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When Everyone Relies on Salmon

Protecting Haida Tradition in Southeast Alaska

"As far back as anyone can remember, we’ve been attached to salmon. Trying to keep an eye on the habitat from the top of the watershed to the bottom of the estuary is key to salmon survival. I’m willing to do whatever we can to protect it and sustain it into the future."

Anthony Christianson
Local Native leader and mayor of Hydaburg, Alaska

On Prince of Wales Island in Southeast Alaska, the Native village of Hydaburg is taking a stand. For salmon. A field crew of tribal members is surveying salmon streams in traditional use areas this summer to ensure that at-risk habitat is protected to the fullest extent allowable under Alaska state law.

“We are surveying the salmon habitat in these watersheds because they are vital to the survival of the salmon species that our community subsists on,” says Native leader Anthony Christianson. “The salmon is vital to the survival of our culture, providing a staple of our diet.”

The Hetta Lake and Eek Lake watersheds near the village of Hydaburg are home to runs of sockeye salmon that have long been vital to the Haida subsistence tradition. But the prospect of logging on private lands in these watersheds means local residents want to be sure the most stringent protections are in place.

This is why the federally recognized tribe, officially known as the Hydaburg Cooperative Association, stepped in. They dispatched a field crew of tribal members trained in fisheries science protocol, with support from The Nature Conservancy. It’s one piece of the Conservancy’s overall program to support communities while protecting fish and wildlife habitat in the Tongass. The tribe’s mission is to document salmon streams and lakes so they can be included in the Alaska Anadromous Waters Catalog, the state’s official register of protected salmon habitat.

What has the field crew learned so far? In short, salmon are appearing in more waters than the crew expected. “We learned that rearing and spawning habitat has extended further into the lake system than we had originally anticipated,” Christianson says.

The Nature Conservancy is proud to support the people of Hydaburg as they seek to protect their healthy subsistence lifestyle and cultural traditions.
 

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