Making of a Refuge: Kanatak Lagoon to McNeil

In the 1970s biologists did reconnaissance of offshore islands throughout Alaska’s coastal areas to determine abundance and distribution of marine mammals and birds to help select lands for new refuges, parks, and monuments that would be created under the 1980 Alaska Lands Act.

After passage of the Alaska Lands Act in 1980, USFWS biologist Edgar Bailey and volunteer Nina Faust continued this work by surveying a 250-mile section of the Alaska Peninsula coast from Kanatak Lagoon to McNeil River Bear Sanctuary, checking almost all the bays and nearly all of the islands along the way.

Their arduous trip used a 15-foot inflatable Zodiac with two 25-hp outboard motors. With no communications except an Emergency Locator Beacon (ELT), they were dropped off in Kanatak Lagoon on July 1st and spent the next 21 days surveying this rugged, windy area.

Today, USFWS does not let personnel do surveys in this fashion as it is considered too dangerous.