Yukon Flats Changes

104 BeaverCk_fall edit


The skies were blue as Beaver Traditional Chief Paul Williams, Sr. and I loaded up the boat. We were beginning a long trip to visit fish camps across Yukon Flats. Our job was to see how fishing was going. It was July 2006. My notes remind me we heard needs weren’t being met. For many, the Chinook harvest was below normal. There was worry about smaller fish. Some remarked about high water. 

The trip symbolized for me change and concern for the future. Between 2003 and 2007, I worked as an assistant manager for the Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) at the US Fish and Wildlife Service (US FWS). During that time, I listened to folks and spent time out on the land. I counted moose, boated and paddled hundreds of miles, cleaned up an old military drum site and helped study ducks. Right before I transferred to Arctic Refuge, I attended the first climate change workshop my agency held in Alaska. It was a sobering week. The take-home message: much was changing, and we had more to learn. 

When I came back to work for Yukon Flats Refuge in 2019, only 12 years had gone by. But things are different. People in villages talk more often about changes they see on the land. They talk about changes in their way of life. New scientific research sheds light on causes. 

This outreach booklet highlights some of those changes in and around the Yukon Flats Refuge. We hope to get more people talking about what the future holds for themselves and the land. If we’re successful, you’ll discuss these stories with others and share yours with us. 

Mahsii choo’ and ana bassee!

Jimmy Fox, Refuge Manager, Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge

Major themes

  • Warmer temperatures, especially in winter
  • Thawing permafrost and changing plants
  • Lake drying and changing water conditions
  • More frequent large wildfires
  • Arrival of more southern wildlife species