Importance to waterbirds
In 1998, the Kenai-Susitna USFWS strata averaged 11.5 ducks/km2, whereas, the Copper Delta USFWS strata averaged 32.5 ducks/mi2. These systems have traditionally been used as spring staging areas. Cook Inlet and the Copper River Delta are among the most important wetlands to the world’s populations of western sandpiper and dunlin. The Stikine is also a traditional fall staging area for Wrangel Island snow geese. Common wintering shorebirds include black oystercatchers, rock sandpipers, black turnstones, and surfbirds. Seabirds (murres, murrelets, auklets) are common breeders throughout Prince William Sound. Southeastern Alaska has over 2,800 important anadromous fish streams, and over 15,000 bald eagles use this habitat.
Current conservation programs
Initial efforts in Southeast Alaska have concentrated on education and landscape planning. Partnerships with the USFS (USFS), BLM, USFWS, Alaska Science Center, and Alaska Department of Fish and Game have resulted in remote sensing products for the Copper River Delta, Kenai Peninsula, and Bering Glacier forelands. Fieldwork has been completed for GIS work at Susitna Flats. Extensive conservation planning has occurred through the development of the Copper River Delta GIS product. Current efforts include modeling of vegetation successional changes, which will have significant impact on dusky Canada goose, trumpeter swan, and northern pintail use of the Delta. More recently, efforts have been initiated to restore and enhance wetland habitats that have been dramatically altered by construction of towns, roads, railroads and other developments. Significant wetland enhancement opportunities exist in Southeast Alaska, primarily altered estuarine habitats in close proximity to coastal communities.
- Complete remote sensing and GIS products for Cook Inlet (which includes Susitna, Redoubt and Palmer Hay Flats) and Stikine Flats.
- Complete successional vegetation modeling for the Copper River Delta and analyze pond succession related to beaver activity.
- Coordinate research efforts related to limnology and hydrology of Copper River Delta wetlands, and the ecology of Prince William Sound, sea ducks, dusky and Vancouver Canada geese, tule white-fronted geese, dunlin, and western sandpipers.
- Enhance 500 ha of estuarine habitats, primarily by restoring natural tidal processes in altered coastal wetlands.
- GIS products will be used by government and industry to protect and restore habitat values in association with the development of resource extraction activities.
- Although current demand for Alaskan lumber is down from Asian markets, interest in the pulp and paper potential remains high. The timber of Southeast Alaska has the easiest transport potential.
- Petroleum terminals in Cook Inlet and Valdez, plus the maritime shipping, provide potential contamination risk for large number of North American waterbirds.
- Vegetation succession on the Copper River Delta is characteristic of processes throughout the Southeast Arc.
- Successional modeling for the Copper River Delta will allow for management projections for the last forty years and the next fifty years.
- Additional opportunities and interest in wetland restoration projects will be identified.