Prince of Wales salmon streams get new lease on life after decades of logging
On Aug. 25, the U.S. Forest Service will celebrate the ongoing restoration efforts in the Harris River watershed on Prince of Wales Island. After seven years and $3.5 million, the project has begun to correct much of the damage done during decades of heavy logging.
The Wilderness Society is proud to support this effort and the benefits it provides as the Forest Service transitions the Tongass National Forest from boom-and-bust logging to a sustainable economic model based on restoration, fishing and tourism. Restoring salmon-spawning streams is of key importance because the Tongass is truly a salmon forest, annually producing millions of fish that support commercial fishing industry and sport-fishing-related tourism.
“Salmon are vital to the health and economic stability of Southeast Alaska communities, and the Harris River restoration is a great example of how the Forest Service and local stakeholders can work together to help ensure that abundant salmon continue returning to Southeast Alaska rivers in the future,” said Austin Williams, Forest Program Manager for The Wilderness Society.
From the 1960s through 1987, 4,669 acres of the Harris River watershed were clearcut, including nearly half of the riparian areas. Logging and road building changed how fallen trees shaped the waterways and allowed sediment to choke nearby streams, devastating fish and wildlife habitat. In 2000, the Harris River, along with its main tributary, Fubar Creek, became a focal point for watershed restoration and a top restoration priority for the USDA Forest Service and a coalition of conservation organizations.
Since then, 11 miles of stream have been stabilized with the thinning of more than 500 acres of new forest growth, and the addition of 350 whole trees and logs to provide habitat for young salmon at sites along Fubar Creek.
“Restoring the Harris River watershed helps create jobs working in the woods, and supports important commercial, sport and subsistence fisheries,” said Williams. “The Wilderness Society looks forward to continuing to work with the Forest Service in other restoration projects throughout the Tongass.”
Thanks to efforts such as the Harris River watershed project, healthy streams and spawning habitat are being restored in the salmon forest of the Tongass, assuring the communities of Southeast Alaska a brighter future.