Well, ’cause when I got up here, the um, the allotment program was just really starting. The Native allotment program was really just starting to roll.
And uh, and uh, there -- we probably have as many or more allotments almost inside our park than most any other Alaskan park units have, I think. KATIE CULLEN: Hm.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: So did you get up there very much right into the park quite a bit when you first came up here? KEN ADKISSON: Um-hm. Yeah.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: First impressions?
KEN ADKISSON: Yeah, we did -- Well, probably one of the first things I ever did was take a little airplane flight into Serpentine Hot Springs. And that just blew my mind.
I mean, it was like, you know, here’s this place that you just don’t really expect. And -- and all of a sudden out of the mist or whatever, here’s this really fabulous place with these great granite tors and fog.
And, you know, if you’re into fantasy, it’s like, you know, the lost island movie or one of these kind of places. You know, it’s like, you just don’t know what, you know. Are there dinosaurs walking around here still? You know, kind of thing.
It was cool. It was a -- it was a really good experience, my first trip out there. And we did winter patrols and things, too.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: What were the issues that were facing you at the time? KEN ADKISSON: Hm? LESLIE MCCARTNEY: What issues were facing you at the time?
KEN ADKISSON: Well, all kinds of stuff. It’s just sort of like -- and the Park Service, I think, is especially difficult.
Um, because if you -- if you look at the Park Service enabling legislation or the Organic Act for the Park Service, I mean, its basic function is quote, “Protect and preserve the resources and provide for the enjoyment of same in a way that you’re supposed to leave them unimpaired or -- you know, the resources,” unquote.
And um, so, you know, that puts managers and park people in a very difficult situation trying to achieve that balance between those two things, because, ideally -- you know, on the surface, they’re completely contradictory. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Um-hm.
KEN ADKISSON: And nothing has changed in that over the years. It just kinda gets more difficult.
Um, and so, when we first got up here, I think, you know, it was kinda cool. The superintendent at that time was a tradit -- pretty traditional old-style ranger who moved up here from Redwoods.
Good guy, really great guy. Loved maintenance. Uh, but he was -- you know, he was honest. He was a pretty good superintendent.
And um, fortunately, we were blessed where when they first carved out the -- the monuments, some of the places like, you know, Yukon-Charley had mining at the time going in it. Some of the places like Wrangell-St. Elias had a lot of activity in it.
And um, there’s some pretty bad feelings, I think, about the Park Service. And we sort of missed that, I think.
My impression, the other thing when I first got up here in ’85, we were just starting to wrap up the development of the park's first and really only general management plan.
So we did a lot of travel out to the villages and public meetings, explaining the plan, taking public comment, that sort of thing. And um --
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: How did you kind of miss that controversy, then, that the other parks had?
KEN ADKISSON: Well, I -- I think probably -- the only one that I can think of that was really an issue was that the Park Service in general, and to some extent us, was that right after they set these parks up, the Park Service sent up like a team of rangers.
And they went to the villages, and one of the things they did was lean on people, and -- basically people who had allotments within these things, and sort of started pressuring them about their allotment selections. And um --
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: In that they wanted them to change their selection, or give up -- KEN ADKISSON: Or not apply for them. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Or not apply or give them up? KEN ADKISSON: Or -- or -- yeah, or be able not to demonstrate that they deserved one. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Right.
KEN ADKISSON: And so, I think the Park Service got a really bad idea -- bad -- bad reputation initially in that regard. I think that was the only really big issue, at least for us.
And we did everything that we could to, you know, kind of dispel that and work it. And even -- even up to a few years ago, there were things like, you know, some of these things were still working their way through. Like easements across certain lands.
And um, especially for state, potentially, easements like right-of-ways and stuff like that.
And we al -- you know, our staff always tried to, you know, defend the villagers and the allottees and -- so that, you know, they could have places maybe in the right-of-way, or that -- tell the state to move the darn right-of-way or whatever for their fish camps. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Um-hm.
KEN ADKISSON: And, you know, meat drying racks and things like that. So we’ve had pretty good relationships.
And then, I think the people themselves have just been super-duper great. I mean, they pretty much take you as you are.
I mean, they may know you work for an agency, and they may not really like the agency, but I think they tend to put more value on you as a person and how you relate to them and things than they do some of these other stuff. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Um-hm.
KEN ADKISSON: And from the first general meet -- public meetings I went to, I mean, I just always told people straight out that, you know, there’s gonna be some values and some issues that we have a lot of common interest in and overlap, and, you know, it’d be really great if we could work together on these things to both our benefit.
But you -- you folks just need to remember, this is a national-level agency that’s driven by laws and things that are set up by Congress, and -- and you know, to serve the whole nation. And sometimes our interests are not gonna match.
And all you can really do is keep your eye on us and try to keep us in line. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Hm. KEN ADKISSON: You know, and try to protect what your interest and see if we can find a reasonable compromise. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Hm. KEN ADKISSON: And it’s worked pretty well, I think. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Right. Right.
KEN ADKISSON: So -- so the other thing that’s sort of always been an issue is subsistence. Right from the very earlier days.
When I was in -- when I was actually in Texas trying to get back to Alaska, I put in for a job three times, actually, in Kotzebue, and didn’t get it either -- any three times, which is probably a blessing for me.
Um, but one of the -- one of the people who interviewed me at the time was going on and on about all this wildlife abuse and poaching and weird stuff.
So I just said, "Well, you know, what kind of -- what kind of hunting activity are you talking about? You know, is this -- you know, is this -- are these sport hunters or -- ?"
By that time, I had -- I had -- remember, I had gone to Sitka, so one of the first things I did when I went to Sitka in ’74 was sign up to take a college course on ANCSA. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Um-hm. KEN ADKISSON: The Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. So I already had some background of a lot of this stuff and what was promised in ANCSA and what wasn’t promised and stuff, so.
And by the time I had left Sitka, um, we were rolling into the actual ANILCA (Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act), pre-ANILCA thing. And trying -- the legislation was going to be coming up in ’78 to ’79 to pass, you know, within that period of time.
And so, I mean, we were getting the full treatment of how, you know, great this was gonna be and how it was going to protect traditional life ways, and on and on, and really the parks up here are really unique.
And when I got to Idaho, I mean, one of the things I did go -- was go to colleges and civic groups and give talks on -- on ANILCA. Pre-ANILCA, or what, you know. And uh, so I had a pretty good idea what -- sort of what some of the issues were, but --
So I asked him about, you know, "Is this subsistence hunting or is this sport hunting?" That was the end of the conversation. I didn’t get the job.
And they already had a -- Kotzebue already had a pretty bad reputation, I think, going on, because they had, you know, cited some older gentleman for illegal sheep hunting or something and confiscated his firearm and his snowmachine.
And people will still talk about that today now, you know, about that incident. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: He was out subsisting hunting? KEN ADKISSON: About that incident. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Yeah. Yeah.
KEN ADKISSON: So I -- you know, one -- one "Oh, crap," or "Oh, God" does away with ten atta-boys, and they never forget it.
It just stays in the village and becomes part of the, you know, everything that bad happens to them like that that an agency does just stays there for a long time in the community’s memory. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Right.
KEN ADKISSON: So um, yeah. That’s -- and outside of that, you know, things just chugged along. Standard Park Service operations. Do patrols. Maybe once in a while give a citation. Try to get research going and stuff.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: What was involved in a patrol? Can you take me through a typical patrol?
KEN ADKISSON: Well, we’d leave Nome by snowmachine and maybe go out to Teller. And then from Teller, kinda either go to Wales or cut up to the northeast and go to Shishmaref, and then back down to -- through Serpentine and back to Nome.
Or maybe start in Nome and go up the Kougarok Road, and out of town here that runs north, and follow that up towards Salmon Lake, and then go up the -- up to Serpentine.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: And how long would one of those patrols take? KEN ADKISSON: Oh, few days. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Um-hm.
KEN ADKISSON: It was always good to hit Serpentine Hot Springs and hang out and recover for the -- LESLIE MCCARTNEY: On the way back? KEN ADKISSON: Yeah. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Yeah.
And how often did you do patrols in those days? KEN ADKISSON: Um, maybe a couple of times a winter. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Hm. KEN ADKISSON: If we were lucky.
KATIE CULLEN: What was -- what was the coldest temperature you encountered out on a patrol, if you might? KEN ADKISSON: Oh, I don’t ever remember now. I mean, I think some of them were actually colder than what we’re normally getting now. KATIE CULLEN: Um-hm.
KEN ADKISSON: Um, but everything -- my recollection of it is, things were really different in terms of overall weather patterns, so.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: How -- how different? Can you talk about that?
KEN ADKISSON: Well, you know, it seemed like most of the stuff, the storms, came out of the north or northeast or something. Some northwest. Things would really blow. You might get a blizzard.
I mean, I got stuck one time on my last trip up north was to snowmachine. We started out with three of us, and one of the guys ran over -- crashed his snow -- came down a hillside and crashed his snowmachine, and that was the end of that trip. Well, for him anyway.
And then the next time, I guess the superintendent, the new superintendent and I tried a trip, and that turned out to be a bust.
We got up there by what’s called Golden Gate, there up by Salmon Lake, and got into a big ground storm. And he and I got separated, and, apparently, he went sort of back and got into a cabin.
And I wound up plugging on, going north and wound up spending the night in my sled in a sleeping bag. Got up and dug myself out the next day when the weather started to clear and headed back to town.
You know, yeah, so then, that was about the last trip I went on in the field.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Yeah. So the winds and the storms used to come from the northwest? KEN ADKISSON: A lot of it, yeah. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Yeah.
KEN ADKISSON: And it’d blow, and, you know, you’d get big drifts interspersed by almost bare ground. And you just dig yourself out and go on with life.
And it just, nowadays, it seems like more and more stuff comes out of the south. And you get more south, southeast, southwest winds. And --
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Which are warmer winds, I take it? KEN ADKISSON: And wetter, bringing in more moisture.
And so, you know, you get more -- the timing of the snowfall is different. The drift patterns are different.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: So how is the timing different?
KEN ADKISSON: Well, it seems like we get a lot more stuff late. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Hm. KEN ADKISSON: Like in April now, maybe.
KATIE CULLEN: Hm. Last February, yeah, we had that whole month last year.
KEN ADKISSON: And it’s wetter, more -- more rainfall, I think. More heavier snow at times that you never used to get it. (Background noise, talking and laughter)
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: You said the drifts were different? How were the drifting -- how was the drifting different?
I know from wind direction it would be different, but -- KEN ADKISSON: Yeah. Yeah, it just deposits differently. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Right.
KEN ADKISSON: So if you’re trying to shovel out your driveway or your backyard or whatever you need to do, it’s just different.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Right, yeah. And you notice those subtle changes over a period of years, or were they like, all of a sudden it’s sort of like, you could sorta tell when things changed, or -- ?
KEN ADKISSON: I think for me, I just really started noticing it the last few years. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Ok.
KEN ADKISSON: I’m sure it was starting to do that, but to where it was, jeez, this is really a pain in the neck. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Yeah. Yeah. Hm.
KEN ADKISSON: To the point even the city, I think, has trouble keeping up with moving snow at certain times of the year now that I don’t remember people really complaining in the past. (Rise in background noise)
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Um-hm. Yeah. Um, how -- so those are the early patrols that you said you went out on. Just a second. (Pause/break to stop the conversations in the background)
KEN ADKISSON: You know, and there were -- you know, and I think, you know, travel is obviously getting a lot more risky, I think, and stuff now.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: On the ice or on -- on the land? KEN ADKISSON: Everywhere. I think everywhere.
I mean, I can remember one trip we took actually -- this -- this was just personal trip with some friends.
Um, went east out towards, like, Topkok and out that way, and then up to, like, White Mountain. And then up the Fish River and then eventually further out.
And, you know, on the way, someone had fallen through one of the streams. Had gotten wet. Not on our party, but somebody else.
And I think now, this isn’t unique to us, but I think with things warming up earlier, freezing later, it’s probably increasingly risky to, you know, travel across country even out here.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: And then it equally is risky traveling on sea ice.
KEN ADKISSON: Well, that’s -- that’s getting to be just, you know -- I haven’t crabbed in years and stuff, but I -- people are having a hard time doing that now.
You can talk to the people, like I said people like Roy (Ashenfelter), maybe. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Um-hm. KEN ADKISSON: Or others, but, you know, especially if you get out in the villages.
Even some people here in Nome that are really kind of heavy sea mammal utilizers and stuff and hunt a lot. It’s just getting terribly unsafe out there. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Um-hm. KEN ADKISSON: So yeah.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: But you’re even noticing that as you’re going in the interior? That it’s becoming much less? KEN ADKISSON: Well, I think it is. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Yeah. KEN ADKISSON: I think it would be. I mean, it’s just, you know -- If the streams are, you know, not freezing or the ice isn’t as thick, or --
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Yeah. What about other changes, then Ken, that you’ve seen since you’ve arrived, perhaps in terms of flora or fauna?
KEN ADKISSON: Well, I don’t do much fishing, so I’m not really -- LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Um-hm. KEN ADKISSON: -- hauling things in.
But, I mean, the evidence is out there, I think, that just pretty much uncontroversial. It’s -- it’s -- it’s the whole marine ecosystem is just transforming itself.
You’re getting more things like Pacific cod, rather than some sort of Arctic, you know, cod.
And -- and, you know, the more and more species of warmer water fish are showing up up here and staying longer and reproducing more effectively.
Um, on the land we’ve talked about shrubification for years, at least since probably the '90’s. As -- as the shrub areas, you know, kind of march northward. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Um-hm.
KEN ADKISSON: The Seward Peninsula has always, I think, been kind of like on an ecotone area. The Continental Divide kind of runs roughly through the middle of the park. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Um-hm.
KEN ADKISSON: And -- not that that’s the big environmental factor, but it’s kind of interesting when I’ve looked at the archeological record and stuff, and changes in it and things.
It just strikes me that this kind of area is kind of right on the border line between conditions that are more common to the south and conditions to the -- that are more common to the north, so it doesn’t surprise me that we would be getting some of these changes at this point in time. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Um-hm.
KEN ADKISSON: But uh, so, you know, the vegetation, the ground -- the ground cover vegetation is changing, um.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: In that there’s more trees and willows, like you said, the shrubification?
KEN ADKISSON: Yeah, and like, moose really didn’t come, weren’t really common in the area until maybe it began to be around the '50’s or so. Uh, and now they’re fairly common, but low density. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Um-hm.
KEN ADKISSON: Um, beaver are -- been moving northward and are becoming a major concern, at least for us at Serpentine Hot Springs.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: They change a landscape? KEN ADKISSON: Yeah. Well, at least, you know, it’s a contributing factor to it. I think that -- LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Um-hm.
KEN ADKISSON: The big thing right now with us is the increasing, uh, threats of erosion and flooding at Serpentine Hot Springs, which is the most well-known and heavily visited site in the park.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Due to the damming of the beavers, or partially due to that? KEN ADKISSON: I think it’s more complex than that. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Um-hm.
KEN ADKISSON: But, clearly, I think they have a role in it. How much of a role and what would if -- what would happen if they were gone longer term. That may be more problematical.
But I think -- so I think we’re going to have to be really thinking about that site and how we manage it and --
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: So what’s the erosion that’s happening there?
KEN ADKISSON: Uh, the stream channel’s changing. It’s flooding. Um, is a big thing.
And how much of the stream channel change is just due to water volume and natural, I mean, the thing -- we should expect something to change.
My gosh, the cabin and the bathhouse are built right in the middle of the flood plain, so I mean, you know. Realistically, folks, how long is that condition gonna hold? LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Right. Yeah.
KEN ADKISSON: But still, you know, it’s -- what do you do about it? Um, and people really like the place, so, you know, and most people don’t want it to change. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Um-hm.
KEN ADKISSON: But, you know, so, but we’re going to have to make some changes, I think, and accommodate them. And I don’t know how much management, real hard-core management things we can do out there, so.
I would say that’s one of our biggest management challenges right now. And I think it’s probably due to a factor of one.
I was just corresponding with some people this morning about a geological report and a presentation by one of the regional office staff, Amanda (Lanik), to come out. I want to talk to her about some geology things related to Serpentine, but uh, anyway.
I think the threat’s real, and -- and um, that eventually we’ll get a big wash-through through there, maybe.
But, you know, it’s like the beavers. Some people blame it all on the beavers, and some people say, "Well, the beavers are really helping because they’re preventing the water from just rushing down from above." And, you know, take your pick. Whatever you like. We haven’t had enough research out there and stuff to really nail it down, but.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Now with warmer temperatures, too, are you --
KEN ADKISSON: I think -- I think warmer temperatures, increasing precipitation, timing changes and that increased volume of precipitation. Um, the subsurface or the surficial geology, rather, the -- its susceptibility or not to erosion.
Um, one thing that we’re finding out here, and which I think currently is going to be one of the biggest ecological drivers of change, is the loss of permafrost. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Ok.
KEN ADKISSON: And um, I mean, we just had some big lakes just drain. Pfft! (sound effect) They're -- yesterday, gone today, kind of thing. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Yeah.
KEN ADKISSON: And we’re really concerned about that, 'cause some of them, like, are really good habitat for loons. Some of those loon species that are of concern.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Yep, and now those -- those, um -- KEN ADKISSON: Well, we don’t know yet. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Ok. KEN ADKISSON: But there's -- they may be losing some of their breeding habitat. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Right. Right.
KEN ADKISSON: So we’ve got a project that looks like it’s going to be funded to look at that. It looks like Dave Swanson’s going to get the money for that.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Hm, good. Yeah. Um, when we spoke with Dave Swanson, he was talking about those -- the lake drainages, just like you say, "Here today, gone tomorrow."
KEN ADKISSON: Yeah, we’ve seen some of this going on in mostly smaller lakes and stuff for a number of years, you know, where eventually something would break through. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Um-hm.
KEN ADKISSON: But this -- this -- this stuff now, it’s just really significant. It’s really -- it’s going to really change the percentage of -- of water cover on the -- on the penin -- in the preserve.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Right. Huh. Just going back to the archeology. You had mentioned, um, the Continental Divide goes through, and that you looked at the archeology. Can you talk about that at all? KEN ADKISSON: Oh, not a lot. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Ok.
KEN ADKISSON: I’d have to go back. I haven’t really -- LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Haven’t looked at it? KEN ADKISSON: -- paid much attention -- LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Ok. KEN ADKISSON: -- to it for a while, but, I mean, it just strikes me as there are some differences there, and maybe in timing.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Differences in what sense? KEN ADKISSON: Composition of artifacts. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Ah. KEN ADKISSON: And things like that. And other evidence of maybe cultural change.
So how people are adapting to various resources and stuff. We’ve got some fascinating stuff going on.
We’ve had a project going on at Cape Espenberg now for over ten years. It’s kinda wrapping up. That is kinda looking at changes at a certain significant time in the past.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: And what would that time in the past be? Do you -- is there any estimate on that yet?
KEN ADKISSON: Mm, it’s kinda that period of time, what, roughly -- don’t hold me to this, 'cause I -- LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Ok. KEN ADKISSON: But we’re talking about a period probably about 2000 years or so ago.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Ok. And there’s evidence of change then? And what type of -- what type of change are you seeing in the -- ?
KEN ADKISSON: Well, they’re looking at patterns now. I just got another -- we got another request in for some destructive analysis of some, I think, ceramics, that I was starting to read when -- LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Ok. KEN ADKISSON: -- Katie walked in first. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Uh-huh.
KEN ADKISSON: But um, they can -- by taking samples of some of the residue in what are cooking pots, they can identify what people were eating and some neat stuff. And by that -- LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Fascinating. KEN ADKISSON: -- you can begin to infer other things about the environment.
And then you can check them by whatever, you know, bone materials that you find in the site and so forth. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Um-hm. So maybe --
KEN ADKISSON: So, I mean, there are -- there are long range patterns, and then there are probably finer patterns that -- and there are other areas. I mean, ours isn’t unique.
Up on Kotzebue area, the -- the Kobuk River’s been kind of an area of cultural change. And a boundary line, kinda a shifting boundary line between what people normally think of as Inupiaq or Eskimo cultures and Athabascan or Indian cultures in that area. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Interesting. KEN ADKISSON: And uh, yeah, so.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: So getting back to the permafrost, 'cause that's --
KEN ADKISSON: But I don’t know, of the stuff on the culture change, I’m just speculating, you know. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Yeah. KEN ADKISSON: It’s related to things like that that we may not have the techniques to, you know, find. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: But those --
KEN ADKISSON: But I think we’re right on a borderline between -- so I mean, we’re going to be seeing some of these changes more rapidly than, say, Kotzebue, for now, but eventually they’re going to get them, too.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Um-hm. Um-hm. And sometimes cultural change can happen over a very long period of time. Whereas it seems like the changes that we’re seeing today are happening over a much shorter period of time.
KEN ADKISSON: Well, I think things are probably happening, you know, outside of the, you know, asteroid and the dinosaurs. I think, things are happening more rapidly now.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Yeah. Yeah. We were talking about permafrost and the lakes draining. What other, um -- what other changes is happening because of the permafrost thaw?
KEN ADKISSON: Well, we haven’t been severely affected by that. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Um-hm. KEN ADKISSON: But we have had increasing problems with, like, our shelter cabins out in the preserve sinking down.
And uh, to the point where now we’re talking about a new style of cabin to reduce the contact and the heat transfer and things between the shelter cabin and the -- LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Hm. Ok. KEN ADKISSON: -- strata it’s sitting on top of to try to help reduce some of that problem of settling into the ground. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Um.
KEN ADKISSON: And, you know, it could do -- other places -- I mean, we don’t have any real roads in the preserve and stuff, so we’re not seeing all of that, but --
But we also may get more, I think with, as it warms and the moisture patterns change, and maybe some of the permafrost, you know, continues degrading, we may get more sort of downslope slumping and things, which actually could be bad for some of our archeological resources.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Yes. Right. And also ends up putting more silt into the rivers at times, too, and silting them up and changing river courses. Yeah.
You still have a lot to do with subsistence, um, in your current position here? KEN ADKISSON: Uh, kind of, yeah.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: So what are you hearing from subsistence hunters, or are you?
KEN ADKISSON: Well, I’d say the biggest things that are probably impacting them are probably access issues. Um --
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: In an ability to get access?
KEN ADKISSON: Well, for example, if freeze-up comes later, snowfall comes later, um, you can’t really use a snowmachine effectively. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Um-hm.
KEN ADKISSON: And a lot of the -- you know, a lot of the camps are out where they basically set the camp up, you know, kind of like ahead of time, and then you -- the snowmachine out to the camp and go out onto the ice from the camp, let’s say.
Well, now it’s getting harder to do that, or in the wintertime get out, go caribou hunting or whatever else you need to do.
And uh, then if you do get out to the ice, then it’s often unsafe even, you know, boating or anything else.
I was just -- general access to the resources is probably the most noticeable thing. But, eventually, it’s even going to be the resources themselves that change.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Right. You haven’t seen the actual resources changing at that much, or -- ?
KEN ADKISSON: They’re turning up some fabulous stuff, the -- some of the agency folks and the universities have been doing a lot more research out this way.
And they did some -- been doing some trawl surveys out here for fish and things. And they upped their schedule for that. And they’re turning -- they’re finding some pretty significant changes. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Um-hm.
KEN ADKISSON: And some of the NOAA work and stuff on, you know, sea water temperature changes. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Yeah, it’s -- KEN ADKISSON: Definitely, definitely warming. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Yeah.
KEN ADKISSON: And not just at the surface, but all the way down. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Yeah. It’s pretty phenomenal.
KEN ADKISSON: And so, with that changes in warmth, that brings changes in the microorganisms that serve the food.
There’s a food base, which, you know, affects everything else in terms of what can live there. And then, whatever they’re used to in terms of, you know, temperatures in which they breed and reproduce at or whatever.
And in the case of ice seals, the ice that they need. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Um-hm.
KEN ADKISSON: So it’s -- we’re in for some pretty significant changes.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Um-hm. Definitely. What do you see the role as the park doing? I mean, these are factors beyond anyone’s control at the moment.
KEN ADKISSON: You know, that’s the big -- in my opinion, that’s the big one.
And I think -- I think we’re going to find that down the road, we really are challenged in how we do all this stuff to a level that we’ve never had to deal with before.
And some of that’s structural and based on law and everything else, so some of it’s very hard to change.
But, I mean, let’s say you have an allotment now, out on the coast between Shishmaref and Cape Espenberg out there somewhere. And your allotment erodes away into the sea. Oh, God, there goes your land. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Um-hm.
KEN ADKISSON: That wouldn’t have been a problem in the past, because it would’ve all been your land. You just move back. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Right.
KEN ADKISSON: But it’s not your land anymore. So how does the Park Service address that?
Is that person an illegal squatter then on the land, or what is it? Or what kind of accommodations are we willing to make as an agency?
And I think that’s gonna be a big deal at some point.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Yeah, like are you willing to give another allotment to the person to make up for that after it’s gone into the ocean?
KEN ADKISSON: Well, they’re going to want to take it ’cause that’s what they do to live on. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Right.
KEN ADKISSON: And unless you just try relocating the whole community somewhere, which is generally a disaster.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Right, not only in terms of cost but in cultural. KEN ADKISSON: So, and I think that’s going to become a real -- real issue.
We’ve got it with Shishmaref now, which still continues, I think, to fluctuate between whether they should move the community or not.
And then in our case, we’ve got the question of having a road go from Shishmaref up to Ear Mountain, which could serve as a ready source of gravel and stuff for new construction and stuff. It’s -- and, you know, we’re prepared to address that through some way that, you know, could let them do that.
I mean, we’re not gonna try to stop that if that’s what they decide they need to do.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: As opposed to relocating then the actual village?
KEN ADKISSON: Well, the gravel and stuff could go into relocating the village. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Oh, I see. Yeah.
KEN ADKISSON: So, you know, we’re willing to do that, I think, at least the staff that I know of is willing to do that and the current staff.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Are those decisions for you guys to make, or do they go higher up? KEN ADKISSON: Well, things will get -- things will get pretty complicated pretty fast. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Yeah. KEN ADKISSON: They can go all the way up to Washington and the legislat -- you know, Congress. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Right.
KEN ADKISSON: I mean, there are a number of parks that have provisions, um -- Well, like Cape Krusenstern National Monument up at Kotzebue has that provision for the Red Dog Haul Road and stuff. From the mine to the port site out there.
And -- and there’s also stuff that was built into the legislation for which is now becoming what's called the Ambler Mining District. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Um-hm. KEN ADKISSON: Along the Kobuk River. And there are provisions there.
So the Park Service can’t say no to somebody who wants to permit it, but they might be able to put conditions on it or help pick an alternative route. But they can’t just say, "No, you can’t come through here." LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Right.
KEN ADKISSON: And we don’t have anything like that for Bering Land Bridge. But um, Congress could do something. And, hopefully, it wouldn’t be necessary to do that, but at some point, a deal might -- some kind of an arrangement might have to be made if they really do decide to move. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Um-hm.
KEN ADKISSON: And I don’t know, even if they don’t move and just try to, you know, armor-plate the coast more with, you know -- you’ve still got to get materials from some of that.
And a lot of it I guess now comes from Cape Nome. So if they could go there, maybe it would be cheaper, you know, but yeah. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Right.
KEN ADKISSON: But I do worry about the allotments and then the access, and -- and whether or not to -- what are we going to do about ATV use and stuff like that? It’s now generally prohibited.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Is it? And how does one enforce that? KEN ADKISSON: Occasionally, probably in reality.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Yeah. And then an ATV is the only way of actually accessing, um, and you prohibit that, how does that leave people? KEN ADKISSON: It doesn’t. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: No.
KEN ADKISSON: So I mean, you know, and it depends on -- people tend to go where the resource is, up to a point.
And as distribution of those resources shifts for whatever reason, people are going to find a way to try to adapt to it. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Um-hm.
KEN ADKISSON: And, you know, and timing movements in the caribou are changing. I think (cross-talk) -- LESLIE MCCARTNEY: I was just going to ask you about caribou.
Yeah, so how -- what have you noticed or what have you heard about the timing in caribou changing?
KEN ADKISSON: Oh, just that they’re tending to be more kind of irregular, coming later, tending to come later. They seem to be going through a cycle, too, now where they’re shifting, maybe, their wintering range again.
When I first got up here, there weren’t many of them out on the peninsula, but there were some. And then through the '80’s, it increased until sometime in the '90’s when there -- a huge amount of the Western Arctic Caribou Herd was wintering on the Seward Peninsula. Now they seem to be largely shifting back towards more eastwardly.
I don’t think we had very -- maybe even no -- none of the radio collars on the caribou were maybe located out in the park area this year, I don’t think.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Oh, so they didn’t even travel that far? Huh. KEN ADKISSON: The collared ones. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: The collared ones, right. Yeah. Hm.
KEN ADKISSON: But, that doesn’t mean we didn’t have caribou out there. But that’s a whole ’nother story. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Well, do tell.
KEN ADKISSON: Well, ok, but it’s a controversial one. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Ok. KEN ADKISSON: For a whole lot of reasons, but it is a fascinating one.
So biologists generally identify caribou by where they tend to calf. So like you have the Western Arctic Herd, or you have the Porcupine Caribou Herd. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Yes. KEN ADKISSON: Or the Mentasta Caribou Herd. And they generally -- caribou tend to return to their traditional calving areas.
Well, there are some people that believe that -- and we have plenty of evidence on the Seward Peninsula, including the park, of caribou drive lines and stuff. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Right. KEN ADKISSON: So you know, we know caribou are out there.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Archeology of caribou lines, right? KEN ADKISSON: Yeah. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: So you know they’ve been out there for a long time? KEN ADKISSON: Yeah.
And there’s -- there’s I think sufficient evidence to think that it’s quite possible that there were caribou out here on the peninsula that stayed year-round.
Um, it’s probably a more economical thing to believe that than believe another possibility, which is that you had, like, caribou herds that were doing this (hand gesture). LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Going back and forth?
KEN ADKISSON: Yeah, so what was here in the winter would move north in the spring. And what was south of us would move onto the peninsula in the spring. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Ok. KEN ADKISSON: And then move back. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Ok.
KEN ADKISSON: Uh, so I think it’s much more likely that there were animals out here that lived on the peninsula. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Hm.
KEN ADKISSON: And maybe shifted their location on the peninsula in terms of where they -- they calved and where they went for insect relief and stuff. But whatever was out here by the -- by the end of the 1800’s largely was gone. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Hm.
KEN ADKISSON: And so, if there was one out here that stayed year-round, it probably went extinct.
Um, and then eventually was just simply replaced by the Western Arctic Caribou Herd and its movements on the Slope (North Slope). LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Hm.
KEN ADKISSON: So now we know there are caribou that are calving out there. Some people still think they’re reindeer, so.
There’s something out there that’s producing calves, and they’re -- and there’d be a little -- they might have some reindeer genes in there mixed in with the wild caribou genes, but they’re out there, and they’re calving.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: And being harvested? Are local people -- KEN ADKISSON: Well. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: -- hunting for subsistence, the caribou there? KEN ADKISSON: Yeah. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Yeah.
KEN ADKISSON: And they would hunt them if they were there in the winter if they were part of the Western Arctic Herd, too. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Um-hm. KEN ADKISSON: So yeah, but, fascinating things.
So, but people don’t want to say that there’s a Seward Peninsula Caribou Herd. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Hm. KEN ADKISSON: ’Cause it has all kinds of interesting implications, politically, economically.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: What are the political implications?
KEN ADKISSON: Well, so if you have a herd -- so like, right now it’s the Western Arctic Caribou Herd. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Yeah. KEN ADKISSON: And it comes down, and everybody and their mother’s brother can go hunt it.
And I mean everybody. Non-residents of the state, residents of the state. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Ok. KEN ADKISSON: For the most part.
Well, so if you now have a new herd, the state has to first look at it and determine if it has kind of a use for human consumption.
And then, they have to decide whether that’s a traditional use and come up with something they call an amount needed for subsistence and things. And so -- and they have to set, you know --
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Limits? KEN ADKISSON: -- population objectives and maybe har -- even harvest objectives.
So if you have a new herd and it’s much smaller than the Western Arctic Caribou Herd, what kind of harvest are you going to allow on that? And if it’s that small, it’s probably going to be a pretty small harvest.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Right. And then how do you tell that that’s the different herd than the Western Herd?
KEN ADKISSON: Well, that’s going to be a challenge that nobody ever seem to want to deal with right now. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Yeah. Yeah.
KEN ADKISSON: I think they would just prefer to think of it as the Western Arctic Herd. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Right.
KEN ADKISSON: Because if you have a very small harvest allowed on it, then that means you get into the whole issue of, like, subsistence and protecting the subsistence priority on the federal side, and -- and shutting out people who might be able hunt now. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Um-hm.
KEN ADKISSON: Just bigger problem, nattier problem, I think, than people want to deal with. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Right, so just keep --
KEN ADKISSON: But it’s fascinating. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: It is. KEN ADKISSON: Because we may be looking at a biological event in process, happening as we look at it. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Sure. Right.
KEN ADKISSON: I mean, undoubtedly things like that have happened with caribou in the past. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Yeah. KEN ADKISSON: So it’s like, probably natural processes meet the modern regulatory world. KATIE CULLEN: Wow. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Yeah.
KEN ADKISSON: So, you know, we can -- we can impose our view of the world on -- on the natural processes, I guess. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Hm. Interesting. Very interesting. Katie, did --
KEN ADKISSON: That may not be very climate change related. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: No, but it’s -- KEN ADKISSON: But it’s -- it’s -- LESLIE MCCARTNEY: It’s change.
KEN ADKISSON: But it could have some relation to climate change. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Um-hm. KEN ADKISSON: Forage quality and everything.
When -- when the forage -- the phenology and the timing of when things green and how that relates to movement of the female caribou and the condition of the range when they get to the calving grounds and all of that can feed back into the population dynamics of the animal.
So we probably will be seeing changes like that down the road.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Um-hm. Hm. Katie, did you have something you were going to ask? Ok. I thought you wanted to ask something. No.
What about the moose, then? Are the population of moose changed since -- over the last few decades or longer?
KEN ADKISSON: Yeah, that’s an interesting one, too. When I got up here in ’85, there were lots of moose, and we had big long seasons, and we had cow -- cow harvesting allowed.
And by ten years later, the moose were starting to tank.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Just a regular cycle? Or did anybody really know?
KEN ADKISSON: Well, there’s some indication of, I think, probably overpopulation in some of the areas and habitat degradation. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Yeah.
KEN ADKISSON: Like up in the Kuzitrin area and stuff, Kuzitrin River area, where they did some work. But uh, but anyway, they -- you know, since then, it’s just been a steady reduction in the allowable harvest, and increasing shortening of seasons.
And, you know, moose generally are, I think, perceived as low-density in this general environment. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Um-hm.
KEN ADKISSON: But, you know, with the climate change, probably the habitat’s going to be better for moose.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: If there’s more shrubs and trees and wood for them to chew on. KEN ADKISSON: But it’s still kind of a pretty -- pretty tough environment. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Yeah.
KEN ADKISSON: Because unlike other areas maybe further south where they -- moose might be more distributed, up here there’s plenty of area that they can forage in the summer. Though I think people are starting to look at that forage quality even during the summer.
Uh, as one person explained it to me, what they do in the summer is what they go into facing the winter. So if they’ve had a really good summer and are in good condition.
If they’re not in such good condition, the winter’s going to be pretty -- even tougher for 'em. But then when you get into the winter, it’s just plain tough. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Right.
KEN ADKISSON: So the better you are and better shape you are going in, the better chance you have of coming out the other side of it. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Yeah.
KEN ADKISSON: But um, they tend to like -- the winter habitat’s a lot more restricted, generally, to these riparian areas where more of the willows and things are. So they tend to yard up. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Um-hm. KEN ADKISSON: Rather than stay disbursed.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Yeah. Is there limits right now on moose, on how many moose a person’s allowed to harvest?
KEN ADKISSON: Oh, some of them, like nonresident seasons are like ten days, two weeks. Uh, yeah.
It’s generally one moose per hunter by whatever permit system is in operation.
And then, they -- you know, may not -- they have ways of restricting the numbers of permits or making it more difficult to get to try to control.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: And what about for -- even for subsistence?
KEN ADKISSON: Um, that’s been restricted, too. Uh, mostly through elimination of the cow harvest. Um, shortening seasons, um, let’s see, what else.
And then -- and then actually, you know, in some cases maybe establishing permits with -- restricting the number of permits or the allowable harvest resulting in a season that’s closed earlier than --
You may issue a lot of permits, but you may have to close the season. So it depends on what the -- what the harvest limit overall. Harvest level.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: So is there also a size restriction, like a bull moose has to be a certain size? KEN ADKISSON: They use that, too. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Ok.
KEN ADKISSON: Yeah. You don’t see many of those for the subsistence hunts, though. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Right.
KEN ADKISSON: Most of those are ones they put on non-residents or sometimes residents in more urban-related areas and things like that.
We may have one or two of them on the books out here, but, generally, nothing like that in the federal subsistence regulations. And I don't -- Very few of them, if any, on the resident.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: And what about for the caribou for hunting? KEN ADKISSON: Um, they’re still pretty liberal. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Are they? Yeah. Still quite a big number?
KEN ADKISSON: Um, the Western Arctic Caribou Herd really -- from a really low back in the '70’s, um, increased pretty dramatically. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Hm.
KEN ADKISSON: And then started to decline again. And it’s down now where, under the management plan it’s considered a conservative level of management.
So the state’s restricted the number of caribou, especially for non-resident hunters. They’ve shortened the seasons.
Um, it’s still pretty liberal, though, for state residents. And it varies somewhat.
It’s like, usually, you’ll see it expressed as maybe something like x number of animals a year. Or x number of animals per day. No more than a cap of something in a -- in a year. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Hm. KEN ADKISSON: Um, yeah.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: What about the bear population? Has it changed over time? KEN ADKISSON: Depends on who you talk to. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Oh. I’m talking to you.
KEN ADKISSON: I don’t know. That’s an interesting thought. The -- the -- the latest that I know of is is that the best available estimate we currently have is the bears related to the park, at least. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Um-hm.
KEN ADKISSON: And a hunk of the Seward -- northern part of the Seward Peninsula have stayed fairly stable. But the confidence in that isn’t, maybe, the strongest that we would like.
And we’re scheduled for another bear census and survey this spring.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: How often do you do those? KEN ADKISSON: Uh, for us it’s like every five years right now. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Ok.
KEN ADKISSON: And the estimate from that -- the last one that they did, was five years ago, was -- They now think, or some people think, that the bears in the southern part of the peninsula may have actually decreased.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: And why would that be?
KEN ADKISSON: I think you probably have to say harvest pressure. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Ok.
KEN ADKISSON: Yeah. I mean, that’s the best guess, I think. Though, yeah. I don’t think it’s -- I don’t think the bears are being restricted necessarily by food availability.
But, yeah, they -- they’ve liberalized -- the state’s liberalized its bear regulations fairly consistently. And in one period of time, it really resulted in significant harvest in the Nome area. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Hm.
KEN ADKISSON: In the villages it doesn’t make much difference what the regulations are. I mean, in a subsistence-oriented community, it’s -- there, you’re either utilizing the bear for subsistence or you’re not.
And the demand just isn’t there as much anymore. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Right. KEN ADKISSON: So it doesn’t matter what the regulation is.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Does the park have wolves? Like Denali Park has wolves, and we hear about them quite often, so what about in the Bering Land Bridge?
KEN ADKISSON: We have, people think, a lot of wolves on the Seward Peninsula. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Ok.
So can you talk about them in the peninsula? Again, it’s a population that goes up and down?
KEN ADKISSON: Well, undoubtedly it does. I mean, disease is probably one of the bigger factors, but -- and food -- LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Um-hm. KEN ADKISSON: -- availability.
But, you know, you go to meetings, and it’s -- it’s sort of the same old story.
Like bear populations, I’ve been going to Fish and Game meetings probably since I got here in ’85, and it’s generally the same story. Which isn’t necessarily inaccurate.
But bear populations are believed to be stable to increasing. They’re very rarely, if ever, going down. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Um-hm.
KEN ADKISSON: And then, you know, we’ve got a lot more people moving out into the suburbs. Building cabins further out, and so, you know, maybe you do have more bears.
But now you’ve got more people out there, too, sharing the land, so you’re going to have more conflicts between wildlife and people. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Um-hm.
KEN ADKISSON: And often that gets translated, well, there’s just more bears.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Maybe they were always there, but the lack of people -- KEN ADKISSON: So. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Who knew? KEN ADKISSON: Yeah. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Right?
KEN ADKISSON: Yeah. So anyway, it’ll be interesting to see what they turn up with this survey. Because if we keep doing the surveys long enough, we’ll get a much better, stronger confidence estimate on what’s out there.
And maybe, and importantly, too, the trend. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Um-hm.
KEN ADKISSON: So, but yeah. There -- I don’t think the bears are going to go extinct out there by any means, but it kinda bothers me that we keep liberalizing the regs without really having a lot of good, biological population information on which to base it. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Right.
KEN ADKISSON: Especially from the park point of view, I think. And often then, that gets translated into stuff like predator control, and let’s kill bears so we can have more moose or whatever.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Do you do wolf population counts, then, in your park? KEN ADKISSON: Hm?
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Do you do wolf population counts at all in your -- in your park? No?
KEN ADKISSON: Getting population estimates of wolves out here is really very, very difficult. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: I can imagine.
KEN ADKISSON: You can’t track. You can’t follow tracks, because usually it blows, and the tracks blow in before you can get out there. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Right.
KEN ADKISSON: Uh, they’re hard to see. They’re more disbursed. It’s just, you know -- LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Harder? KEN ADKISSON: Yeah. It’s just very, very difficult. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Hm.
KEN ADKISSON: I mean, you know, people -- and so most of this stuff is kind of anecdotal, you know.
Or "Gee, I saw five packs this year, where last year I only saw two or something." So I don’t know. I think there’s probably a fair number of wolves out there.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Right. Well, chances are --
KEN ADKISSON: And I think bears have probably definitely increased over the years, too, from the mining days and stuff, when --
You know, and in the early days the reindeer industry and stuff, when there was pretty intensive predator control programs out this way. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Um-hm.
KEN ADKISSON: And then, the miners would shoot them, too, often on sight, I think. So you know, bear populations were probably pretty down at one point.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Right. Are you hearing from, um, subsistence hunters about any other changes that we haven’t talked about at all?
KEN ADKISSON: Um, I would say, I don’t really track that much anymore. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Uh-huh. KEN ADKISSON: But I mean, people are seeing new animals. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Such as -- KEN ADKISSON: I don’t really want to validate, you know. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Ok. Yeah. KEN ADKISSON: Different -- they, you know, even some people are probably noticing plant composition changes.
Um, one interesting thing that’s probably climate-related, too, I suspect, but even that’s questionable, I guess, to some extent, but, are the fish die-offs.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Oh, ok. Talk about that.
KEN ADKISSON: And that’s bec -- well, actually we have more and more die-offs of seabirds of really -- LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Um-hm.
KEN ADKISSON: We’ve had some really significant mortality events on seabirds. They’re finding probably increasing die-offs of marine mammals, too.
And um, and fish die-offs. Like, I think it was grayling. We had a die-off at, uh, Kougarok Lake, or Imuruk Lake, out on the -- out on the southern part of the preserve last year that was reported to us by a field crew that was out there doing vegetation work.
And that may be a problem of temperature and oxygen depletion.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: And that was in the lake, right?
KEN ADKISSON: And there -- there have been several recorded incidents of salmon die-offs, too, in some of the --
I think it was even this year that they had a number on some of the streams out there in the Unalakleet area. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Um-hm.
KEN ADKISSON: So people are seeing more of that. And -- and they really don’t have enough samples yet to say how much of it might be a disease issue or, like say, from the shellfish poisoning kind of thing. Or how much of it’s starvation.
But it seems that a lot of the things when they find them are kind of maybe food-related. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Um-hm.
KEN ADKISSON: And poor body condition, which could only make them more susceptible to other, you know, diseases, but -- LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Um-hm.
KEN ADKISSON: So I don’t know. I’m sure as that goes on, we’ll find out more, too.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Yeah. Yeah, the more samples that are taken, perhaps, the more it will show up, but probably a big combination of factors, actually.
I’m just gonna go through here to see if we’ve -- we’ve asked -- we’ve talked about vegetation, um, changes.
Fall storms. You talked about different storms coming in, but fall storms? Have you noticed a difference in them? Talked about storms in February.
KEN ADKISSON: I don’t know, maybe it’s -- it seems like maybe we’ve actually had fewer big ones. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Oh? KEN ADKISSON: I think, maybe.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Yeah. In your time here, there’s been some pretty big fall storms?
KEN ADKISSON: Well, we used to -- yeah, we had some pretty big ones in the past when I first got here. I don’t -- occasionally, I guess, we get them, but I don’t think we’re getting them as much.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Hm, interesting. Katie, do you have any questions?
KATIE CULLEN: Mm, I guess I was wondering, um -- just thinking of sometimes when you mentioned the -- the fish die-off in Imuruk Lake, and sometimes it’s -- it can be a challenge, I think, for us to learn about certain things that might be happening because, you know, if -- if the crew had not been out there, maybe we would not have had an opportunity to hear about it.
Are there -- so I got to thinking, are there certain areas of focus that the park maybe has not had an opportunity to focus on that you think maybe would be a good -- whether it be natural, cultural, in terms of being able to then, um, kind of address some of -- some of the potential changes due to climate that could be happening out there?
I’m not sure if I’m explaining that well, but --
KEN ADKISSON: Well, I don’t know. That’s -- part of the problem is -- is -- is cost. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Mm. KEN ADKISSON: And being able to get to places. KATIE CULLEN: Um-hm. Um-hm.
KEN ADKISSON: And um, the other part of that is, you’re starting to hear researchers themselves talk more and more about this, about carbon footprint and the -- like, heavy use of aircraft for our research work and stuff and "Gosh, wouldn’t it be great to reduce that?"
But at some point, that’s the only feasible way to get to some of these places and do the work. And then the other thing is budgets.
And so um, I guess picking your priorities is pretty -- getting more and more difficult. KATIE CULLEN: Mm, um-hm.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Does the park have sort of, um, a vision or a mandate of what priorities are to be looked at, like as a bigger organization?
KEN ADKISSON: Well, we have like a -- we have a like a resource stewardship plan. KATIE CULLEN: Um-hm, um-hm.
KEN ADKISSON: I guess we could look -- try to dig up a copy of that for you if you’d be interested. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Sure, we could put that on the website, too. KATIE CULLEN: Yeah. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: That would be great. KEN ADKISSON: Uh, and --
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Is that like a ten-year plan? KEN ADKISSON: Well, it’s like, yeah, it’s -- or just open-ended. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Ok.
KEN ADKISSON: But generally, we look at it periodically and kind of think of it more like five years and stuff, but -- but it’s composed of like some -- a general document, and then kind of like a giant Excel spreadsheet.
Um, and then we’ve prioritized the projects, kind of high, medium, or low. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Um-hm.
KEN ADKISSON: But there’s still often a depend -- you know, there’s still a tendency, I think, to chase money, and so it’s what’s the flavor of the research today that if I can write a proposal I have a chance of getting funded. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Yeah.
KEN ADKISSON: So there’s still some serendipity to it. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Yeah. KATIE CULLEN: Yeah.
KEN ADKISSON: But, you know, we’re trying to get more -- make sure our stuff is in line with that plan where we can.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Does that help with your question?
KEN ADKISSON: But again, like with, you know, staffing, funding.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Yeah, it’s pretty hard to be out there if you, first of all, don’t have the budget for the staffing.
KEN ADKISSON: You know, and, yeah, I mean, and we do rely heavily on, like, the -- we have what’s called the Arctic Network Inventory & Monitoring Program. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Um-hm. KEN ADKISSON: Um, which is based out of Fairbanks.
And their basic purpose is to identify major drivers in the ecosystem and monitor them for a long, long time, and then analyze the results of that and try to figure out what’s happening and where are things going.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: And then do they report back to you? KEN ADKISSON: Yeah. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Yeah.
KEN ADKISSON: And they -- they do an awful lot of work across the whole thing. You know, like, climate, weather. Um, they have certain wildlife species that they’ve identified as vital signs like caribou and, yeah, that they track. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Um-hm.
KEN ADKISSON: And do a lot of vegetation work, contaminant kind of studies of that.
’Cause that’s another -- that’s the other thing we really haven’t talked about, but as far as ecosystem threats go, I think, with the decreasing sea ice, increasing marine traffic through the Bering Strait area, I think, has the potential to really result in some disasters.
And then increased -- any increased oil and gas work off-shore.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Right. And if there is a disaster, the lack of preparedness in -- in the whole coastal area for response teams?
KEN ADKISSON: Yeah, that might be getting better. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Is it?
KEN ADKISSON: And, you know, we’ve spent probably a fair amount of money mapping and looking at resources along the coast, and trying to, you know, get ahead of the game as to understanding what’s out there and what might be critical areas that we should try to protect.
But also, I think it would be fair to say that there isn’t a lot, or maybe isn’t yet enough, um, training, equipment, stockpiles, this kind of thing, to actually feel really that you’ve got a good, good base for quick localized response.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: What would happen, then, let’s say a spill or some pollutant came along the shore of the -- of the -- of BELA. What’s in place for that?
KATIE CULLEN: I think it totally also depends on -- KEN ADKISSON: I imagine somebody would notify the Coast Guard and the state, you know. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Right. KEN ADKISSON: DEC (Department of Environmental Conservation). Um --
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: But you don’t have your own plan? KEN ADKISSON: Beyond that, we don’t have any, I think, formal plan for --
KATIE CULLEN: Though there have been, I think, there’s -- KEN ADKISSON: There’s been some planning, you know, broader based planning. KATIE CULLEN: Yeah, to see, like, at this point in this particular lagoon, the water flow is such that, you know, it may -- you know, if something were to happen, this could be the direction that, you know, the focus would need to be. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Ok.
KATIE CULLEN: Certain steps like that have been taken. But a comprehensive plan, necessarily, I’m not entirely sure. KEN ADKISSON: Yeah. KATIE CULLEN: Where that is at. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Hm.
KATIE CULLEN: But there also have been, as -- as -- and I only know a little bit, but I believe there have been more and more training opportunities in communities in terms of, you know, within the region, if something were to --
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Like a response? KATIE CULLEN: Um-hm. Um-hm. Along with being able to store equipment resources. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Right. KATIE CULLEN: Right there, and --
KEN ADKISSON: I don’t know how that’s actually going, though, do you? KATIE CULLEN: I don’t know.
KEN ADKISSON: In terms of actually stockpiling places?
I mean, it wasn’t just last year, I think it was, or maybe the year before now. Couldn’t have been more than two now, when the Interior guys came out, uh, bunch of those from the Secretary’s office, and met with Kawerak.
And I remember them, at that time, Kawerak was mentioning concerns about training and stockpiling and -- and lack of village response capability. On-site response capability in villages.
So it hasn’t been that long. So I doubt if there’s been significant changes in that, you know, filling that gap. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Hm.
KEN ADKISSON: And whether that’s keeping up with the pressure and people’s visions of how much cheaper it’s going to be able to transport goods and go with the development and stuff that’s happening. I don’t know.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Ken, is there any other changes that we haven’t touched upon that you think are important?
KEN ADKISSON: Um, I don’t think so. Nothing just jumps out at me right now.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Well, I want to thank you very much. It’s been very illuminating, I think. KATIE CULLEN: Thank you, Ken.
KEN ADKISSON: Well, like I said, it’s a lot of what I think I know now is coming from somewhere else, but it’s not coming from first-hand experience, like getting out and talking to people that try to get out on the ice every year to hunt.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: You kinda miss those days? KEN ADKISSON: Oh, yeah. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Yeah.
KEN ADKISSON: The thing about it, I think, is too, though, is it’s kinda funny. You know, it’s like, in the communities, you know, I mean, I think they feel like they’ve often been studied enough. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Um-hm.
KEN ADKISSON: And the people have asked them, "Well, what changes are you seeing?" And they don’t seem to be getting much back from all of that. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Yeah.
KEN ADKISSON: I think it’s like, "How much do we gotta keep telling you? You haven’t given us any solutions or alternatives to our problems."
And I think that’s going to be a big thing. Yeah. So, yeah. I don’t know that --
How people are actually going to physically adapt to all of this stuff, 'cause it’s pretty clear, it’s coming. You know, it’s coming faster and stronger.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Yeah, I think it’s the rapidity of the change that’s coming.
Um, like you said, archeologically, you’ve seen change over time, but that’s over a long period of time. These changes are happening very, very quickly. Any closing --
KEN ADKISSON: It’s kind of -- no -- I guess, you know -- LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Sorry. KEN ADKISSON: -- it’s kind of scary to think about it, but it’s sort of like, gee, you know --
Going to try to tell somebody, "Well, you oughta learn how to eat beaver or Pacific cod." You know, because some of your salmon are probably going to go, and your Arctic cod’s gonna go, and -- LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Hm.
KEN ADKISSON: And there’s going to be a lot of beaver out there.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: It’s a big cultural shift, though, for populations that beaver was never a food staple. KEN ADKISSON: Well, they’ve adapted. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Um-hm.
KEN ADKISSON: I know people that even today would prefer caribou over reindeer or either one over moose. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Um-hm. KATIE CULLEN: Yeah.
KEN ADKISSON: But, you know, I think for the coastal communities especially, it’s going to be big, because it just seems that the magnitude of the ocean changes and environment are just getting so significant.
I don’t even know how you’d forecast, really, what’s going to happen. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Hm.
KEN ADKISSON: And even anything else is hard to predict, because, you know, you could say, "Well, with warming and changes in vegetation, you’re going to get more moose."
But then, you know, those are the kind of conditions, too, that you pick up different parasites and stuff, and so you get more like, well, the moose issue of ticks preying on moose and so, you know, it’s not like you can say, "Ok well, the moose population’s definitely going to go up."
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: It could actually be an unhealthier population, given parasites and ticks? KEN ADKISSON: Yeah, you don’t know wha -- you know. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: That’s right.
KEN ADKISSON: Or what effect it would have on -- an increase of something like that would have on a population. It might drive it down. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Um-hm. Yeah.
KEN ADKISSON: So you don’t know what the thing’s going to end up looking like. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Right. KEN ADKISSON: So, a lot of uncertainty, I think.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Maybe we should come back in another twenty years and redo this again, and we can sort of see what happens over time. KEN ADKISSON: Yeah, might be like this in Portland, Oregon.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Want to thank you, Ken. KEN ADKISSON: Yeah. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Very much. Thank you, Katie. And we’ll end on that note. Thanks.