Creamer's Field survives Senate attempt to fix imaginary problem

The birds don't care, but the Creamer's Field  Migratory Waterfowl Refuge will hold onto the name that everyone in Fairbanks appreciates, despite the efforts of Anchorage Republican Sen. Cathy Giessel.

Giessel, who didn't have enough to do this year, lectured Alaskans on why it was important to add the words "and hunting preserve" to the name of Creamer's and seven other refuges under state management.

Giessel won the backing of Fairbanks Sens. Pete Kelly, John Coghill and Click Bishop, who should know better, but they didn't dare challenge the head of the resources committee or do anything to appear to be anti-hunting or anti-gun. The state House had the good sense to kill  the Senate version of HB 130.

Giessel said she wanted everyone to understand that hunting is among the activities allowed in portions of refuges.

There is no hunting in the portions of the Creamer's refuge visited by thousands of people throughout the year, but parts of the 2,200-acre refuge are open to hunting and trapping under rules set by the Alaska Board of Game. There is no secret about this.

For instance, there is a moose hunt open in December on the refuge, limited to 10 permits and muzzleloaders only. There is also a moose season for bow hunting and waterfowl hunting in the more remote parts of the property.

If the purpose of a refuge name is to include all legal activities, Giessel could have come up with something snappy like the "Creamer's Field Migratory Waterfowl Refuge and Walking, Running, Picnicking, Farming, Snowmachining, Picture taking, Researching, Trapping, Meditating, Skiing, Skijoring, Dog Mushing, Bird Watching, Dog Walking, Mosquito Swatting, and Hunting Preserve."

I'm glad the state House refused to play her name game, preventing an Alaskaland or Pioneer Park situation from developing.

Giessel said the name change would not cost the state anything because the signs would not have had to be changed. Never have I heard such a good argument for leaving well enough alone.

But it's also not true. The Legislature wasted time on this bill and spent money requiring state employees to draft the language, print the bill, testify at a meeting and do other things that diverted attention away from real problems.

While Giessel did not say who gave her this dumb idea or why,  the worst thing about her bill was that the Senate took action without asking the people of Fairbanks.

It is no consolation that Giessel and Co. also did not ask those who care about the other refuges they wanted to rename—the Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge, the Palmer Hay Flats State Game Refuge, the Yakataga State Game Refuge, the Mendenhall Wetlands State Game Refuge, the Susitna Flats State Game Refuge, the Minto Flats State Game Refuge and the Trading Bay State Game Refuge.

Creamer's is one of the greatest things about Fairbanks and nothing about it should be politicized in this fashion. It was a dairy farm a century ago and the grain remnants in the field made it a natural spot for waterfowl.  In recent decades, adding grain to the fields helps keep the birds away from the airport and provides one of the best viewing areas for winged creatures that exists in any town.

In 1966-67, a community campaign to preserve the open space led to a series of actions by the state Legislature to recognize this treasure.

In 1979, the Legislature named it the Creamer's Field Migratory Waterfowl Refuge to protect and enhance habitat for migratory birds, especially waterfowl, and to allow an "opportunity to view, photograph and study various species of plants, wildlife and geologic features typical to Interior Alaska."

The Legislature accomplished something by not changing the name.

Dermot Cole2 Comments