BLM plans fish habitat restoration to upper Yukon River

Federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) officials say plans are now underway and continuing through July to help restore mining-impacted streams along the upper Yukon River watershed.

Plans were set to begin with stream restoration on Wade Creek along the Taylor Highway north of Chicken, with additional work later this summer on Nome Creek in the White Mountains National Recreation Area.

BLM officials said that the project, in collaboration with the Salcha-Delta Soil and Water Conservation District and Trout Unlimited, will improve water quality and fish habitat along Nome and Wade Creeks as part of a long-term restoration strategy. The project has a goal of rehabilitating thousands of feet of stream channel and associated fish habitat within and adjacent to the Birch Creek and the Fortymile Wild and Scenic Rivers Restoration Landscape.

The BLM noted that historic mining activity had degraded fish habitat in both Nome and Wade Creeks.  Restoration of those streams is expected to improve habitat quality and riparian health, to improve regional recreation and subsistence uses.

Geoff Beyersdorf, Fairbanks district manager for the BLM, said that restoration of Nome and Wade Creeks would improve watershed health across the Norton Sound-Yukon-Kuskokwim region and help mitigate disturbance flood events. He described the plan as an important next step in rehabilitating the landscape, so it can continue to support healthy ecosystems and community needs.

The BLM said that the project would further the work of the Interior Department’s Gravel to Gravel Keystone Initiative, an investment of more than $65 million over the next four years from President Joe Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which seeks to improve the resilience of ecosystems and salmon in Alaska’s Yukon, Kuskokwim and Norton Sound region. 

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The announcement about the restoration project came on the heels of BLM’s section of the Birch Creek and Fortymile Wild and Scenic Rivers Restoration Landscapeas part of a larger strategy to infuse $161 million in funding from President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act in 21 Restoration Landscapes across 11 states. BLM is expected to invest $5 million in this landscape over the next five to 10 years to improve ecosystem resilience, restore salmon habitat, and help address the legacy of degradation from placer gold mining. 

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