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Free-flowing Rivers

Some 86,000 square miles of Alaska are covered by water, including enormous expanses of wetlands, innumerable small streams, countless mid-sized rivers, and our mighty waterways: the Yukon, Tanana, Porcupine, Kuskokwim, Susitna, Copper, and Stikine rivers.

There are 26 rivers in Alaska designated as 'wild and scenic,' though that number belies the wild nature of many others. These watersheds feed nutrients to nearly 34,000 miles of shoreline habitat and estuaries, creating prime rearing grounds for countless juvenile fish and shellfish species. They also support some of the world's last great wild salmon runs.

These runs, depending on the drainage, include large numbers of all five species of Pacific salmon, which form a cornerstone of Alaska's economic and social structures, and are the lifeblood of many Alaskan cultural traditions.

There are no statistics to describe the experience of floating on a river with water so clear it seems all but invisible, fishing for rainbow trout while brown bears feed on spawning red salmon. Or standing in salt water, waves lapping at the mouth of a salmon stream, as 100,000 fish push their way into fresh water against the tide. Or sitting on a bluff above a river during hunting season, watching and waiting, observing unseen the comings and goings of prey and predators and all the natural inhabitants of a watershed.

These are the rare things Alaska still possesses, yet which are most immediately threatened by industrialization, urbanization, climate change, over-use, and allocation battles.

Projects like the proposed Pebble Mine in the heart of the Bristol Bay watershed threaten the largest sockeye salmon run remaining in the world. Riverside developments, especially in population-boom areas of the Mat-Su and Kenai, incrementally degrade water quality in countless small streams, wetlands and rivers, and add to siltation problems in estuaries and marshes.

Increased introduction of hatchery stock into wild salmon streams, to meet increased demand, potentially pollutes the genetic stock of our wild fish. Fish farming threatens to introduce disease and foreign genes into pacific salmon stocks.

Alaska Backcountry Hunters and Anglers will work in the present to direct our uses and development in a way that will preserve and sustain our waterways and fisheries for untold future generations, so that we do not have to look at the remnants of our rivers, our fish, and our traditions, and try to figure out how to restore them in the future.

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