Twelvemile Creek Restoration on the Tongass National Forest
Folded into Alaska’s Southeastern peninsula between British Columbia and the Pacific Ocean, the Tongass National Forest encompasses 17 million acres of breathtaking forests, glaciers and coastlines. Spectacular watersheds are blanketed with old-growth Sitka spruce, Western hemlock, and Western red cedar. The Tongass also boasts a dizzying array of wildlife. All five species of Pacific salmon depend on the streams and waters of the Tongass for spawning before making their way out to the rich seas nearby.
Within the Tongass – in the Alexander Archipelago –Prince of Wales Island is a critical component of the forest in both its cultural fabric and bountiful natural resources. The coastal rainforest environment supports the Island’s communities through subsistence hunting and fishing, commercial timber harvesting, and shares the beauty of the landscape with many visitors and tourists. The Twelvemile Creek watershed, the focus of our efforts on the Tongass National Forest, sits here amongst the southern hills of Prince of Wales Island.
During the years of active timber harvest a total of 59 miles of roads were constructed to support timber extraction in the Twelvemile Creek watershed, leaving the watershed with an average road density of 2.9 miles per square mile. Such high road densities negatively impact aquatic habitat through increased rates of sedimentation, erosion, road failures, blocked fish passage and reduced hydrologic connectivity.
Working with the Forest Service and partners such as the Nature Conservancy, the NFF focused on restoring the creek and riparian areas, improving wildlife habitat, and decommissioning roads within the watershed. Restoration work included instream habitat improvement through floodplain roughening, bank stabilization, and the placement of more than 600 trees in streams to improve both fish and wildlife habitat.
Additionally, we assisted in the development of a monitoring protocol. With the protocol, we led efforts to assess the impacts of this priority work with other restoration initiatives and organizations focused on the Tongass. In order to support the capacity of local communities, we also provided technical assistance to several local watershed organizations. This work directly contributes to increased awareness and local community engagement in the monitoring and restoration of important resources.