Environmental stewardship and conservation begins at an early age, as a result the BLM-Alaska fisheries program integrates youth outreach into many of our programs in addition to developing stand alone educational programs.
In 2010, the BLM-Alaska fisheries program partnered with organizations to expand several educational events in Alaska which emphasized watershed ecology and fisheries science. BLM-Alaska joined Trout Unlimited, The Nature Conservancy, Bristol Bay Native Corporation, Alaska Department of Fish and Game, and the Nushagak-Mulchatna/Wood-Tikchik Land Trust in support for the cooperative Ekwok Flyfishing Academy. The academy project educates rural youth on fishing techniques and fisheries science. For a week in early August, nine rural students from Togiak, Ekwok, Manokotak, Naknek and Dillingham had the Nushagak River in Bristol Bay as their classroom. BLM fisheries biologist Tim Sundlov presented lectures on salmon life histories, aquatic ecology, stream channel morphology, and riparian areas. He introduced academy students to aquatic ecology and illustrated how rivers function to provide aquatic habitat for salmon. Sundlov’s message focused on teaching not only where to find fish in the river to catch, but also why the fish were in that area of the river. He emphasized the importance of riparian and wetland areas, and how human activities can affect this habitat.
In addition to the Ekwok Flyfishing Academy event, the BLM Glennallen Field Office teamed up with the nonprofit Wrangell Institute for Science and Environment to offer youth an Aquatic Education Camp. The camp provided an outdoor-focused curriculum to engage students, excite their imaginations, and strongly motivate them to explore and understand natural resources through hands-on learning. The camp offered classes and outdoor laboratories in river ecology, aquatic entomology, stream geomorphology, water quality, fish biology/behavior/anatomy, and the importance of riparian areas to aquatic resources. Its students learned how to collect and identify aquatic insects important to salmonids. They also learned how to take water quality measurements and how those measurements relate to a healthy watershed.
The students also learned to use a stream table (river process simulator) that realistically and dynamically simulated a wide range of river processes, including sediment transport, meander development and movement, and floodplain formation. By using this education model of demonstrating river processes on a stream table and then observing these processes on an actual river, it strongly engaged the students and allowed for discussions of how rivers function to provide habitat and how human activities affect that habitat. This opened the door to interest and understanding of rivers and stream fisheries. The students also learned basic fishing skills that include casting, lure/bait selection, knot tying, and reading water.
In March 2010, the Glennallen Field Office partnered with the Wrangell Institute for Science and Environment to sponsor a Kid's Ice Fishing Day Event. This event was a tremendous success and was attended by dozens of local youth.