Victoria Briggs: Good news from Pilot Point and Ugashik! A Winter Update

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Getting close to being frozen over~~ The Ugashik River right outside Victoria's house Taken: December 2, 2009

Dec 3, 2009

There is some better news this year coming from Pilot Point and Ugashik when it comes to our ability to deal with our winter conditions.

Our fishing season was much better this year than last on our main season of Sockeye salmon, although the Chinook/King returns continue to be dismal.

This allowed for most everyone to either work in the industry if they wanted/needed to and also to get fish put up for the winter.

Although the road project that was due in Pilot Point to start this year, to provide additional employment opportunities, got delayed we are hearing that most everyone got some summer employment who were looking for it.

This summer we also saw the overall fuel cost come down slightly so heating fuel is more reasonable. The city of Pilot Point was able to get its propane shipped in via barge and thus the cooking fuel is also much more reasonable than last year.

Ugashik got its spring barge in for its yearly fuel needs allowing people to stock up. We also should be able to draw on Pilot Point’s reserve if someone runs short.

Although we still have families that are in ‘need’ it appears to be more of a ‘normal’ range. Due to contacts made last year it looks like a food bank will be set up to distribute at least monthly commodities. We are currently working with them to get details ironed out.

If you want to help the Food Bank of Alaska  strengthen its outreach to villages please feel free to follow the link HERE.

You can always mention the donations are in our ‘honor’ and we will appreciate and share it.

We are just entering our winter moose season and there is decent snow cover right now that SHOULD allow hunters to move about much better than last year. There was a dismal fall season for most villagers, for moose, but we are hoping for a better winter one.

Ann and I are working with the villages to do some special things for the kids for the holidays so that should also take a little burden off those families who are struggling.

We have been lucky enough to have Toys for Tots agree to help. They are also always in need of assistance to reach all the villages requesting it.

Feel free to check out the link HERE.

Also, efforts for long term solutions continue and we should have some updates on those things this winter and we can share more.

All the concern and help we received last year help boost moral a great amount and I believe made all of us realize that we can gather together and work long term to offer better opportunities in our village.

Thank you for all your help and we will keep posting of happenings in our villages.

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13 Responses to “Victoria Briggs: Good news from Pilot Point and Ugashik! A Winter Update”

  1. Bill of Wasilla Says:

    Nice to hear some good news coming from your direction. May the river soon freeze, may your hunters travel safe and may the moose present themselves before them.

  2. progressive Kansan Says:

    Good news. May it get better. Good hunting and safe journeys.

  3. elsie09 Says:

    “We are just entering our winter moose season and there is decent snow cover right now that SHOULD allow hunters to move about much better than last year. There was a dismal fall season for most villagers, for moose, but we are hoping for a better winter one.”

    So, “decent snow cover” means, maybe, frozen ground (?) which means THAT is the reason the hunters move about more easily?

    NOTE: Sometimes, we-lower 48-people (like in SOUTH Texas) have a difficult time understanding real Alaska snow conditions!

  4. UgaVic Says:

    Elsie-

    So sorry on the confusion, just a ‘regular’ thing the Alaskans just forget not all are aware of :-)

    Last year we had not only some of our coldest weather, so overall things froze up well most of the winter, but a time of the lowest snowfall in years.

    The state and federal lands we hunt moose on go from the edge of Bristol Bay up into our local mountain range some 20-30 miles away. It covers thousands of acres.

    Most of this area is low lying swamps rising to small hills a few hundred feet tall that are mostly gravel. The area is covered by what I grew up calling scrub brush/trees that area so thick you can’t easily walk them, let alone get a machine through them.

    In the fall season it is darn hard to be successful to hunt moose unless you have an airplane to help track them. NO we can’t shoot from the plane and we CAN”T fly and SHOOT in the same day so it takes some real skill.

    We also only have a few short weeks to hunt before we must compete with the guides/planes and outside hunters. (Most of us swear the moose become mice when the ‘regular’ season opens as they disappear from view, at least without a plane!!)

    Overall our local moose population is just holding its own according to the Fish and Game, so it is not like they are a common sight.
    Since our local caribou population cycled and crashed a few years ago we can’t hunt them, the preferred for many residents, and this puts more pressure on the moose population.

    Soooo given all this … the residents stand a better chance of tracking moose and getting to them in the winter when it snows. We can use the rivers, lakes and other water or clearer brush areas to get around easier.
    Moose can travel many miles a day and are WELL aware that humans are not good EXCEPT when it comes to calving season and they will move close to the villages to keep away from the wolves.

    The snow is also needed to lubricate our snowmobile tracks and keep the rubber belts from burning up. Four wheelers are used too but when snow drifts or even covers some creeks or lakes that are not as well frozen they get stuck or worse break through.

    A snow mobile overall spreads the weight over a larger surface and lets us get over marginal creeks and lakes better than a four wheeler. Also we can travel faster to stand a chance catching up with game.

    My experience with hunting in Alaska is no matter how experienced you might be someplace else it is good to have someone who REALLY knows the local terrain, mostly to keep your bottom end dry :-))

    Hope this is clearer.
    Vic

  5. anonymousbloggers Says:

    Very helpful! Is the caribou population coming back?

  6. UgaVic Says:

    The caribou are slowly coming back. For the first time since I have been here, 5-8 years, I saw a small herd up close this summer. The herds of thousand that many here remember are no longer in this area of Alaska, but hopefully will be again in the next 25 years.
    My understanding is they cycle in about 50 year rounds. We have elders who do not remember growing up with a big herds of caribou.
    We are having to consider a predator control program with the state to assist them recover. The bear and wolves are managed in our area for the maximum ‘trophy’ hunts, i.e. to maximize the income from hunting for the state and guides.
    The survival rate of calves to moms is less than one, from what I heard on the last report, for both species so unless than can change all will suffer.

  7. Art Says:

    Hi Vic…I bumped into your hubby at the Board of Fish meetings yesterday and had a good chance to catch up with him…I don’t think I’d seen him since the last meetings three years ago. Anyway…things should get much more interesting beginning today, when the Board committee jumps into the vessel size and permit stacking proposals…

  8. elsie09 Says:

    So, Art…any news from today’s board meeting?

  9. Man_from_Unk Says:

    Good news depends on where you come from in the state. Subsisting for food off the land is becoming more and more for those who could afford all the gear, equipment and fuel it takes to go on the hunt.

    Villagers back 50 years ago were a much tighter group. The culture and tradition of sharing with and taking care of elders and widows was the standard. Some villages still do that to a point. Take Marshall on the Yukon River for an example. Several young men went against the rules to get a few King Salmon for their elders and widows last summer.

    Not being able to live off the land is becoming more and more common. Culture and tradition is changing rapidly. Those who want to keep it have a big job ahead of them. I applaud their efforts to help their people, my people, maintain an important factor of self-identity.

  10. Art Says:

    Hi Elsie!!!
    From what I heard of the committee discussions yesterday, there wasn’t really anything earth-shattering that came out. Just those opposed making their best points and the same for those in favor. Good arguments on both sides. But, I wasn’t there for everything, so perhaps I missed something.

    Today is all about proposal 13, the fish refuge idea (Pebble). Almost 80 people have signed up for public testimony (which they’re still going through at this time). The Board plans to get all the way through this itemtoday, including a possible vote on the suggested resolution.

    The Board streams their meeting audio out through the series of tubes, when they’re in full session. The link can be found at the bottom of the Board of Fisheries home page:

    http://www.boards.adfg.state.ak.us/fishinfo/index.php

    Enjoy!

  11. Lighthearted Says:

    Victoria, I’m glad that Pilot Point and Ugashik are doing better. Thanks for the update and for all you’ve done and continue to do for the people in the villages.

  12. alaskapi Says:

    From Vic today- a brief message sent from community center in Ugashik. She and Ann have lost home internet due to high winds ( and unseasonably warm wet storm… )

    “Winds are due to die down later today or tonight.
    Cooler weather, 20’s, is due mid week with nothing for snow until at least the weekend.
    River has broke out again so will be a bit before it is frozen well to travel to PIP.
    Hubby is due home mid week so should have Internet then.
    All are well and staying warm :-))
    Take care all,
    Vic”

  13. UgaVic Says:

    We are back up and going with the Internet.
    So much for the start of a cold snowy winter :-) It is now starting to cool down again but we are down to bare ground and most water is at least partially open.

    The subsistence issues are hard ones to deal with BUT I do feel it is important for ALL the residents of Western Alaska to be involved in the subsistence boards, keep track of the state and federal policies and do as much in their power to keep the focus on residents. good management for all is the only way to keep this area healthy.

    IF we ignore this issue, which is still at the heart of rural living, is to ignore so much of what makes Alaska.
    The culture is easily pressured from many elements and ALL of us must do all we can to allow it to survive and grow so the youth will not loose what has been so many generations in building.

    Ann and I care deeply, as both our spouses have their entire lives, about how our villages and the areas are going to survive in the future. We don’t want to see what little is left of a culture here in the BB region dissolve anymore and hopefully help others not loose as much by our mistakes.

    Game, hunting, berry picking, harvesting greens, eggs, grasses, etc.from the area is a important and we will educate and help where we can.

    The Board of Fish, for the Bristol Bay area, was held for about 8 days in Anchorage this past week. From all the reports I heard that it was one of the most civil, hard working and courteous in a long time.

    From my point of view a few positive things came out of it, but nothing earth shattering. Also MAYBE some thinking that was less of ‘outsiders’ versus ‘poor villagers’ and more towards trying to solve long term issue. I will gather some results and be doing a post in the near future.
    It is really a fascinating process and great to see so many actual fishermen, and not just big interests, partake is refreshing.

    Art –
    Yes, hubby said he enjoyed getting a chance to see and speak with you again. He can do that ‘totally into meeting mode’ IF it involves fishing, thus he loves catching up with everyone.

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