2019 Stream Restoration Seeks to Improve Fish Habitat

Spasski Watershed is an important area and resource for the community of Hoonah. Its large area provides berries, deer, medicinal plants, and fish for the community. Within its waters coho, pink, and chum salmon return annually in large number to spawn. The returns provide fish for local smokehouses and commercial fisherman. However, previous logging activities have reduced the ability for some streams in the watershed to provide quality habitat for fish. The Hoonah Native Forest Partnership has identified some of those areas and is now seeking to fix them. In 2019 local crews started work at two new restoration sites and added onto a 2017 restoration site. The restoration work is also improving the forest around the streams to improve deer and bear habitat.

Watch this video of the stream restoration to learn more :

“Our project at the upper tributary of Spasski is Stream Restoration. Through or data collecting we have determined how much wood is in the streams and we realized there are locations that could use some help.”

Phillip Sharclane, HNFP member

Tools of the Trade

One of the unique aspects of this restoration was that all of it was done with hand tools. Using hand tools and good-old-fashioned sweaty labor is less impactful to the stream. The limit of this method is the size of the wood you can move. The crew sourced wood from the stream bank and strategically placed it in the river to have the necessary outcome. Often that meant using a winch and pulleys to drag the large trees from 50 or a hundred feet away.

“I think it’s also important to note that its not just in-stream work that’s occurring in this watershed. There are quite a few wildlife treatments being applied…. to improve deer habitat, stand diversity, and forage base.”

Neil Stichert, USFWS

The crews combined the stream restoration with wildlife habitat improvement along the stream. By opening up gaps in the stand more light was let to the forest floor. That creates food for deer and wildlife. On top of that the crews are sure to cut up the trees they cut down making it possible for deer to walk through. That’s a huge change from traditional timber thinning which leaves a wall of dead trees nearly impossible to walk through for wildlife or people.

“…if you slash it good it’ll break down faster so the deer can walk through it easier. And we will too when it breaks down. It’ll be good hunting.”

Derek Barton, HNFP Crew
HNFP Crew lead Phillip Sharclane manages the chainsaw winch while other crew members guide a long attached to a root wad into the stream.

After 5 days of work the crew made remarkable progress : they installed 13 structures in two channels. This work was accomplished not only by the HNFP Crew, but also in part to Hoonah Youth from the TRAYLS program, HIA Environmental Staff, Forest Service member Katherine Prussian, and Fish and Wildlife Service member Neil Stichert. Their work and the structures they built will help this stream function better! We’ll be monitoring the structures to see how they perform in high flows and during the coming years.

The full team of workers poses on one of the structures they constructed in stream. The hope is this structure will trap gravel and make a pool on the other side. Pools are mostly absent from this stretch of river since trees have not been falling into it since it was logged.

Why it Matters

This work is important. Not only because it creates fish habitat, but because of how the Hoonah Native Forest Partnership has set itself up. Projects like these could become the new norm and set up a pattern of reliable work for local workers to work on the lands they use. Using a local workforce can create greater community investment in the work, broaden its impact, and establish greater value in the outcomes. The Hoonah Native Forest Partnership is invested in ensuring a local workforce can continue to excel at complete natural resource projects. The 2019 HNFP is made up of Phillip Sharclane, Derek Barton, Ricky Contreras, and Jeremy Johnson. All of them are returning veterans to this work because they enjoy working outside and the community-value they

“If this continues to work then maybe we can find more spots that the stream needs help. Because there are a lot of spots where the logging has taken out all of the natural wood that has a chance to fall into these streams and make habitat for fish”

Ricky Contreras, HNFP Crew member

How to Get Involved

As a community member getting involved in the HNFP is important! We have monthly meetings on the 3rd Thursday of each month. You can check out more information on the HNFP on our website. Also, if you are interested in working for the HNFP in 2020 let us know! You can get started by visiting here : Employment

Future Plans

As noted by Ricky Contreras there are more opportunities to do restoration like this and work on blueberry production, road maintenance, and deer habitat. HIA will continue to work with HNFP partners to establish funding do do this work. We look forward to it! We will continue to need community feedback so we hope you will help us out as information is needed!

Thanks to our Funders and Supporters

This work would not have been possible without the technical expertise of Katherine Prussian (USFS), Neil Stichert (FWS), Samia Savell, Conor Reynolds (TNC), and oversight from Ian Johnson (HIA). Thank you very much to Huna Totem Corporation for allowing this work to occur on their land and for helping with the permitting process. Thank to to the Fish and Wildlife Service Tribal Wildlife Grant program for funding this important work! Thank you to all of the HNFP Partners for their work over the last 5 years culminating in projects like this : Huna Totem Corporation, Sealaska Corporation, U.S. Forest Service, Hoonah Indian Association, Natural Resource Conservation Services, Alaska Department of Fish and Game, The Nature Conservancy, and the City of Hoonah. Thank you to the Sustainable Southeast Partnership for their contributions of expertise and funding to support the growth of this work.

Thank you to all project partners associated with the HNFP.

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