Landscape Stewardship Awards - 2011

Photo: Bill Lindow (center) accepts the PLF 2011 Landscape Stewardship Award on behalf of Alaska's Copper River Watershed Project from PLF member Jules Tileston (right). BLM Alaska State Director Bud Cribley (left) participated in the November 17, 2011 ceremony.

THE PUBLIC LANDS FOUNDATION presents the Copper River Watershed Project with its Landscape Stewardship Award. The Foundation grants this award to honor private citizens and organizations that work to advance and sustain community-based stewardship on landscapes that include, in whole or in part, public lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

The Copper River Watershed encompasses 26,500 square miles south of the Alaska Range, from 200 miles east of Anchorage to the Canadian border and south to the Gulf of Alaska. Twenty-three towns and Alaska Native villages dot the watershed along major tributaries to the Copper River. One of the last intact watersheds in North America, the watershed supports diverse wildlife habitat and critical spawning habitat for three species of wild salmon that are the foundation of the watershed’s ecosystem, culture and economy.

With extraordinary vision and purpose, the members of the Copper River Watershed Project worked with the BLM to help advance Youth Initiatives sponsored by the Department of the Interior and the BLM. They provided both time and money to create a youth stewardship project that gives teens a 10-day outdoor experience that exposes them to the history, wildlife, fisheries, cultural history and economies of the communities along the Copper River.  The students also learn about issues and solutions surrounding operation and oversight of the transAlaska Oil Pipeline, which passes through the watershed, and land and resource management issues that cross state, federal and Alaska Native corporation boundaries. This beneficial experience exposes youth to natural resource management careers and encourages them to consider becoming the next generation of land and resource managers.

To build public awareness of the need to care for the Copper River Watershed, project members created a stewardship program and Discovery Room pen-pal activities to connect students living up and down the river so they see themselves as citizens of a much larger watershed community. Members also collaborated with state, federal, Alaska Native villages and corporations, and other nonprofit organizations to develop wayside interpretive signs that will help visitors understand the ecosystem as they travel through the greater watershed and will hopefully lead to a greater sense of stewardship for the region’s resources.

Thanks to the group’s rerouting of the Fish Creek trail near Paxson, all-terrain vehicle riders can now travel mostly on land, crossing the stream only one time instead of seven times. They also constructed a salmon-viewing platform on the Gulkana River to reduce bank erosion caused by tourists crowding close to the river’s edge to see fish.

The Copper River Watershed Project provided exceptional service to the BLM and partnering agencies by training and managing volunteers over a 4-year period to collect water quality and human use data in the Copper River watershed streams, lakes and rivers.  The group also created an efficient and cost-effective culvert-ranking protocol and mapping tool that helps agencies and landowners prioritize culvert replacements that will provide the best benefit for fish passage and greater protection against soil erosion.

Thanks to the leadership and networking skills of the Copper River Watershed Project, the BLM has strengthened traditional partnerships and developed new community partners, leading to more coordinated and effective management of the Copper River Watershed.

In recognition of these and other valuable services, the Public Lands Foundation is pleased to present the Copper River Watershed Project with this Citation and Plaque for their invaluable stewardship of America’s public landscapes.

Henri Bisson
September 7, 2011