Maintaining sustainable fish and wildlife populations is extremely important to both Alaska residents and visitors. These natural resources play a key role in our economy and in traditional subsistence use, sport fishing and hunting, and wildlife viewing. The Habitat Section works to protect these resources and their surroundings as the population and economy of Alaska continue to expand.
Alaska's fish habitat protection statutes were adopted shortly after statehood and remain unchanged to this day. This reflects the longstanding Alaskan ideal that fishery resources and habitats are assets that improve our quality of life and merit protection from unnecessary human disturbance.
The Habitat Section has offices located in Fairbanks, Palmer, Anchorage, Soldotna, Douglas, and Craig with approximately 45 staff members who review an average of over 1,500 permit applications each year and conduct other activities discussed below. Habitat Section staff strive to use the best available information and sound professional judgment while working with applicants to achieve their project goals.
Fish Habitat Protection
The Habitat Section has the specific statutory responsibility of protecting freshwater habitat for anadromous fish and providing free passage for all fish in freshwater bodies (AS 16.05.841-871). Any activity or project that is conducted below the ordinary high water mark of an anadromous stream, or has the potential to impede fish passage, requires a Fish Habitat Permit.
Installation of culverts, bridges, or docks, water withdrawals, and stream crossings with vehicles or equipment are just a few examples of the type of projects reviewed by the habitat section. Habitat Biologists conduct research and field surveys, review plans, and work with permit applicants to ensure proposed projects do not adversely impact fish habitat. Habitat Section biologists also monitor projects for compliance with permit standards.
The Habitat Section also develops management plans and oversees activities (excluding trapping, hunting, fishing, and wildlife viewing) in legislatively designated refuges, critical habitat areas, and sanctuaries known collectively as Special Areas (AS 16.20,5 AAC 95).
ADF&G co-manages these lands with the Alaska Department of Natural Resources (ADNR). The Habitat Section ensures that activities within a Special Area are protective of fish and wildlife habitat and consistent with the purpose for which the special area was established by requiring Special Area Permits for many activities such as construction or placement of structures, natural resource development or energy exploration, and off-road use of wheeled and tracked equipment.
In addition to permitting duties, Habitat Section staff work with other ADF&G divisions, as well as state, federal, and local agencies, to provide expertise for maintaining and protecting important fish and wildlife habitat throughout the state.
The Habitat Section works with the Division of Sport Fish to update the “Catalog of Waters Important for the Spawning, Rearing, or Migration of Anadromous Fishes.” The critically important Catalog forms the legal basis for implementation of ADF&G’s Anadromous Fish Habitat permitting program, and is a resource that provides applicants detailed information about the anadromous water bodies in the vicinity of their proposed projects.
In conjunction with the ADNR Office of Project Management and Permitting (OPMP), the Habitat Section coordinates the ADF&G review of large and complex projects important to the State. The Habitat Section also works closely with the ADNR Division of Forestry to survey State and private forestry operations and evaluate implementation of Alaska’s Forest Resources and Practices Act (FRPA). Regular field inspections allow for continuous monitoring of best management practices and compliance with FRPA.
For more information please, visit Habitat Permits.