Kachemak Heritage Land Trust completes conservation project with around 209 acres

The project is part of ongoing effort to conserve Kenai River watershed to compensate for the impacts of the Sterling Highway MP 45-60 Reconstruction Project

Wetlands are surveyed by the Kachemak Heritage Land Trust. (Photo provided by the Kachemak Heritage Land Trust)

Wetlands are surveyed by the Kachemak Heritage Land Trust. (Photo provided by the Kachemak Heritage Land Trust)

An ongoing effort to conserve Kenai River watershed to compensate for the impacts of the Sterling Highway MP 45-60 Reconstruction Project has now acquired more than 200 acres of wetland in collaboration with the State Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, according to a release last week from the Kachemak Heritage Land Trust, which will steward the land.

The land has been brought under the protection of the trust through a series of projects taken on by the two entities, the release says, beginning in 2020.

“KHLT was selected to establish a mechanism to preserve, perpetually care for, and monitor wetland conservation properties,” the release reads. Land acquired as part of the project will be protected “in perpetuity” and is made up of “critical wetlands and salmon habitat.”

The addition last month of roughly 46 acres of land represents the “fifth and final” project undertaken as part of the collaboration. In total, around 209 acres have been brought under the protection of the trust as part of this effort. The newly acquired land includes habitat that supports king, sockeye, silver and pink salmon, rainbow trout and Dolly Varden.

The area’s wetlands are also important to the local ecosystem by mitigating floods and controlling erosion, according to the release.

Lauren Rusin, conservation projects manager for the trust, writes that finding and securing the land has been “the bulk of my focus” over the last few years.

“How cool is it that 200+ acres of land that support Alaska’s most famous fishing river, the mighty Kenai, are going to remain intact forever?” Rusin wrote.

Managing the project on the department’s side was Jonathan Tymick, who in 2022 told the Clarion that large projects like the Sterling Highway reconstruction always require awareness of the effects they will have on the surrounding areas, especially key wildlife habitat.

To compensate for those impacts, the department worked with the trust to conserve other land and earn “environmental credits.” Tymick wrote in the recent release that the trust’s “rapid and efficient procurement” of the credits means that the department has fulfilled that obligation two years ahead of schedule. The department supports the mission of the trust, he writes, and is eager to continue to collaborate.

“This final piece in the DOT&PF mitigation project puzzle is such an exciting accomplishment,” Marie McCarty, the trust’s executive director, says in the release. “We are protecting habitat for wildlife, ensuring that salmon and trout fishing remain open to the public along this important fishing corridor, and giving our future generations of people, salmon, and everything in between a chance at a more secure future.”

The release notes that this year the trust is celebrating 35 years as a nonprofit organization “with a mission to conserve the natural heritage of the Kenai Peninsula.” In that time, the trust has established protections for roughly 3,944 acres of land “in perpetuity.”

For more information, visit kachemaklandtrust.org.

Reach reporter Jake Dye at jacob.dye@peninsulaclarion.com.

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