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Tongass In Transition

Restoring Salmon Streams


Measure of a Salmon Stream

Join a Conservancy scientist on a tour of a stream awaiting restoration.

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The 17 million-acre Tongass National Forest is home to 17,000 miles of salmon streams. Its coastal rainforest, streams and estuaries provide for a rich a subsistence tradition among Native Tlingit and Haida people. Commercial salmon fishing is central to the region's economy, and sportfishing provides a vital boost to local economies throughout the region.

Salmon provide the foundation for nature and local economies, but large-scale logging has left its mark in places such as Prince of Wales Island. Salmon habitat restoration projects are allowing wild salmon to return to streams where the quality of habitat had declined.

These projects are part of a larger transition underway in the Tongass National Forest. It's a movement away from a focus on old growth timber management and toward a focus on the harvest of young-growth trees, restoration of forests and streams, while also diversifying economic opportunities and creating jobs in renewable energy, mariculture, fishing and tourism.

Harris River and Gandlaay Haanaa

In the Harris River watershed, the Conservancy has worked with the U.S. Forest Service to restore significant portions of these salmon-bearing waters. In this highly productive four-square-mile watershed, crews have rebuilt a river and its tributaries. This includes:

  • Carefully placing more than 350 whole trees and logs at 11 sites in the river channel to help create the natural logjams that allow the hydraulic force of the river to create deep pools. “Salmon need deep pools. They’re not going to over winter in a stream that freezes to the bottom,” says Christine Woll, a Conservancy fish ecologist;
  • Rebuilt 2,400 feet of the river, allowing the river to return to its native streambed;
  • Decommissioned 1.2 miles of road and pulled out old culverts to improve fish passage on salmon waters.

Sal Creek

A series of landslides and other effects of erosion prompted the 2006-2007 restoration of Sal Creek, a coastal watershed on Prince of Wales Island. In this watershed, restoration crews:

  • Restored fish passage by removing six deteriorated log culverts;
  • Reconnected 27 streams blocked by 1.5 miles of abandoned logging road;
  • Recreated a natural diversity of salmon habitats by strategically placing 385 whole trees in a four mile section of Sal Creek;
  • Encouraged the regeneration of native conifer forest by thinning 100 acres of the red alder that grew in after timber was logged along Sal Creek.

Klawock Lagoon

A highway causeway built in 1964 blocked natural tidal flow through the north channel at Klawock Lagoon. This has impeded fish passage through the lagoon and caused a decline in beds of native eelgrass--a key nursery habitat for young fish.

  • Passage restoration completed in 2011;
  • Ecological monitoring continues for several years;
  • A partnership with Klawock Watershed Council, Alaska Dept. of Transportation, NOAA and others

Twelvemile Creek

Much of the logging and roadbuilding in the Twelvemile Creek watershed occurred under less protective regulations of the 1960s and 1970s. As of 2006, about 6,000 acres, or 47 percent, of the watershed was logged. This includes more than 90 percent of the forest along salmon streams. Restoration activities in 2012:

  • Placed more than 220 logs in a 1.5 mile stream section.
  • Thinned 27 acres of streamside forest to promote the growth of bigger bank-stabilizing trees.
  • Thinned 530 acres of dense upland second-growth forest.
  • Closed five miles of temporary roads.

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