We foster partnerships and inspire Southeast Alaskans to steward our watersheds and support communities through participatory projects, research, and learning.
Field Notes - April 2022
Updates from SAWC & our partners.
Training in Ketchikan this Summer!
Interested? Email Irene Dundas, Ketchikan Indian Community at irened@kictribe.org or Rob Cadmus, SAWC, rob@sawcak.org.
Summer Spotlight
SAWC heads South
Kelsey Dean, Watershed Scientist at SAWC, shares what she's planning in Metlakatla this summer.
SAWC is returning to Metlakatla to finish what we started! Concerns over low fish returns and historic logging brought SAWC and the Metlakatla Department of Fish and Wildlife together to assess fish habitat conditions in Nadzaheen Creek on Annette Island in 2019. This initial visit led to a joint project to conduct an island-wide watershed assessment on Annette Island.
Information collected will be used to create a Watershed Restoration Plan for Metlakatla and help prioritize restoration and watershed stewardship activities. 
This summer two interns from Metlakatla and SAWC biologists will be collecting data and mapping fish habitat, road condition, fish passage, and historic land management across the island. This project is supported by funding from the Bureau of Reclamation WaterSmart program. 
At left: SAWC’s Rob Cadmus and Metlakatla Department of Fish and Wildlife staff walk Nadzaheen Creek on Annette Island in 2019. Nadzaheen Creek is an important stream for spawning chum and pink salmon.
City Partners
Fish Creek Estuary Plan Available
SAWC collaborated with CBJ to create a new plan for the Fish Creek Rec area in Juneau
Residents and other stakeholders learn about the ecology of the Northeast Pond during a walkthrough in August 2021.
This plan is the result of a partnership between CBJ Parks and Recreation and the Southeast Alaska Watershed Coalition to identify opportunities for improving habitat and recreation infrastructure in the Fish Creek Estuary Area.
The area is comprised of municipal and state lands at the junction of Fish Creek and tidelands at the northwest end of Douglas Island.  Concepts for improving habitat and recreation infrastructure were developed, discussed, and modified based on extensive public and stakeholder input. This planning document describes existing conditions at the site, concepts for improving the area, and a final plan for improving the Fish Creek Estuary Area.

This plan recommends a light-handed approach to both recreational amenities and habitat restoration, as outlined in the site plan at the end of the document.

The full plan can be viewed here.
Southeast Alaska Sustainability Strategy
USDA Partners with SAWC
Rob Cadmus, Executive Director at SAWC
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced last year a new “Southeast Alaska Sustainability Strategy” to support a diverse economy, enhance community resilience, and conserve natural resources.

Recently, a USDA delegation including leadership from Washington D.C. and regional offices held a series of listening sessions and roundtable discussions in Juneau to better understand the challenges and opportunities in the region. There was a general recognition that the Southeast Alaska Sustainability Strategy represents a commitment to a different way of doing business in the region.
SAWC worked with partners last summer on a hand-tool training in Klawock.
As part of this new strategy, USDA will be making an initial investment of $25 million into the region, and this will include partnering on several projects that the Southeast Alaska Watershed Coalition is involved in: the Margaret Creek Restoration Project, Trout Creek Restoration Project, Skanaxheen Restoration
Project, and Klawock Indigenous Stewards Forest Partnership.

These projects will improve conditions for fish and wildlife. Further, each project will include hands-on training community and tribal partners that will build local and regional capacity to restore, manage, and steward watersheds.

Thanks to USDA for their partnership, and thanks to Under Secretary Homer Wilkes, Under Secretary Xochitl Torres Small, Deputy Under Secretary Meryl Harrell, and Deputy Under Secretary Justin Maxson for traveling all the way to Juneau to hear and learn from Southeast Alaskans and committing to working
with the region in a new and sustainable way!
Sharing Science
Southeast Alaska Extreme Events Workshop
Rebecca Bellmore, Science Director at SAWC, recaps the SE extreme events workshop
A drought and extreme events workshop was held in Juneau on April 6-7 to bring together scientists, decision-makers, and community members to share observations, research, and needs related to extreme weather events in Southeast Alaska.

The workshop was organized by the Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy; Alaska EPSCoR, University of Alaska Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Southeast; Alaska Sea Grant; USDA Northwest Climate Hub; National Weather Service; The Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes; and Northern Latitudes Partnership.

Presentation topics included extreme weather events that have occurred recently and projected future climate change in SE Alaska, ocean acidification effects on juvenile pink salmon, harmful algal blooms, climate change impacts on salmon and forests, landslide risk and warning research, and community efforts to understand and address the impacts of climate change on resources. A full list of presentations can be found online, and a workshop report will be forthcoming from Alaska SeaGrant.

Resources that were shared during the workshop include:

SAWC's Science Director, Rebecca Bellmore, presented on a salmon life cycle model that she's been working on.
Opening page of the Southeast Alaska Salmon Simulator.
Others shared community based projects and observation networks:
  • Harmful algal bloom monitoring and modeling: John Harney (UAS) and Southeast Alaska Tribal Ocean Research (SEATOR) rely on samples provided by participants to understand the extent and severity of harmful algal blooms and paralytic shellfish poison (PSP) in the region. Results of shellfish sampling for PSP are available online.
  • Local Environmental Observer (LEO) Network: a place to report unusual environmental events that help us understand our changing world.
  • iNaturalist: an app to share sightings of insects, plants, birds, and other organisms with other enthusiasts and scientists. Users were critical for helping Forest Service entomologist Elizabeth Graham track the large western blackheaded budworm outbreak in the summer of 2021. Locally relevant observations are compiled and monitored by the Forest Service’s Forest Health Protection group.
  • Southeast Alaska Stream Temperature Monitoring Network: Find data and learn about how to monitor stream temperature. 
  • Landslide Risk Dashboard: Coming soon… In the meantime, check out the Sitka Sound Science Center website and their landslide research. Questions about the warning system and landslide reports can be sent to landslides@sitkascience.org).
SAWC's Newest Partner
Partnering with Beaver
John Hudson, Restoration Biologist at SAWC, discusses how nature's original steward can restore watersheds.
Beaver were nearly wiped out from much of their North American range during the fur trade of the 1600s to late 1800s. Once numbering in the many tens of millions, their dam building activities flooded every valley where food was available near streams of the right size and gradient.

Beaver ecosystem engineering was so substantial, the watersheds from which they were extirpated bear no resemblance to their pre-fur trade condition today. 

In the western United States, beaverless streams often appear as narrow incised channels that offer poor habitat and that are disconnected from their floodplains. These same streams were once broad ribbons of lush marsh and riparian forest winding through lowland valleys and supporting diverse and productive fish and wildlife populations.

Armed with a scientific understanding of the value of beavers to salmon and trout, land managers and owners are currently engaged in a re-beavering of the west.
Beaver Totem in Southeast Alaska
Instead of killing every problem beaver, many are relocated to streams systems to restore depressed fish populations. Humans even lend a helping hand by building artificial dams - rows of fence posts driven into stream beds and interwoven with tree branches. With this help, beavers are making a comeback. Fish are responding with greater abundance, survival, and growth. 

Fortunately, there is no indication that beaver populations in Southeast Alaska are anything other than robust. Unfortunately, so-called nuisance beavers are controlled with lethal traps when their ponds flood trails and roads, or their dams are perceived as barriers to salmon migration. Scientific studies have found scant evidence that beaver dams hinder the movements of salmon and trout and numerous devices have been invented to prevent flooding without eliminating dams. 

We might be wise to partner with beaver to restore our impaired salmon watersheds. In areas where past logging damaged soil in our region, red alder trees flourish and beavers thrive.

Their ponds capture harmful sediment, recharge groundwater supplies, dampen floods, store carbon, and nurture rearing sockeye and coho salmon – all critical services that benefit humans, fish, and wildlife. Best of all, these ecosystem engineering rodents provide it all for free.   
Local Foods
Local Foods Program Sprouts in a New Direction
Rob Cadmus, SAWC Executive Director
For over 5 years, SAWC has hosted a local food program in collaboration with the Sustainable Southeast
Partnership. This included building and operating the Salt and Soil Marketplace, hosting the “Local Food
Challenge”, lending support to local growers and harvesters, and facilitating networking and capacity
development projects for local foods production, circular economies, and traditional food systems.
Some people have asked, “Why the connection between watershed health and local food?”

The obvious answer is salmon. We want them to return healthy and strong, so we can eat them! A more complex, but equally powerful reason is our connection to land and community. Like restoring your local stream, eating from the land you steward helps grow the roots needed to care for our environment and neighbors. There are many other connections, but for me, the timeliest is climate preparedness. Like it or not, believe it or not, climate change is happening. It will have profound and potentially devastating impacts on our ecosystem and economy. The best thing we can all do fight climate change is to stop burning fossil fuels.

The best way Southeast Alaskans can prepare for climate change is to:
1.) ensure our environment is clean and healthy so that it is more resilient to change, and
2.) eat, buy, and support local foods so that we are more self-reliant.

In a region where most food is shipped in by barge, the need for the food program is huge and the program’s potential is equally large and expansive. But, it’s a lot to ask a small staff of 7 people to cover both Watershed Health and Local Food Sustainability for such a huge and expansive region like
Southeast Alaska. Enter Ecotrust…

Ecotrust is a midsized non-profit based in Portland Oregon, and local food sustainability is key to their mission. They have expertise in entrepreneurial solutions that bolster food sustainability, and if you’re not familiar with their “Redd on Salmon Street,” check it out here: Link to Redd.

SAWC has partnered with Ecotrust to help bring the food program to a new level. Much of the program will stay the same. Salt and Soil will be selling local produce within the month, Moby the mobile greenhouse is being prepped for the growing season, and the SSP regional food catalyst will continue to
support stewardship initiatives and educational outreach in communities. We hope with Ecotrust’s leadership and support the program grows and helps our region be more sustainable and resilient through growing, harvesting, cultivating and celebrating local foods in a way that is equitable and values
the knowledge systems and relationships with local foods held by the indigenous peoples of this region. SAWC will also maintain involvement in the program through a seat on their regional advisory council, and our mutual connection to the Sustainable Southeast Partnership will yield joint projects and priorities.

We want thank Jennifer Nu and Meghan Stangeland for their hard work and dedication while staff at SAWC, and we wish you the best as staff with Ecotrust!

Their new emails will be jnu@ecotrust.org and mstangeland@ecotrust.org.
New Tech
Watershed Restoration Prioritization Webmapper in the Works
Draft now available; Khrystl Brouillette, SAWC GIS & Communications Specialist seeks feedback.
Over the past few months, staff at SAWC have been collecting datasets to create an online mapper for prioritizing restoration work in the region. The dataset collection effort is nearly completed; a prototype web mapper is available now in ArcGIS online. 

This map is designed to help SAWC and partners with prioritizing restoration projects by having an easy-to-use, spatial-oriented, repository of data at their fingertips. Datasets were selected for their necessity to restoration work. The datasets also represent the diversity of interests SAWC partners have in the restoration arena. 

The mapper also includes information on historic and current project across Southeast Alaska. Adapted from an earlier effort by the Southeast Alaska Fish Habitat Partnership, the new project layers pinpoint locations of survey, restoration, and monitoring activities across the region. Each point links to project reports when available, and provides information on funding, partners, and basic descriptions. 

SAWC would like to encourage our partners to take a close look at those layers, titled “SEAKFHP Project list” and “SEAK Assessments”, to see if we missed anything. 

In its current form, the mapper is a view-only tool. Layers can be turned on and off at user discretion. The final form will be an application that will allow the user to download data, take measurements, and provide other tools within the online platform. 

Feedback regarding datasets contained within the mapper is being solicited. Try out the application, and use this google form to provide feedback. Feedback can also be emailed to Khrystl Brouillette, GIS and Communications Specialist, at khrystl@sawcak.org
Homepage of the Watershed Restoration Prioritization Mapper.
Job Alert!
Interested? Contact Wade Hulstine, Klawock Cooperative Association at
(907) 755-2265
Bass Pro Shops Supports Restoration
Last year, Bass Pro Shops donated $25,000 for restoration on Margaret Creek. This money was used as non-federal match and allowed SAWC to leverage $88,000 additional dollars for Margaret Creek.
This year, Bass Pro Shops hosted a 50th anniversary celebration at their headquarters in Springfield, Missouri. A selected group of conservation partners were invited to attend; SAWC was invited through the Southeast Alaska Fish Habitat Partnership and the National Fish Habitat Partnership. Ryan Roberts, NFHP, attended the celebration in person to represent Alaskan partners at a conservation booth.
The event was well attended. SAWC sent materials outlining the Margaret Creek project to thank Bass Pro Shops for their support. Flyers also contained information about SAWC and Southeast Alaska in general - they were a big hit with attendees!
Check out the video below that SAWC made to share at the event.