Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network

WHSRNews Update

Alaska: Kachemak Bay WHSRN Site Expanded


Last week, the WHSRN Hemispheric Council unanimously approved partners’ request to expand the boundaries of the Kachemak Bay WHSRN Site in south-central Alaska by approximately 231,000 acres (93,440 hectares), and maintain its categorical status as a site of “International Importance.”

Rock Sandpiper flock (Calidris ptilocnemis) / © Kevin Co, Kachemak Bay Birders 

George Matz, Coordinator of the Kachemak Bay Birders, submitted the request to expand the boundaries of the site, in collaboration with Julie Engebretsen from the City of Homer; Joe Meehan from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G); and Marianne Aplin from the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge (Refuge).

The original Kachemak Bay WHSRN Site of International Importance was designated in March 1995; last year, partners celebrated its 20th anniversary in the Network! The bay is located in the Kenai Peninsula area of south-central Alaska, near Homer—a leader of the original nomination, together with ADF&G. Both continue to be active stewards and managers of the site.

The initial WHSRN site included Mud Bay and Mariner Park Lagoon, two parcels owned by the City of Homer; and the intertidal portions of Fox River Flats and Kachemak Bay Critical Habitat Areas (CHA), owned by the State and managed by ADF&G. These four areas supported more than 100,000 shorebirds annually.

Today, the site also includes the following areas: Beluga Slough, with properties owned by City of Homer and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS); the entire Kachemak Bay CHA, including all intertidal and marine waters, managed by ADF&G; and Sixty-Foot Rock, an island owned by USFWS and managed by the Refuge. All of the properties within the WHSRN site are protected either by federal, state, or local government.

Expanded boundaries of Kachemak Bay WHSRN Site, May 2016 / Courtesy of City of Homer

“Since the original WHSRN designation,” ADF&G Commissioner Sam Cotten explained, “additional information has been gathered at more areas within our CHAs that highlight their importance to shorebirds.” The expansion also officially brings USFWS into the WHSRN site partnership. Its 60-Foot Rock island supports globally important populations of Rock Sandpiper (Calidris ptilocnemis) and Surfbird (Aphriza virgata). Per Commissioner Cotten, “The ADF&G appreciates the partnerships that the current WHSRN designation has created and we’re supportive of expanding that.”

On 14 May during the annual Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival, hosted by the City of Homer, partners will celebrate the WHSRN site expansion, particularly in the context of the recent 20th anniversary milestone. For George Matz, champion of this expansion effort for many years, “A WHSRN designation is recognition rather than regulatory; nevertheless, it is an expression of values and says a lot about Homer’s support for shorebird conservation. In fact, at certain times of the year, there are more shorebirds in the City of Homer then there are people!”

Please join the WHSRN Hemispheric Council and WHSRN Executive Office in congratulating our partners in Alaska for their expanded commitment to shorebirds in this important region!

For more information, please contact George Matz (geomatz@alaska.net), Coordinator, Kachemak Bay Birders, in Homer, Alaska.