Clean gravels in salmon spawning and rearing rivers are key to a healthy salmon nursery.
The productivity of freshwater streams of the Tongass National Forest of Southeast Alaska make this a "salmon forest." The Nature Conservancy is working to ensure salmon habitat in this forest remains healthy.
The Nature Conservancy completed a multi-year project with the U.S. Forest Service to restore salmon and steelhead habitat on Prince of Wales Island in Southeast Alaska. In previous years, restoration has taken place on three primary tributaries - known as Fubar Creek, 20-mile Trail tributary, and Harris Trail tributary. Theproject includes more than 11 miles of stream restoration; eight miles of road work to improve fish passage and reduce erosion; more than 400 acres of tree thinning for habitat improvement; and extensive trail and recreation improvements.
The placement of large wood will feature prominently in the restoration work plan. Other treatments include restoring fish passage, relocating and decommissioning roads, creating off-channel floodplain habitats, and thinning riparian vegetation to favor regrowth and dominance of large conifers.
Ongoing restoration of watershed processes will ensure natural sediment and nutrient movement through the stream channel. The fact that the Harris watershed is nearly all managed by a single landowner vastly improves the ability of the Conservancy and the Forest Service to treat the system as a whole. Results of the restoration effort are evaluated with use of an effectiveness monitoring procedure that measures key variables such as fish population and sediment movement.
The Harris River project employs local contractors who have become highly skilled in operating heavy equipment in the confines of a stream channel -- to the benefit of fish and those tied to the subsistence, commercial, and sport fisheries.
Harris River restoration is supported by NOAA Fisheries, The National Forest Foundation, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.