Steelhead are “officially” found in over 300 streams in the Tongass National Forest, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game's official Anadromous Waters Catalog. But we believe the real number is probably twice that, meaning hundreds of streams don't receive the conservation measures they deserve.
Learn more about what Trout Unlimited is doing to help conserve those populations by watching our latest film Anadromous Waters.
In Southeast Alaska, there are over 5,000+ anadromous watersheds. Of that, only 325 are recognized as supporting annual runs of Steelhead. The “officially recognized” part is key, as this means inclusion in the ADFG Anadromous Waters Catalog (AWC).
Protection of these specified water bodies in the AWC is addressed by Alaska law, which requires persons or governmental agencies to submit plans and specifications to ADF&G and receive written approval in the form of a Fish Habitat Permit prior to beginning the proposed use, construction or activity that would take place in specified water bodies.
Long story short, if a species isn’t included in the AWC for a particular water body, there are no protections afforded that species, and therein lies the rub: to conserve steelhead and their habitat in a water body not listed as supporting them in the AWC, proof of their existence needed to be carefully and accurately documented.
Trout Unlimited has worked to increase the number of officially recognized anadromous streams by using community science – going to select Tongass 77 watersheds and surveying the area for steelhead.