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Signs of Seasonal Shifts: Spring has Arrived

So far, spring has been slow to heat up. With a late break up on the rivers and ice still holding strong on the shorelines, most of us are still sporting our Alaskan "summer sweaters," wondering when the well-deserved warmer temperatures will arrive! 

Despite the cold temperatures, wind, and rain, the signs of spring are all around us. We've been out in the watershed picking fiddlehead ferns for pickles, Devil's Club buds for pesto, and spruce tips for winter teas. The rivers are open for floating and gravel bars are bare for late night bonfires.


Animals are also showing signs of spring. Bear tracks are beginning to appear at our lower elevations, the cranes have moved through, and swan pairs dot the lakes. And of course, the choruses of bird song liven up the woods that once lay silent in winter, punctuated by the occasional Spruce Grouse flushed from her nest as you walk past. 

Spring is a fleeting time for us here in the watershed, and we have been busy keeping tabs on threats and excitement in the watershed so that you can keep planting your gardens, foraging, and exploring. There is a lot going on, so take a look below to see where your voice can be used, what events we have coming up, and how you can help us keep the Susitna a healthy place to live, work and play.


Riparian Setback, Riparian Planting, and Watershed Happenings


At the Borough Level:  Riparian Setback Ordinance

In late 2022, an ordinance was introduced to the Mat Su Borough Assembly, amending MSB 17.55 and MSB 17.80 to allow buildings to be built within 75 feet of a waterbody. The Mat Su Borough currently requires a setback for buildings to be a minimum of 75 feet from the ordinary high-water line.

We applaud the Assembly and Planning Commission for continuing to work on this ordinance and following Resolution 23-22 after hearing such strong opposition to the amendments made in December. However, the updated version is still not ready for a vote as it does not address the issues that instigated revision in the first place.The ordinance, as written, does little to protect landowners, habitat, or future issues from arising. 

The Assembly needs to break the ordinance into two separate actions. One must deal with bringing properties that are out of compliance into compliance, and a second action to protect important riparian buffers and implement important riparian conservation tools.  Riparian zones not only protect the quality of fish habitat, but landowner investments, as well. 

To hear the discussion about the Setback Ordinance at the May 18th meeting, click here. 

Click here to learn more about the Fish and Wildlife Commission recommendations to the Mat Su Borough Planning Commission.

The Mat Su Borough Planning Commission will have a hearing on June 5th, 2023. See the agenda here.

Click here and here to learn more about riparian zones.

Also see our speaker series highlighting the importance of riparian zones. 


The Susitna River Coalition (SRC) recommends the Borough NOT approve this Resolution. The SRC believes the ordinance should be rewritten to strengthen protections to valuable riparian habitat. The ordinance should include a mandatory vegetated habitat buffer. In addition, the Borough should assist existing landowners bring properties into compliance and enforce the 75 foot buffer requirement moving forward.  


You can submit public testimony regarding this Resolution in writing by June 2, 2023 at 12:00 or virtually or in person on June 5th, 2023. 

For tips and instructions for testimony, see the SRC's suggestions and guidelines.

If you would like help preparing your testimony, please email and we would be happy to assist.


Riparian Planting Day: Plants for Salmon

Saturday, June 3, 2023, from 10-2, join us to plant native trees, protect water quality, and improve salmon habitat along Montana Creek at the Yoder Road Bridge. We'll be planting 230 native trees and bushes! 

In addition to re-establishing habitat (the real goal!), all attendees will receive a free small white spruce tree to take home.

There will be informational booths, minnow trapping presentations, free hot dogs and other goodies, salmon cornhole and games, and maybe a temporary tattoo or two. It should be a fun and beneficial event. Invite your friends and family and bring your shovels (we'll have plenty if you don't have one).

This is a family-friendly event, everyone is welcome!

Hosted by the Susitna River Coalition, the Mat-Su Borough, ADFG, Knik Tribal Council, the Mat-Su Salmon Habitat Partnership, USFWS, and Trout Unlimited Alaska. 

Please contact us and see the Facebook Event Page with any questions.


Citizen Science Opportunities


Pacific Lamprey in the Susitna

Did you know that Pacific Lamprey live in the Susitna Watershed?

These fascinating fish live in our watershed for a portion of their lives, but very little is known about where they frequent. 

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is beginning to catalogue the whereabouts of these fish in the Susitna and its streams. YOU can contribute to the body of knowledge surrounding these critters. Want to learn more about how you can help? Contact Nate Cathcart with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. 

Keep your eyes peeled while cruising our waterways and for more opportunities to engage with the Pacific Lamprey.


Contribute to the Anadramous Waters Catalogue: New App Allows the Public to Document Fish Habitat

We recently read about an exciting new tool for the public to help contribute to the knowledge of our anadramous waterways.

Did you know that many of the streams and tributaries in our watershed have yet to be catalogued as anadramous? 

Until a stream is catalogued as anadramous, it cannot be protected by law in the State of Alaska. Streams that are not catalogued are thus open to activities and development that can be detrimental to the health of anadramous fish. 

A new app can now be downloaded so that you can submit evidence of anadramous fish and increase our knowledge of salmon in our watershed. 

How can you document anadramous waterways?

Download the ISN AWC app on your phone.

Follow the instructions to start documenting and submitting nominations. 


In the News:

Floods, Fossils & Fables: a Geo-mythological Jaunt into the Pleistocene Past of the Susitna Valley

A recent entry on KTNA's Susitna Writer's voice by Arthur Mannix dives into the hydrology of our Susitna River, the history of the Susitna Valley, and how mythology has a basis in our real history.

This two part series highlights how oral traditions can be utilized to understand the geologic past of a region.

From the Pleistocene era flooding in our region to the modern day discoveries that point to their occurrences and the oral histories that recount the human experience of these ecosystem shaping events, Art Mannix takes the listener on a delightful journey through our watershed's history. 

Art suggests that "Some truths are stranger-than-fiction, and myths often tell people more about the past than they might suppose."

Listen to parts one and two while on your commute to your favorite fishing spot!


Congratulations to Our Kenai Winner!

The Susitna River Coalition had a great time hitting the Sportsman Show Circuit this spring. We visited the Mat-Su, Kenai, and Fairbanks Shows. 

Folks that visited our booth had a chance to enter to to win a trip with Mahay's Jetboat Adventures in Talkeetna!

Congratulations to our Kenai Show Winner, Tina F. of Wasilla!!

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A spring full of bountiful harvests Fun Games. It seems that not only the earth and sky but also people become brighter and more vibrant!

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