Lands & Habitat

History & Overview

The CRRC Wetlands Program Plan (WPP) reflects the local environmental history of the region and aims to assess wetland environmental needs as identified through the guidance provided by Tribal community members. The plan is a starting point for long-term wetland inventory, monitoring, and management across the Chugach Region to provide our tribal members the ability to access the use of the wealth of natural resources dependent on healthy wetlands, including fish and shellfish, berries, timber, waterfowl, and terrestrial mammals.

The Chugach Region is home to crucially important and productive watersheds that have a unique history of disruption. On March 27, 1964, a magnitude 9.2 earthquake, known as the Good Friday Earthquake, struck Alaska. The epicenter struck a location about fifteen miles below Prince William Sound, halfway between Anchorage and Valdez. This earthquake stands as the second-most powerful earthquake ever recorded in human history. Aside from the catastrophic loss of human life, the earthquake caused environmental shifts in the region. In some places, the ground rose over thirty feet and in some places, it sank. This caused a change in the distribution of saltwater on the shoreline, riverine corridor shifts, and subsequent changes to vegetation distribution.

On March 24, 1989, 11 million gallons of crude oil spilled from the oil tanker Exxon Valdez, owned by the Exxon Shipping Company. This oil spill reached thirteen hundred miles (about half the width of the United States) of coastline, killing countless seabirds, marine mammals, fish, and invertebrates.

An estimated 40 to 45 percent of the 11 million gallons of crude oil is thought to have washed onto the intertidal systems of Prince William Sound, significantly impacting flora and fauna. Today, pockets of oil remain in some locations, and species devastated by the spill struggle to rebound. Much of CRRC’s work is influenced by the Exxon Valdez oil spill, even decades later. 

Wetlands are crucially important to Alaska’s economy, environment, and culture. Wetlands provide the foundation for many subsistence-based economies, with hunting, gathering, fishing, and trapping activities focused on the resources in Alaska’s healthy wetlands. The State of Alaska includes approximately 63 percent of the nation’s wetland ecosystems. These wetlands are important habitats for fish, migratory birds, terrestrial mammals, and more. Some medicines are derived from wetland soils and plants. Alaska’s commercial fishing and shellfishery industries harvest wetland-dependent species. And many of Alaska’s marine and estuarine fish and shellfish, birds, and mammals that are important to our Tribal Members’ subsistence practices and food security must have coastal wetlands to survive. Our subsistence fish breed and raise their young in coastal marshes and estuaries. Our wetlands are an internationally renowned habitat for the state’s production of salmon. Alaska is the world’s largest distributor of sockeye salmon, making the health of its wetlands of crucial economic importance to the world and the continuation of the Chugach people.





In 1999, a watershed analysis and water quality evaluation for the Nanwalek and Port Graham watersheds were conducted by Dames & Moore, a consulting company for CRRC and Chugachmiut. These evaluations were performed on watersheds and steams identified as potential drinking water sources at Nanwalek and Port Graham. Stereo aerial photographs and topographic maps of the available site were reviewed to identify watershed boundaries and surface water flow patterns. Within this evaluation, a subtask included watershed delineation/characterization. This subtask included watershed boundary identification, watershed area determination, and mapping of relevant topographic features or mechanisms for surface and subsurface water movement patterns (Dames & Moore 1999). A combination of existing data, topographic maps, aerial photography, and field observations were used to create a conceptual model of hydrologic and hydrogeologic conditions. In support of this Wetland Protection Plan, the data was digitized so it could be used by constituents for landscape planning.

1999 & 2022

In 1999 and 2002, CRRC was involved with Chugachmiut to conduct a watershed and water quality evaluation for the Native Villages of Chenega, Nanwalek, Port Graham, and Tatitlek. These studies aimed “to gather and analyze information related to watershed characteristics, soils, and water quality parameters in village watersheds to understand the naturally occurring conditions that may experience land use impacts.”


In Chenega and Tatitlek, the watershed delineation/characterization involved developing a series of map layers in GIS using ArcView. Watershed maps were created using 1:63,360 scale U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) quadrangle maps. The map layers created included watershed boundaries, streams, and soil types. Watershed boundaries and streams were mapped based on detailed aerial photo interpretation combined with information from topographic maps and field notes from a September 2001 site visit. In the Chenega and Tatitlek report, detailed aerial photo coverage was not available for the northwestern third of the Chenega watershed and thus mapping relied more heavily on topographic details, field observations, photographs, and previous studies.


In 2002, a similar effort was made to conduct a watershed analysis and water quality evaluation for the villages of Chenega and Tatitlek, located in Prince William Sound. This study was conducted by URS, an AECOM company. The goal of this study was the same as that of those conducted in 1999.


In 2006, Chugachmiut and CRRC contracted Mapping Solutions to conduct several GIS needs analyses for all five federally recognized CRRC member Tribes, including Chenega, Eyak, Nanwalek, Port Graham, and Tatitlek. Overall, Tribes strongly supported GIS mapping of Tribal lands throughout all five communities. While previous efforts focused on wetland mapping, Chugach Tribes also expressed a strong desire to expand wetland-related efforts to include other facets of management, such as policy, preservation, research, and restoration.


In 2019, CRRC was awarded an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Wetland Program Development Grant to develop a strategic and unified approach to preserving, protecting, and managing the wetlands important to member Tribes. In this report, we seek to identify the environmental needs of wetlands in the Chugach Region through the lens of Tribal members. This project aims to provide a framework to focus future organizational efforts. This WPP will serve as the framework to address the environmental needs of wetlands within the Chugach Region, as identified by Tribal Members. This is intended to be a living document as the wetlands and watersheds of the Chugach Region are ever-evolving ecosystems with a diverse user group. However, we aim to set a precedent for the planning, thought, and care needed to understand better and maintain the wetlands that are important to the health of the people, the animals, and the land.


In 2021, CRRC was awarded an EPA Wetland Program Development Grant to update geospatial wetlands information covering their traditional lands. CRRC created a high-resolution map of wetlands on traditionally used lands, not currently available for this region. This project will provide the Chenega IRA Council with resources to better conduct wetland, watershed, and land management planning in the region.


In 2023, CRRC was awarded an EPA Wetland Program Development Grant to connect patterns of subsistence use to wetland habitat in the Chenega Region of Prince William Sound in Southcentral Alaska. In partnership with the Alaska Center for Conservation Science (ACCS), CRRC proposes to develop subsistence use summaries and map patterns of subsistence use in the Evans Island–Latouche Island watershed. Summaries will describe the typical plant (or algal) community for each wetland or deepwater habitat type and the subsistence activities these community’s support.

Our Goals

The Chugach Regional Resources Commission will implement the WPP from 20222025 to inventory, survey, assess, and plan for the conservation, enhancement, and restoration of wetland resources on traditional lands and partner lands across Southcentral Alaska.

Our Objectives

Develop conservation, protection, management, monitoring and assessment, and enhancement/restoration priorities and objectives.

Develop formal regional partnerships with state and federal agencies, local governments, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), private landowners, and other entities in the Chugach region.

Collaborate with regional and village corporations, federal agencies, state agencies, NGOs, and private landowners within the Chugach region in the conservation, protection, enhancement, restoration, and management of wetland habitats and resources located across Southcentral Alaska.

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