U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Coastal Program
Conserving our Coasts
Alaska has 46,000 miles of coasts — more than any other state — including 9,900 miles of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service-managed National Wildlife Refuge coastline. Coastal habitats support fish, migratory birds, shellfish, marine mammals, and myriad jobs, recreational opportunities, and ways of life. Protecting unique coastlines and providing ecological, cultural and economic resilience through coastal habitat conservation is one of the most important landscape-scale conservation priorities of today.
Long Island (Kodiak, Alaska)
After over 20 years of hard work by many Kodiak residents, Leisnoi, Inc., Great Land Trust, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and others, 1,259-acre Long Island was conserved in early 2019. Located only five air miles from the city of Kodiak, Long Island has something to offer hikers, wildlife watchers, kids’ groups, and history buffs.
In its early days, the island was valued by the local Alaska Native tribe and used as a place to recreate, fish, hunt, and gather. Starting in 1941, it was home to a World War II coastal defense fort; it was decommissioned in 1945 and abandoned in 1947. These historic sites are still present and visible on the island, although many have deteriorated or are covered in moss. The abandoned military roads provide for easy hiking for those looking to explore the island.
Great Land Trust led the effort to conserve Long Island; working with willing landowner, Leisnoi, Inc., the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council (which funded the project) the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Coastal Program and others to make this project a reality.
Long Island is located within the Audubon Society-recognized Chiniak Bay Important Bird Area (IBA), an area of global importance due to its unique bird habitat. Seabirds within the Chiniak Bay IBA are threatened by habitat fragmentation as well as nutrient and water pollution; this project helps to protect against these risks. Visitors to the newly-conserved Long Island will have a chance to see many species of seabirds, such as cormorants and Kittlitz’s Murrelets, as well as sea otters, harbor seals, and Stellar sea lions.
As part of this conservation project, Leisnoi granted public access to most of the island, while permanently protecting important habitat and ensuring that the property will never be logged or subdivided.
The Kodiak Island Borough Assembly will manage the land as a borough park. Leisnoi, Inc. was paid the full value of the acquisition, benefiting its shareholders and the community. Jana Turvey, CEO of Leisnoi, Inc., grew up on Kodiak Island and knows the island well:
“It is rewarding knowing that the land will be preserved forever. This project is truly a win-win.”
Conservation by the numbers: 14.1 miles ocean shoreline, 182 wetland acres, 1,145 upland acres.
Lake Iliamna Islands
Alaska’s largest lake, Lake Iliamna, in addition to producing more wild sockeye salmon than any other lake on earth and providing refuge for Alaska’s most famous sea monster, supports a rare population of freshwater seals. Little known to most Alaskans the seal population in Lake Iliamna is another unique fact about our state — it has is the only freshwater seal population in the United States, and one of only five known in the world.
In a two-phase effort (2017 and 2019), conservation partners worked together to conserve 283 miles of shoreline on 173 islands. The islands provide remote, wild and intact wetland habitat, more than half of which are nationally-declining coastal wetland types.
Funding for the conservation easement came from The Conservation Fund and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant Program. Partners included Bristol Bay Heritage Land Trust, Pedro Bay Corporation, Iliamna Natives, Ltd. corporation, Alaska Department of Natural Resources, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Coastal Program.
Conservation by the numbers: 283 shoreline miles; 13,876 wetland acres.
Afognak Island, Portage Lake
Afognak is an island in the Kodiak Archipelago, Alaska. In 2018, Great Land Trust collaborated with Natives of Kodiak, the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council, State of Alaska, Bureau of Land Management, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Coastal Program to gain permanent protection of over 3,000 acres on northern Afognak Island that contains Portage Lake, Portage Creek, and the Portage Creek Estuary in Discoverer Bay.
Ecological richness and contiguity with other conserved and protected lands made this property a natural choice for conservation. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service identifies Afognak Island among the most productive habitat in the Gulf of Alaska in part because of its awesome diversity. Saltwater and freshwater access points, three miles of river and streams, a navigable lake, three miles of coastline and 750 acres of wetland habitat are all contained within this diverse 3,000-acre unit, providing a home for native Alaskan wildlife including four species of Pacific salmon, seabirds, Steller sea lions and sea otters. Sitka spruce, salmonberry and blueberry are among the many native plant species found here, and in some areas virgin forest remains intact.
In addition to protection of rich habitat, this acquisition completes a contiguous protected wildlife corridor between Afognak Island State Park, the Red Peak unit of the Kodiak Island National Wildlife Refuge, and two parcels previously conserved by Great Land Trust, creating a conserved area that spans over 180,000 acres and provides for more than 250 species of fish, shore birds, sea birds, migratory birds, and terrestrial and marine species while also protecting the cultural values and pristine habitat that make this land important to present and future generations of Natives of Kodiak shareholders and others. Addition of the Portage Lake parcel to this vast conservation complex offers both humans and wildlife the opportunity to walk continuously for nearly 25 miles across the entire northern section of Afognak Island uninterrupted by development.
The land was purchased from Natives of Kodiak with funds from the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trust Fund and donated to the State of Alaska with a conservation easement held by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). It is open to the public and provides increased access for hunting, fishing and other uses of the area.
Conservation by the numbers: 8 miles of shoreline, 4.4 miles of stream, 764 acres of wetland, 2,107 acres of upland.
Kodiak highlights excerpted from Great Land Trust. Compiled by Katrina Liebich, Alaska Digital Media Manager for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, with Fisheries and Ecological Services staff.
In Alaska we are shared stewards of world renowned natural resources and our nation’s last true wild places. Our hope is that each generation has the opportunity to live with, live from, discover and enjoy the wildness of this awe-inspiring land and the people who love and depend on it.