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ALASKA FISHERIES: State reels in funds for two habitat protection projects.
Alaska Region, January 20, 2012
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Knik Arm/Islands
Knik Arm/Islands - Photo Credit: O. Shpak
Signing ceremony for the Knik Islands Conservation Project. From left: Alaska's Regional Director Geoff Haskett (USFWS), Dan Sullivan (Anchorage Mayor), Curtis McQueen (CEO of Eklutna, Inc), Phil Shephard (Director, Great Land Trust) and Lt Commander Stone (US Army Corps of Engineers).
Signing ceremony for the Knik Islands Conservation Project. From left: Alaska's Regional Director Geoff Haskett (USFWS), Dan Sullivan (Anchorage Mayor), Curtis McQueen (CEO of Eklutna, Inc), Phil Shephard (Director, Great Land Trust) and Lt Commander Stone (US Army Corps of Engineers). - Photo Credit: USFWS/David Wigglesworth

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar recently announced $20.5 million in National Coastal Wetland grants to support 24 projects in 13 states to conserve and restore coastal wetlands and their fish and wildlife habitat.

 

Two State of Alaska projects, the Upper Knik Arm Coastal Wetlands Conservation Project and the Goose Bay Estuary Conservation Project, received funding under the Secretary’s 2012 grant award announcement.

Together, these projects will receive $1,060,000 in National Coastal Wetland Grant funding to help conserve approximately 3400 acres of privately-owned coastal habitat for the benefit of fish, wildlife and people. Once the land negotiations are completed, the conservation of these parcels will support the needs of the Goose Bay and Palmer Hay Flats State Game Refuges by protecting important spawning and rearing habitat for Coho and King salmon; and conserving resting and foraging areas for many migratory bird species.

“National Coastal Wetlands Grants help to protect habitat for fish and wildlife while supporting community needs for clean water and accessible recreational opportunities”, said Geoffrey Haskett, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Alaska Regional Director. “They allow us to work with our state partners, willing private land owners, and the Great Land Trust to achieve voluntary cooperative conservation projects of mutual interest,” Haskett added.

The Secretary’s announcement follows on the heels of a recently completed habitat protection partnership in Alaska between the Great Land Trust, Eklutna Inc., the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Alaska departments of Natural Resources and Fish and Game, and other federal agencies. The Knik Islands Conservation Project resulted in the protection of nearly 4800 acres at the mouth of the Knik and Matanuska Rivers. Under the terms of the deal, Eklutna Inc. received $1.95 million for agreeing to place a permanent conservation easement on its lands. The conserved lands will remain under the ownership of Eklutna Inc., and traditional uses such as hunting and fishing by shareholders, and public access through permits, will continue.

“This project is a wonderful example of government working in partnership with the private sector for the benefit of wildlife habitat and society as a whole”, said Haskett. “The property offers fantastic recreation opportunities; and it contains excellent habitat for all five species of salmon in Cook Inlet as well as many other wildlife species.

Curtis McQueen, CEO of Eklutna Inc, praised the project stating that, “Eklutna Inc. has been working hard over the last several years to make more of its lands available for development so the growing community of Anchorage could continue to prosper. We have master planned strategic sections of our lands to meet the need for more residential, commercial and industrial development. At the same time, we are honored to work with the Great Land Trust, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and others to protect key habitat for our shareholders and the community. We anticipate doing more transactions of this kind in the future”.

Phil Shephard, director of Great Land Trust, applauded the deal, saying, “Working together with the staff and board at Eklutna Inc., the Fish and Wildlife Service, and others to permanently conserve 4800 acres for the citizens of southcentral Alaska has been enriching and incredibly rewarding—we look forward to the next project very soon!”

The Knik Islands Conservation Project was made possible through a collaborative effort with the Mat-Su Basin Salmon Habitat Partnership, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Army Corps of Engineers, NOAA Fisheries, AK Dept of Fish and Game, and CIRI; using funds set aside to offset habitat losses associated with the expansion of the Port of Anchorage. The National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant Program is administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in partnership with State Natural Resource and Fish and Game agencies. Funding for these grant projects is provided by Sport Fish Restoration Act revenue – money generated from an excise tax on fishing equipment and motorboat and small engine fuels.


Contact Info: Katrina Mueller, 907-786-3637, katrina_mueller@fws.gov



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