Bristol Bay Heritage Land Trust Finalizes Two Conservation Deals
The Bristol Bay Heritage Land Trust recently accepted deeds to two parcels of land in the Nushagak River watershed. The parcels were acquired to protect the habitat and subsistence values of each property.
The first property is 120 acres located at the confluence of Old Man Creek and the Mulchatna River. In a survey of Native allotments undertaken by the Land Trust in 2009, the parcel at the mouth of Old Man Creek was highly ranked because it was in the center of an area used heavily by subsistence hunters and sport fisherman. Old Man Creek is important habitat for moose and also supports spawning and rearing. The owner of the parcel was especially interested in preserving the property and the Land Trust was able to raise the funds to purchase the property and enable her to achieve that goal.
The second parcel is located on Chikuminuk Lake at the outlet of the Allen River. Chikuminuk Lake is in Wood-Tikchik State Park. The Nature Conservancy, at the urging of the Land Trust, purchased the 160 acre parcel in 2004. The parcel was then the only private inholding on Chikuminuk Lake and its acquisition for conservation secured the State Park wilderness designation for the lake. The Nature Conservancy has now transferred ownership and the responsibility for stewarding the property to the Land Trust.
Stewarding the property will be a challenge for the Land Trust as Chikuminuk Lake is once again being investigated as a potential source of hydroelectric power for Bethel and other communities on the Kuskokwim. The Land Trust has provided comment to the State on the conflict between park purposes and a hydroelectric dam on Chikuminuk Lake. Recently the Land Trust filed an unsuccessful challenge to the decision of the State Parks Director to issue temporary research permits to Nusvista Light and Power Cooperative. Nuvista is the recipient of funding to study the potential project.
Preliminary plans for the hydroelectric dam show that the property now owned by the Land Trust would be needed for project infrastructure and would likely be inundated by the reservoir created behind the dam. The Board of Directors of the Land Trust considered the risks associated with ownership of the Chikuminuk property, but felt a local organization like the Land Trust was in a better position to advocate for the protection of the conservation values of the Wood-Tikchik State Park for which the property was originally acquired.
The Bristol Bay Heritage Land Trust was founded in 2000 as the Nushagak-Mulchatna / Wood-Tikchik Land Trust. The name was recently changed to reflect the fact the Land Trust is now active throughout Bristol Bay. With the acceptance of the deeds to these properties, the Land Trust now owns approximately 475 acres and conservation easement enforcement rights on approximately 22,000 acres. In addition to land conservation, the Trust has been leading scientific research projects to document fish species distribution throughout Bristol Bay and secure legal protection for steams in which salmon are documented. These efforts have resulted in the addition of hundreds of miles of streams to Alaska’s Anadromous Waters Catalog. The Land Trust has also been leading the effort to secure public instream water rights to protect fish in the Stuyahok and Mulchatna Rivers and Kaskanak Creek.
Information about the Bristol Bay Heritage Land Trust is available at www.bristolbaylandtrust.org.