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To celebrate the 25th birthday of KWF this year, on the 25th of each month we are sharing 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. 
Emily Munter
Habitat Restoration Biologist, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Soldotna, AK

I was humbled when the Kenai Watershed Forum asked me to share a few thoughts and memories in celebration of their 25th anniversary. For those that don't know me, I work for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service here in Soldotna as a habitat restoration biologist. My role with the USFWS has given me the pleasure of working with KWF staff in many capacities, from habitat restoration to invasive species, education, and partnerships.  While I was asked to hone in on memories and experiences to celebrate KWF's habitat restoration work, I found myself unable to unplug from the fact that KWF is an amazing organization for more than just that. So, per my usual style, I'm going to go rogue and write about something completely different than what I was tasked with (sorry, not sorry!)

One of my mentors recently told me that, in conservation, if you want to go fast, you should go alone. What she meant by this is that if you want fast results, you move ahead without engaging others in the work. However, true conservation, and true lasting impact on the communities we live in and the culture of conservation we hope to shape, happens at the speed of relationships. The KWF is masterful in cultivating relationships, and much as a gardener enjoys the results of their time spent slowly cultivating their garden, our landscape and community has and will continue to benefit from KWF's cultivation of relationships.  

Let's look at Stream Watch, for example. The Stream Watch program has built dozens of relationships with partnering organizations, and literally hundreds of volunteer relationships, all to the lasting benefit of our rivers and the salmon they support. The fruits of these are healthier waters, cleaner habitats, and better informed visitors to our area. Stream Watch volunteers have removed thousands upon thousands of pounds of trash from our beaches and rivers over the years, and have interacted with hundreds if not thousands of anglers, sharing the story of our rivers and how to better care for them. I can't imagine the Kenai River without Stream Watch. Going fast and alone would never have achieved these results.  

I think about the relationships that KWF has forged in their fish passage work; the Kenai Peninsula, in the not-too-distant past, had many dozens of culverts that were barriers to salmon movement within our streams. Salmon populations depend on access to all available habitats, and suffer as a result of barriers that prevent access to those habitats. The KWF has been instrumental in building relationships with many partners to address these fish passage barriers; in fact, it has been so successful in doing so, that we can likely count the remaining significant barriers left to address on just one hand.

It is scary to think about what invasive species left unchecked could do to our habitats, fish and wildlife, and even our local economy without KWF's work in surveying, monitoring, and treating them; again, all done via partnerships built with Tribal; federal, state, and local government; non-profits; businesses; and landowners. This work hasn't happened fast, and wasn't done alone, but it has been done methodically via relationship building, and has been incredibly successful in protecting the landscape that we all value.  

Lastly, I'll say that I personally have enjoyed the light in my children's eyes when they come home and tell me about a day spent with the Adopt-a-Stream program that KWF brought to their school. Relationships. With school administrators, teachers, families, and kiddos, have made this program one that our community should cherish as it cultivates culture and shapes our future conservationists. 

It would be easy for me to continue on and on, talking about successes and memories. In short, I'll say that I am a giant cheerleader for the KWF and their wonderful staff and interns, and personally and professionally I've greatly benefitted from the KWF working at the speed of relationships. Our community has too!

Congratulations on 25 years - the future is both bright and exciting!
Anniversary donations can be mailed to: 
44129 Sterling Hwy, Soldotna, AK  99669
or donate online:
Celebrate 25 Years with a donation!
Do you want to support this work?
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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