Earlier this year the Secretary announced partnership projects in all 50 states to serve as models for the AGO Rivers Initiative. The Kenai River partnership is Alaska's AGO Rivers Initiative project. The goal of the Rivers Initiative is to conserve and restore key rivers across the nation, reconnect communities with their river amenities, and support jobs in the local area. This effort was unveiled in January as part of the President's broader America's Great Outdoors initiative, which aims to work with communities across the country to establish a 21st century conservation ethic; reconnect people, especially youth, to the natural world; and promote the commercial and recreational economies that rely on healthy rivers.
"The Kenai River is a national treasure. Many Alaskans depend on the river's salmon and aquatic resources for food, tourism and fishing-related jobs, and outdoor recreation, said Assistant Secretary Castle. "Secretary Salazar believes that collaborative actions combining community and agency expertise and resources to restore habitat for salmon on the Kenai can serve as a model for other river projects across the country."
Castle wants to learn more about what is working on the Kenai in order to share the lessons learned with other states. The event will include participation by the mayors of the Kenai Peninsula Borough, Soldotna, and Kenai; Deputy Director of the Division of State Parks and Outdoor Recreation; River Center partners and representatives from Stream Watch, the fishing industry, Kenai Watershed Forum, Kenai Fish and Wildlife Field office and Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, U.S. Forest Service, Kachemak Heritage Land Trust, the Kenaitze Tribe, and Kenai Peninsula National Fish Habitat Partnership. Donald E. Gilman River Center Director John Mohorcich is working with the Alaska Region of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to host Assistant Secretary Castle's visit.
In recognition of the fact that strong multi-agency partnerships are essential to future health and sustainability of aquatic resources, and also serve as the cornerstone of the Administration's cooperative approach to achieving the conservation goals of the National Rivers Initiative, Assistant Secretary Castle will present Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Mike Navarre, River Center Director Mohorcich, and other River Center partners with a certificate from Secretary Salazar commending the River Center and its partners for their outstanding efforts. Castle will also share some good news concerning the voluntary Stream Watch program, which is implemented in partnership with the Kenai Watershed Forum, U.S. Forest Service, Kenaitze Tribe, City of Kenai, City of Soldotna, and many other individuals and organizations.
Following the River Center meeting, Assistant Secretary Castle will visit a sampling of habitat improvement project sites ranging from private landowner restoration projects and removal of fish passage barriers to pedestrian access improvements and upgraded fish cleaning stations. The designation of the Kenai River as part of the National Rivers Initiative aims to help facilitate, support, and promote on-the-ground habitat protection, restoration, and stewardship projects on private and public lands within the Kenai River watershed. This effort will involve several strategies, including: restoring riparian habitat, including wetlands and stream banks, to benefit Pacific salmon, migratory birds and other wildlife; implementing conservation and protection projects to sustain habitat connectivity and maintain water quality in the Kenai River; improving and enhancing current public enjoyment of the river and its watershed for consumptive and non-consumptive uses and watershed education; and strengthening coordination and collaborative partnerships to conserve Kenai River natural resources and to provide for public uses consistent with long term stewardship of the Kenai River Watershed.
All of this would not be possible were it not for a large group of cooperating agencies and organizations, which include: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Forest Service, Kenaitze Indian Tribe IRA (federally recognized tribe), National Resource Conservation Service, Alaska Department of Natural Resources, Alaska Department of Fish & Game, Kenai Watershed Forum, commercial and sport-fishing associations, Kenai Peninsula Fish Habitat Partnership, Kenai Peninsula Borough, City of Soldotna, City of Kenai, private landowners, land trusts, and other organizations.
To read about other such projects happening across the nation visit http://www.doi.gov/index.cfm.