Music to our ears: Alaska News Brief May 2024
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Music to our ears: Alaska News Brief May 2024

Jasper with rhubarb. Photo by Vicki Clark

We got snow this month, but no matter, because the birds keep filling the neighborhood with song. I often see nuthatch pairs, juncos, and black-capped chickadees this time of year, and this month I’ve also seen boreal chickadees and pine grosbeaks.

The grosbeaks are large finches, plump and round headed, who make joyful flute-like warbling sounds. The mature females have golden yellow heads and chests with gray wings and bellies, while the males appear rose-red with gray tail tufts and wings. They eat tree buds and needles, and of course the seeds from my feeder.

The brown-headed boreal chickadees look adorable with their tiny beaks. These foragers appear in several shades of brown with black under their beaks and on their wings. I don’t usually see this type of chickadee, so it’s been a treat getting a glimpse. They talk with a sing-song trill and short chirps and squeals.

I look forward to seeing birds come around, especially when I can hear them carry on. I imagine them talking about the endless sunlight and all the spring food, or even gossiping about what and who’s in the next yard. I mean, people do that this time of year—stopping to talk about the weather or bear sighting while tending to gardens and walking dogs and hiking trails.

Already, I can harvest the ruddy stems and massive leaves of the raucous rhubarb out front. Even the rose bush has rebounded after huddling under a big pile of snow. Our winter brought the second largest dump of snow on record, and when the shovelers cleared my roof of snow a few months ago, they dumped it in the front yard on my plants.  The poor lilac got pummeled, though it, too, has emerged.

Vicki and Jasper in front of the rose bush.

I guess you could say that every spring replays the excitement of new and reinvigorated life—that the muffled music of winter gives way to the high notes of summer eventually.

It’s music to our ears, too, when those of us who strive to protect places in Alaska get good news, and we absolutely got great news at the end of April when the Biden administration chose the “no action alternative” as its preference in the final environmental impact statement for the Ambler industrial road proposal.

What this means, we hope, is that the U.S. Bureau of Land Management soon issues a record of decision that leaves the Brooks Range region free of an industrial road, industrial toxins, industrial destruction.

Shortly after the good news on the Brooks Range, Northwest Alaska’s regional Native corporation, NANA, said it won’t renew a three-year land-use surface permit it had issued to the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority, the state agency pushing the proposed Ambler road.

NANA said it withdrew support for the road because of AIDEA’s failure to meet its permit criteria, which includes sufficient consultation with Upper Kobuk residents and groups, controlling access to land, and protecting the caribou migration routes and subsistence resources that would be impacted by an industrial road.

It does not surprise us that AIDEA failed to respect the permit criteria and has lost the trust of other organizations. We submitted a letter to the Alaska State Ombudsman about the illegal way the state agency operates.

Witty Youngman and dancers at 50th Anniversary Concert. Photo by Madison Grosvenor

The music continued on May 10 when we threw our first big 50th anniversary party of the year—this time a concert with Alaska musicians Witty Youngman and the Super Saturated Sugar Strings. Local music always uplifts the community and we’re so grateful to them for celebrating with us.

And now, this week, we joined another kind of music—the kind in the hearts of those who have for so long fought the Pebble mine proposal and have repeatedly shown unity and persistence by going to court yet again, this time to defend the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s prohibition on large-scale mines like Pebble in Bristol Bay.

For a lawyer, bringing the concerns and voices of clients into court is the music we make, and we’ve been banging the drums and tooting the horns for a long time now.

May we all keep the music going now and for generations to come!


 

PS. Thanks to supporters like you, we can continue fighting to protect Alaska’s land, water, air, wildlife and people.

 


Commercial boat near Alyeska oil terminal protesting foreign-flagged tankers.

50th Anniverary series: The second decade dialed up to 11


Lang skiing in powder show with more mountains in the background.

Lang carving turns.

Drinks with Lang–new routes and the economies of play


Lydia’s (not forever) farewell to Alaska


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