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Webinar: Miller Creek Watershed Restoration: The Value of Partnership During a Pandemic
February 15, 2023 @ 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm CST
Presented by: Ben Wishnek, US Fish and Wildlife Service
Salmonids are critical components of the transitional boreal forest and temperate rainforests of Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula. Alaska Natives and the local economy are dependent upon subsistence, recreational, and commercial fisheries that target these species. Invasive Northern Pike (Esox lucius) (pike), which prey upon and threaten local salmonids, were thought to have been eradicated from the Kenai Peninsula across multiple waterbodies in early 2019 following a concerted multi-year effort by Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G). A late 2019 report of a pike caught in Vogel Lake within the Miller Creek Watershed (MCW) isolated in the northern portion of the peninsula changed the narrative about the Kenai Peninsula being pike-free. Subsequent surveys by ADF&G confirmed pike presence and a work group including the Kenai Watershed Forum, ADF&G, and three offices from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) convened to begin the process to plan for management of this population. Covid-19 emerged during spring 2020 and the group had to pivot its approach to project planning to be done via multiple virtual meetings. Eradication efforts took place in 2021 and restoration efforts began in 2022. This project has been able to move forward utilizing the Early Detection Rapid Response approach to invasive species management despite multiple challenges brought about by the pandemic. An overview of the project and lessons learned thus far will be summarized.
Ben Wishnek is currently an invasive species project manager in southern Alaska. He has a BS in Wildlife from Humboldt State University and a MS in Environmental Sciences from Oregon State University. Much of his professional experience prior to his current position has centered around wetlands and riparian areas with invasive species, primarily plants and fish, being a focus area. His current position focuses on managing projects with internal and external partners that focus on early detection and rapid response to incipient invasions on and adjacent to National Wildlife Refuges in southern Alaska.