First Annual PWS Natural History Symposium in Whittier.
In May we sponsored a new symposium on Prince William Sound history and ecology, held in Whittier. During the day-long event, fifteen expert speakers discussed Prince William Sound’s history, weather, wildlife, changing climate, and much more. As a new training opportunity for the Sound’s growing community of professional guides, who bring thousands of visitors to the area each year, the symposium was an investment in the Prince William Sound recreation and tourism economy. It was also free and open to the public. The audience ranged from 80 to 100 people throughout the day, plenty enough to convince us to coordinate the event again next spring. Thanks to the Chugach National Forest, City of Whittier, and Prince William Sound Regional Citizens Advisory Council for co-sponsoring.
Taking out the Trash in 2019
For a second year in row, we worked with the U.S. Forest Service and others to clean beaches in Prince William Sound. This year we removed hundreds of pounds of marine debris and other garbage from Knight Island and Perry Island, in the central part of the Sound. Private boaters and a crew from U.S. Coast Guard Sector Valdez joined in this year, and we coordinated with long-time marine debris experts at Gulf of Alaska Keeper. We plan to continue these citizen-based trips as long marine debris finds its way into Prince William Sound.
Restoring Campsites in Blackstone Bay
Following up on our work in 2018, our volunteers again worked with the Chugach National Forest to restore damaged resources and improve public camping in Blackstone Bay. With guidance from Forest Service specialists, we closed excess trails, repaired erosion, restored vegetation, and created new and comfortable campsites at the popular Seventeen Mile Beach. The improvements are good for the land but also benefit the recreation and tourism economy by ensuring high-quality visitor experiences in the remote lands accessible from Whittier. The Forest Service is currently seeking public comment on the 2020 phase of the project, which we will also assist through our growing community of volunteers.
Coordinating the Voices of the Wilderness Artist Residency
We help administer the Voices of the Wilderness Artist Residency. For ten years this program has brought artists to wilderness areas across Alaska, and the artists have helped the agencies connect the public to these special lands. In 2019 we played a particularly active role in the program during the federal government shutdown. We're proud of our contribution, which helped bring Seldovia artist Valisa Higman to work in the Wilderness Study Area of western Prince William Sound this year. Each year's artist volunteers their time for conservation projects while on their residency.
Citizen Science in PWS
We are working with the Chugach National Forest to offer citizen science opportunities in the Wilderness Study Area portion of western Prince William Sound. This year two of our volunteers gathered data on resource conditions at specific sites while on a week-long kayak trip in Port Nellie Juan and Perry Passage. The pair used a smart phone app to record their observations and were provided transportation to the sound on a Forest Service vessel. Citizen science is an important part of taking care of Prince William Sound and we plan to offer more opportunities in 2020.
The Prince William Sound Forum comes to Facebook
In July we launched the Prince William Sound Forum community page on Facebook. You can now request to join the page’s nearly 500 members to read or post about latest observations, photos, fun facts, or sites that need clean-up around the Sound. The Facebook page aligns with our goal to build a greater sense of community among the people who visit Prince William Sound. We believe if visitors feel part of a community of people who enjoy the area, they will be more likely to help care for it.
Other Happenings in 2019
The Prince William Sound Stewardship Foundation occupies the gap between resource issues and the limited capacity of management agencies and others tasked with protecting Prince William Sound. This year we also:
Helped remove invasive European black slugs at popular recreation sites in Whittier, which can prevent their further spread.
Hosted speakers on a variety of Prince William Sound topics in Anchorage and Girdwood. This spring we’ll host a weekly speaker series in February and March.
Began an Adopt a Beach program where boaters, kayakers, and others commit to cleaning one beach during their trip into the Sound.
Launched our new website packed with resources to help people enjoy and take care of Prince William Sound.