As of July 27, 2022, another 52.57 acres of land in the Kenai River Watershed are protected in perpetuity by Kachemak Heritage Land Trust. This marks the fourth project funded by mitigation money from the Sterling Highway MP 45-60 project. This most recent project between Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities (DOT&PF) Kachemak Heritage Land Trust (KHLT) brings the total number of protected acres through this project for this year to 163.81.
In 2020, KHLT was selected to establish a mechanism to preserve, perpetually care for, and monitor wetland conservation properties for Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities (DOT&PF) in response to the Sterling Highway MP 45-60 Reconstruction Project. KHLT’s role has been to find, assess, select, and secure specific lands to protect on the Kenai Peninsula.
All of the land KHLT has protected as part of this mitigation project has been comprised of critical wetlands and salmon habitat. Conserving important wetland habitat is just one way Alaskans can work to keep our salmon healthy and thriving with meaningful conservation for the future. Salmon lay their eggs in tiny inland streams and juvenile salmon can live in those streams for up the three years. Salmon need land to survive, thrive, and replenish their populations. Each acre conserved gives salmon a greater chance of surviving and gives us humans a greater chance of experiencing bountiful, healthy salmon fisheries.
The 2022 land conservation projects, now protecting 163.81 acres, are an incredible victory for salmon and for people. The most recent 52.57 project includes over 2,000 feet of Kenai River frontage and over 48 acres of riparian wetlands. Equally importantly is that this land will remain open to the public for fishing and remain undeveloped in perpetuity.
The public/private partnership between DOT&PF and KHLT has been a great success for the benefit of residents, visitors, and wildlife on the Kenai Peninsula. KHLT looks forward to continuing to protect valuable land for future generations.
More than 54 acres of fishing and hunting access on the Anchor River are now open to the public in State ownership and will be conserved forever thanks to the work of Alaska Department of Fish & Game, Kachemak Heritage Land Trust, and Kachemak Moose Habitat Inc. So far in this project, four parcels have been purchased with federal funds from the Pittman-Robertson Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act and funds from Kachemak Moose Habitat, Inc., or donated as land match to be perpetually preserved as moose habitat and for public access near the 19,000-acre State-designated Anchor River/Fritz Creek Critical Habitat Area.
The grant funding provides for the purchase of up to 612.62 acres from willing landowners on and adjacent to the river, potentially connecting the Anchor River/Fritz Creek Critical Habitat Area to the lower, wildlife-rich Anchor River corridor. The acquisition of these properties will conserve habitat important to the year-round survival of moose, particularly for moose calving, moose habitat in winter, and provide an important winter migration corridor, supporting and sustaining the moose harvest on the Lower Kenai Peninsula.
Additionally, through these purchases, stream-side habitat important to king, coho, sockeye, and pink salmon, Dolly Varden, and steelhead trout will be protected; and directly benefit people by providing new access for hunting, fishing and wildlife viewing. Protection of this valuable spawning and rearing fish habitat directly benefits commercial and sport fishermen on the river and in Cook Inlet as well. This area has also been designated an Important Bird Area by The National Audubon Society with industrialization and urbanization listed as one of the main habitat issues.
On August 10th, 2020, long-time local Jeanne McArthur ensured that her 25-acre property would be protected for generations to come. Jeanne accomplished her goal of creating permanent wildlife habitat and open space by donating a conservation easement on her beautiful property to Kachemak Heritage Land Trust (KHLT).
Jeanne’s protection of her property contributes to the preservation of the highly valuable Fritz Creek corridor, utilized by moose and bear to travel between their upland summer ranges in the Anchor River/Fritz Creek Critical Habitat Area and their low-lying wintering grounds along Kachemak Bay. The 750-foot stretch of Fritz Creek flowing through this property also contributes to Dolly Varden spawning habitat.
Jeanne has taken her dedication one step further by creating a legacy gift in her will to give the remaining interest of her property to KHLT as ‘trade land’. This ‘trade land’ donation allows KHLT to then sell the property, with the conservation easement in place forever, to generate proceeds to support KHLT’s conservation work. The generous donation of this conservation easement by Jeanne brings the total KHLT-protected acreage in the Fritz Creek watershed to 825 acres.
Kachemak Heritage Land Trust recently protected an additional 69.60 acres in the Stariski Creek Watershed, through which a portion of Stariski Creek runs. The Conservation Fund (TCF) acquired this property to serve as a wetland mitigation bank site. Ownership by KHLT will ensure that the mitigation site is managed, monitored, and maintained to protect salmon, steelhead trout, moose, bear, sandhill crane, and other species’ habitat present on these parcels. Of the 69.60 acres, 66.20 acres are wetlands which provide important functions and services to the area including pollution filtration, sediment control, groundwater temperature modulation, and flood management. The property formerly had two illegal fills which were removed by the Kenai Watershed Forum (KWF) to restore the wetland functions of the property. KHLT now protects 798.53 acres in the Stariski Creek Watershed.
In 2012, a partnership project with US Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS), State of Alaska Department of Fish & Game (ADF&G), Kenai Peninsula Borough (KPB) Seward – Bear Creek Flood Service Area (SBCFSA), Resurrection Bay Conservation Alliance (RBCA), and The Conservation Fund (TCF) acquired nine parcels to establish the Salmon Creek Conservation Area. The initial 126 acres included four parcels funded by the SBCFSA for flood mitigation and five parcels funded by TCF with in-lieu fee monies for the protection of wetland habitat. The in-lieu fee funds had been paid by the City of Seward and Alaska Railroad to TCF as a land bank for US Army Corps of Engineers compensatory mitigation program. This conservation corridor was prioritized for acquisition as designated special flood hazard area, fish/wildlife habitat, and high value wetlands.
In 2020, the represented agencies reconvened to determine additional strategies to expand the area with Kachemak Heritage Land Trust (KHLT) taking the seat previously filled by The Conservation Fund and Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association (CIAA) joining the group. The work group met on six occasions to identify the challenges and barriers, develop potential strategies, prioritize areas and parcels, and determine timelines and responsible agencies.
The purpose of the Salmon Creek Conservation Area (SCCA) is to create and foster effective collaborations to maintain healthy fish and wildlife habitat, healthy floodplain functions, healthy people, healthy fisheries and healthy economies in the Seward area. The overall mission includes the protection of the safety and health of the community, protection of public and private property from flood damages, and the protection of fish and wildlife habitat.