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To celebrate the 25th birthday of KWF this year, on the 25th of each month we will share thoughts and memories from founding, former and current board members and staff as well as from partners we have worked with over the past 25 years. 
Ben and Maura of the KWF collecting stream flow data at Miller Creek in April of 2021
Rob Massengill, Fishery Biologist at the Alaska Department of Fish & Game

As a fisheries biologist tasked with protecting native fish populations on the Kenai Peninsula from invasive fish like northern pike, the challenges have sometimes been a bit overwhelming. To be successful, actions must occasionally be taken that may seem extreme to some, like applying a fish pesticide to a lake so native fish can persist in the future.

In my experience, these kinds of projects are only successful when the community understands the need and purpose of a project, and trusts that it can be done safely. The Kenai Watershed Forum is a science-based organization that strives to protect the aquatic resources on the Kenai Peninsula that we all cherish and has often served as a liaison between people and organizations with different priorities and opinions in the realm of fish habitat.

I learned years ago that the Kenai Watershed Forum will step up to the plate to help educate the community, share their expertise, and collaborate to form partnerships to reach a common goal. I could try and write down a list of the many things the KWF has helped me with professionally but that would take too long. I think it is best that I share just a few of my experiences about how the Kenai Watershed Forum stepped up to the plate to help me.

The most recent experience was last fall when plans to conduct a native fish rescue effort in the Miller Creek drainage, a remote Kenai Peninsula watershed, hit a snag. Due to covid-related issues, some government fisheries staff were unable to go into the field to collect and relocate native fish, a needed step to preserve these populations in a drainage where northern pike had taken hold and a fish pesticide treatment was imminent. On short notice, the KWF and Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association responded to a call from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to help temporarily relocate native fish to a safe area. Ben Meyer and Jack Buban (KWF Environmental Scientists) quickly volunteered their time and resources which helped preserve hundreds of salmonids. 

Another instance of the KWF helping native fish involved another pike removal project that occurred in the Soldotna Creek drainage in 2014. This project required accurate streamflow measurements of a Soldotna Creek tributary so a fish pesticide applied to the tributary could be appropriately neutralized before flowing out of the treatment area. An intense October rainstorm caused the tributary to surge, and at the same time stream discharge measuring equipment used by ADF&G failed.  A quick call to the KWF led Branden Bornemann, former KWF Executive Director, to jump in and help by providing us fast and accurate stream discharge measurements that helped us do our job better.

I also remember holding a contentious public meeting attended by Robert Ruffner, also a former KWF Executive Director. On his own accord, Robert met with some vocal and disgruntled folks and calmly walked them through the issues they were concerned about, which I think helped everyone out.

Over the years it was a feeling of relief whenever the KWF collaborated on a fisheries project I was involved with. I’ve been able to count on the KWF to provide science-based data that helps everyone involved to better understand the issue and decide how best to move forward. Often this has meant relying on the skills and abilities of the KWF to accurately collect hydrological, water-quality or toxin monitoring data. 

We are lucky to have the technical expertise and community involvement the KWF provides those of us living on the Kenai Peninsula; they help all of us better understand the threats and challenges facing the salmon-rich waters of the Kenai Peninsula, and what we can do to help preserve this treasure. 

Anniversary donations can be mailed to: 
44129 Sterling Hwy, Soldotna, AK  99669
or donate online:
Celebrate 25 Years with a donation!
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A tax-deductible gift to Kenai Watershed Forum is a great way to support the local community and the health of rivers systems throughout the Kenai Peninsula. Thank you for your support! 
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