Volunteers needed for Stream Watch

Posted: Friday, May 30, 2008

The award-winning Stream Watch program is looking for a few dozen volunteers.

Stream Watch was founded in 1994 and has won national awards and recognition as an important education program to protect the riparian areas of two world-class sockeye salmon fisheries on Alaska's Kenai Peninsula. Anyone who loves the Russian and/or Kenai Rivers and who can commit at least four days between June and September is invited to come to the Stream Watch Spring Ambassador Training on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Russian River campground pavilion.

Over the last 20 years, millions of visitors have fished and recreated along the Kenai River, leading to the deterioration of bank areas. Foot traffic killed vegetation, eroded the bank and damaged cultural resources. The Stream Watch Program was created to help educate anglers about reducing their impacts as they fish along the Kenai and Russian Rivers. The Stream Watch Program includes a cadre of volunteers, partners who provide funding and campsites, and other agencies that help coordinate the program on their land.

Stream Watch Ambassadors help protect the river habitat by educating anglers and visitors about ethical angling, agency regulations, and bear awareness. In 2007, volunteers donated more than 600 hours of time maintaining a clean river and riparian area along the Russian and Kenai Rivers. Volunteers who donate their time receive training, a cool uniform, and a free campsite for use while working in the area.

"Each year, more than 150,000 Alaskans and visitors come to the Kenai and Russian River areas. Stream Watch has learned from experience that in addition to peer-to-peer education by anglers themselves, the presence of the volunteer cadre has made the biggest impact in persuading visitors and anglers to 'do the right thing' while in these high use fisheries," said Stream Watch Supervisor and Russian River Interagency Coordinator Bobbie Jo Skibo.

"Kenai River Sportfishing Association (KRSA) has been a long-time supporter of the Stream Watch Program because we know it works," said Ricky Gease, executive director of KRSA. "We encourage Alaskans to volunteer for the program as it's a great way to have real impact on educating anglers about the proper ways to fish, have fun and do it in a responsible manner."

Business groups and organizations also are encouraged to volunteer to work as a group. Stewardship Work Days are an alternative to the traditional model of volunteering. Groups take on tasks such as picking up trash and monofilament line, mending habitat fences and watering critical riparian vegetation.

For more information on volunteering as an Ambassador or as a group for a Stewardship Work Day or to sign up for the May 31st Ambassador training, call Jenny Rasche, Stream Watch Volunteer Coordinator, at 907-288-7724.

Stream Watch is made possible by volunteers and support from several partners including Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Alaska Geographic, Alaska Recreation Management, ConocoPhillips, Kenai River Sportfishing Association, McLaughlin Youth Center, State of Alaska Parks and Recreation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the USDA Forest Service, and the Youth Restoration Corps.

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