Southwest Alaska Salmon Habitat Initiative
The region is perhaps best known as the world’s greatest stronghold of wild salmon, with all five Pacific salmon species abundant and widespread. Salmon drive the region’s ecology, economy and culture. The region routinely produces salmon runs that average 70 million and exceed 100 million in some years. A top travel destination for outdoor enthusiasts, thousands of tourists travel here each year for the world-class fishing opportunities and other nature-based adventures.
However, Southwest Alaska is at a crossroads. Geographic remoteness no longer protects the region from rapid change. Forces that have devastated wild salmon elsewhere around the world are now at work in Southwest Alaska. Private land development along rivers and lakes is the most pressing threat to salmon. Hundreds of private tracts, primarily Native allotments that until recently were used for hunting and fishing, are increasingly being converted to development.
PROTECTING A LEGACY
In order to safeguard this fragile region, the Fund, working in partnership with the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, Native corporations and others, launched the Southwest Alaska Salmon Habitat Initiative—a 10-year, multi-million dollar program to protect wild salmon and their habitat.
A grant from the Moore Foundation has allowed the Fund to pursue landscape-scale conservation easements on major salmon systems in the region, while conserving Native allotments through land acquisition or conservation easements. The Moore Foundation grant also carries a significant pledge to obtain matching funding. Other individuals and businesses are stepping up to provide the needed match. For example, the Bristol Bay Native Corporation has contributed $450,000 for the program over the past few years.
The Fund has engaged recreational outdoor equipment retailers and manufacturers, other businesses and the public to raise funding and support. We are also working to strengthen the activities and membership of the local land trust and the Southwest Alaska Salmon Habitat Partnership, a coalition of diverse interests and organizations working with the common goal of salmon habitat conservation.
With our partners, we have protected more than 104,000 acres in 102 highly strategic transitions to date.
WHY THIS PROJECT MATTERS
Native village and regional corporations own extensive holdings in these areas, including large tracts often exceeding 100,000 acres. Collectively, private lands comprise about 4.5 million acres, or 11 percent, of the region. Over the next few years, protection of key habitats, a small percentage of these lands, will largely determine the long-term ecological health of Southwest Alaska.
Senior Representative, Conservation Acquisition