Sustain Our Nation's Forests and Grasslands

Tongass, state of Alaska work together to maintain water quality for all


AKMAP crew prepares to sample physical habitat, diatoms and benthic macroinvertebrates along the shoreline of Neck Lake on Prince of Wales Island, Thorne Bay Ranger District, Tongass National Forest. Photo courtesy of ADEC/Amber Bethe.

ALASKA – USDA Forest Service and the state of Alaska have along history of working together to foster resilient ecosystems by protecting and maintaining water quality in the Tongass National Forest, which contains more than 900 watersheds. Since at least 1980, formal agreements guided by the Clean Water Act have established roles to ensure these waters are clean and healthy. Clean water is essential to the fish, wildlife and people using national forest lands. The Tongass provides abundant clean water for drinking and hydropower that is vitally important to a dozen Southeast Alaska communities, fish hatcheries and countless remote homes and lodges.

In 2017, a Challenge Cost Share Agreement was established to support the Alaska Monitoring and Assessment Program on the Tongass. The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation coordinates AKMAP with the Environmental Protection Agency’s National Aquatic Resource Surveys using the best available science to assess streams, lakes and coastal waters. ADEC selects sites randomly and deploys field crews to collect a suite of biological, physical and chemical data. The Forest Service assists with site validation and some logistical support. So far, the AKMAP crews have surveyed thirty-eight lakes (2017) and thirty-five streams and rivers (2018), including transboundary rivers with headwaters in Canada. River and stream surveys will continue in 2019, and a coastal survey is planned for 2020.

The AKMAP surveys provide a statistically unbiased snapshot of aquatic conditions. They directly address the Tongass Forest Plan goal of maintaining and restoring the biological, physical and chemical integrity of the forest’s waters. The AKMAP surveys inform baseline assessments and potential restoration actions to ensure that the Forest Service can continue to provide abundant, clean water for all stakeholders within and downstream of the Tongass.