Apologies for leaving you all out the loop for so long and for the brevity of this post. There is so much more I wish I had time to say. But this is a *personal blog* that I maintain on my personal time and well, when you work for a refuge that is more or less unstaffed, preparing for a remote deployment (+storm cleanup, +asbestos abatement, +establishing a entire field camp) is a round-the-clock job. There is simply no such thing as personal time when you’re preparing all the supplies, equipment, and personnel needed to deploy to the remote islands.
But given all that’s happened in the last 6 months with HINWR and the great uncertainty we face (being a federal government entity), I felt it was important to leave one brief parting blog post on the morning I board the ship and head back out to Tern.
We are indeed deploying a small field camp to Tern Island for March-June this year. I have an amazing team of folks (FWS people borrowed from other refuges, a few helpers from our NMFS partners, and some of our core HINWR staff) who will be working with me during the ten day overlap as our chartered vessel travels from Tern onward to Midway and Kure and then back through French Frigate Shoals. During those ten days we’ll address the most immediate hazards (such as released asbestos), attempt to restore critical life support systems, and get at least two of our boats running again. After those ten days with the “strike team” and island is safe for human habitation, my long term volunteer crew will be dropped off and staying out there with me until early June. I have an awesome, awesome, awesome crew of volunteers this season and I am so excited to be working with Ken, Brad, Kate, and Pablo over the next couple months. We’ve got a great blend of practical and mechanical skills, with strong passion and expertise in wildlife biology and remote living on this crew. It’s going to be a lot of hard labor, but I know we’ll have fun out there, too.
Our primary missions will be to address wildlife entrapment hazards posed by the infrastructure of the military site that FWS inherited and to set up a temporary field camp to support our presence out there while we resume the daily entrapment surveys and clean up the wreckage from the storm. Some of those hazards (like the completely degraded and dangerous metal seawall) we cannot fix, only respond to on a daily basis when wildlife become entrapped. Other hazards such as the severely compromised buildings (before and after the storm) we will address while we are out there. Our steel toed boots and other PPE are packed and ready to go.
What happens after early June you ask? What does the future hold for continued operations at Tern Island, Laysan, and other places within Hawaiian Islands NWR? Unfortunately, all I can tell you is this:
• “The Service continues to evaluate the impacts of the sequester on our programs and partnerships.”
• “At this time, we are unable to provide any specific information as to how our stations or programs will be affected by the budget reductions.”
• “We will respond to questions after we have assessed the fiscal impact and evaluated our options.”
I hope you found that helpful.
So wish me luck out there. It’s going to be an intense 3 months.
PS–We do not know for sure whether we’ll have functional internet. If can restore our satellite internet (and we’ve been in close contact with our provider to make sure we have the tools and training to do so), you’ll hopefully get some more updates from me soon. However, this is by no means guaranteed. You may not hear anything again from me on this site until June. Just keep your fingers crossed. If you are on Facebook I recommend friending the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. There are wonderful and informative posts coming from here and we will be staying in touch with the moderator of that site. Also please friend and follow the Friends of HINWR facebook page. Catherine Fox (of the summer 2012 crew) and Toni Caldwell (of summer 2012 Laysan crew) have stayed involved and are making great strides in establishing a true Friends group for the Refuge. This facebook feed is one of our preliminary efforts to locate all of our friends out there and keep people in loop about the news from the field.