SUSTAINING
WILDLANDS
Integrating Science and Community
in Prince William Sound
Edited by Aaron J. Poe and Randy Gimblett
Published by the University of Arizona Press
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About this Volume

When the Exxon Valdez oil tanker ran aground on Bligh Reef in Alaska in 1989 and spilled 11 million gallons of oil, it changed Prince William Sound forever. The catastrophe disrupted the region's biological system, killing countless animals and poisoning habitats that to this day no longer support some of the local species. The effects have also profoundly altered the way people use this region.

Nearly three decades later, changes in recreation use run counter to what was initially expected. Instead of avoiding Prince William Sound, tourists and visitors flock there.  This increased visitation has caused concerns that the wilderness may again be threatened-not by oil but rather by the very humans seeking those wilderness experiences.

In Sustaining Wildlands, scientists and managers, along with local community residents, address what has come to be a central paradox in public lands management: the need to accommodate increasing human use while reducing the environmental impact of those activities. This volume draws on diverse efforts and perspectives to dissect this paradox, offering an alternative approach where human use is central to sustaining wildlands and recovering a damaged ecosystem like Prince William Sound.

Contributors

We are indebted to the scientists and managers who invested their time to develop and submit chapters. Their perspectives are joined by essays from Prince William Sound community residents—several of whom began exploring the region years before the Exxon Valdez oil spill that brought global attention to the region.

 

These fine folks are: Brad A. Andres, Chris Beck, Nancy Bird, Dale J. Blahna, Harold Blehm, Sara Boario, Bridget A. Brown, Courtney Brown, Greg Brown, Milo Burcham, Kristin Carpenter, Ted Cooney, Patience Andersen Faulkner, Maryann Smith Fidel, Jessica B. Fraver, Jennifer Gessert, Randy Gimblett, Michael I. Goldstein, Samantha Greenwood, Lynn Highland, Marybeth Holleman, Shay Howlin, Tanya Iden, Robert M. Itami, Lisa Jaeger, Laura A. Kennedy, Spencer Lace, Nancy Lethcoe, Kate McLaughlin, Rosa H. Meehan, Christopher Monz, Karen A. Murphy, Lisa Oakley, Aaron J. Poe, Chandra B. Poe, Karin Preston, Jeremy Robida, Clare M. Ryan, Gerry Sanger, Bill Sherwonit, Lowell H. Suring, Paul Twardock, Sarah Warnock, and Sadie Youngstrom 

Editors
Aaron Poe
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Aaron Poe has worked in Alaska for over 20 years specializing in natural resource management as well as partnership development and community engagement. His efforts have largely focused on helping agencies better understand risks to species and habitats as well as the value that these natural resource have for the communities who depend on them. In his current position as the Coordinator for the Aleutian and Bering Sea Islands Landscape Conservation Cooperative, he is focused on building partnerships between agency managers, tribes, researchers, industry and communities to address large scale issues like climate change and marine vessel traffic in the Aleutian Islands and Bering Sea.

Dr.  Randy Gimblett

Randy Gimblett is a professor in the Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences department at the University of Arizona. Over the past 30 years, Randy has studied human recreation in natural areas and the interactions between visitors and wild places.  He specializes in assessment of recreation impacts, human use patterns, human/wildlife interactions and coupling human-natural systems modeling.  He has also helped develop a citizen science program for wildlife monitoring in southern Arizona. He has published over 150 peer-review articles, reports and books and maintains several ongoing research programs focused on human/wildland interface. 

Acknowledgements

We dedicate this book to the residents of the six key communities of Prince William Sound: Anchorage, Chenega Bay, Cordova, Tatitlek, Whittier, and Valdez. Your dependence on the region ranges from direct sustenance and economic gain, to recreation, renewal, personal inspiration, and cultural vitality. You are an inextricable part of the Sound and have repeatedly demonstrated that to us through our work to understand human use of this landscape. It’s our hope that in return, this volume helps show pathways by which managers and stakeholders can work together to develop the more rigorous and adaptive planning approaches needed to ensure a sustainable future for the Sound.

 

We thank the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Federal Trustees for their generous support of this volume as well as many of the research endeavors shared in the book. In the years since the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill, substantial efforts have been made by the Trustees to promote the recovery of Prince William Sound. Their support of this volume as further progress in that direction is greatly appreciated. The Chugach National Forest provided significant support in terms of staff time as well as leadership support from former Forest Supervisor Joseph L. Meade, who helped launch this work. The University of Arizona, School of Natural Resources and the Environment similarly invested substantial staff time to develop what became a great collaboration between the University and the Chugach National Forest.

Preview the Content

With this volume we hope to innovate beyond technical science and management works, or essay compilations, to something that draws upon both of these methods for describing the importance of a place and its conservation issues.  With this approach we hope to engage diverse audiences from stakeholders interested in natural resource management planning to the managers leading those efforts—as well as scientists and students working to understand human use implications for wildland settings.  

 

The book culminates in a process for assessing human use management issues in wild land settings that is applied to Prince William Sound in Alaska as a case study. This approach differs from more classical methods where human use is often characterized as only impactful to the natural system rather than as an important asset for sustaining it. 

INTRODUCTION

Learning from the Sound--this Place and this Volume​ 

by Aaron Poe & Randy Gimblett

CHAPTER 1 

What Wilderness Gives

by Marybeth Holleman

Book Cover by Terry Josey  and Table of Contents

STAKEHOLDER ESSAY

Musings on Wildness and Prince William Sound 

by Bill Sherwonit

Supplemental Materials

This book grew out of an effort launched by the Chugach National Forest that aimed to compile an accurate picture of Prince William Sound human use levels and distribution.  It focused on recreation, tourism and harvest of fish and game species to understand potential overlap with species and habitats impacted but the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill (EVOS).  These projects, funded with  criminal restitution dollars from the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill, covered a wide-range of information synthesis and original research all of which are described in this volume.

Human Use Hotspots Analysis and GeoDatabase (Chapter 6)

This project compiled existing data on spatial and temporal distribution of human use in the Sound. Over forty existing data sources were used in collaboration with other land management agencies, private subject matter experts and land owners of the Sound to locate and validate data sources. Types of use included commercially permitted and private recreation, commercial and sport fishing, and hunting.  Data was summarized by season of use and analyzed to identify areas of higher human use concentration. Below are some original maps created by this project and the resulting GIS database can be found here.

Prince William Sound Recreation

Use Features

Commercial Use for three seasons in the Sound

Outfitter and guide use during summer in the Sound

Recreation User Experience and Distribution (Chapters 7 & 8)

The two major components of this study were (1) kayak and boat-based transect observations of vessel traffic as a means to determine boating use levels, and (2) a trip diary questionnaire to evaluate user profiles in terms of activities, impacts, conflicts, and experiences. A combination of these two datasets was used to generate predictive GIS raster surfaces of seasonal recreation use intensity. Maps below represent some of the products from this work and the resulting GIS database can also be found here. These two components were expanded upon using computer simulation of visitor traffic and targeted focus group evaluation (Chapter 8).   

Recreation use locations from trip diaries

Summer recreation use intensity

Household Harvest Analysis (Chapter 9)

This work resulted in a mapped distribution of seasonal harvest activities for rural households in Prince William Sound.  The analysis focused on 88 household interviews conducted with harvesters in the communities of Chenega Bay, Cordova, Tatitlek, and Whittier in 2009.  Harvest efforts were reported for twenty-four species including: halibut, salmon, rockfish, deer, and berries, and were summarized in terms of: 1) the proportion of households using individual resources; 2) spatial extent of harvest; and 3) relative intensity of harvest effort.  A spatial characterization of use intensity was compared to predicted distributions of recreation use activities and a weak positive correlation was detected during summer months. The resulting GIS database for this project is available here.

Sensitive Biological and Cultural Areas (Chapter 12)

This project produced GIS layers for wildlife species, fish, and habitats as well as culturally sensitive areas affected by the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill with priority given to those species whose status is still described as: not recovering, recovering, unknown, and recovered by the EVOS Trustee Council. Compilation of available data sources took place in collaboration with partner agencies including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Marine Fisheries Service, the Alaska Natural Heritage Program, Alaska Department of Fish and Game and the U.S. Geological Survey.  The resulting GIS database for species and habitats used in Chapter 12 is available here.

Prince William Sound

Located at the northern apex of the Gulf of Alaska, Prince William Sound is a large, semi-enclosed oceanic embayment of nearly 3900 square miles. The Sound is backed to the north and west by the rugged Chugach Mountains, and fronted on the open ocean to the south by Hinchinbrook and Montague islands.  The shoreline extends for approximately 2,200 miles, and there are locations where depths exceed 1900 feet. 

The Sound’s natural beauty, abundant fish and wildlife, relatively pristine environment and mostly public land, managed by the Chugach National Forest, attract recreational users in growing numbers. Today the coastal towns of Valdez, Cordova and Whittier host the majority of area residents with the Alaska Native villages of Chenega Bay and Tatitlek being home to ancestors of the Sound's first people. 

A Sample of the Sound in Photographs

Chapter 18 of this volume describes a stakeholder engagement effort to collect and share stories from the perspectives of the people who live, work, and play in Prince William Sound. These galleries draw on the photos collected during that project.

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