Important Bird Areas

Copper River Delta

Alaska

The Copper River Delta (CRD) is a coastal wetland on the Gulf of Alaska. The area consists of Southern Orca Inlet from the town of Cordova to Boswell Bay, Hinchinbrook Island, then extending east to the base of Sucking Hills including the Copper River Delta below the 50ft elevation contour, associated barrier islands, Controller Bay, and Kanak, Wingham, and Kayak Islands. The site comprises approximately 499,000 hectares.

Ornithological Summary

The Copper River Delta is the single most important stopover site for Western Sandpiper and the Pacific population of the Dunlin. Sixty to 80% of the entire Western Sandpiper population stops at the Delta in spring. Nearly the entire population of Pacific Dunlin stops in spring as well. Six percent of the world?s Trumpeter Swan population and the entire population of Dusky Canada Geese nest on the Delta. A large percentage of the Tule White-fronted Goose population stages in the Gandil River area north of Controller Bay. In addition, the Copper River Delta is an important breeding area for Red-throated Loons, Rusty Blackbirds, Northern Pintail, Greater Scaup, Red-necked Phalarope, and a myriad of other shorebird, seabird, and waterfowl species, including the world's largest Glaucous-winged Gull colony located on Egg Island.

Part of this site is also recognized as being of Hemispheric Importance by the Western Hemispheric Shorebird Reserve Network (WHSRN).

Conservation Issues

Most of the CRD is protected from development and is isolated from the rest of Alaska by no road access. However, a road is proposed to connect this area to the road system, which would lead to increased recreational use. In addition the area is on a fault line and is subject to radical change during earthquake events. Currently the area is undergoing rapid habitat succession which will lead to afforestation.

Ownership

USDA Forest Service manages 90% of CRD. Welaska corporation owns inholdings (about 500acres) near Katalla. The Nature Conservancy owns small inholding near Point Martin. The State of Alaska owns land below mean high tide and navigable waterways. AK DOT owns easement along Copper River Highway. The Eyak Corporation owns land near Merle K. Smith Airport. Most of their land is outside the wetland area but roughly 1000 acres are within wetland. There are also various other small private inholdings (

Habitat

The Copper River Delta area includes intertidal mud flats, intertidal sedge marshes, intertidal sloughs, freshwater sloughs, freshwater ponds, freshwater wetlands (sedge, shrub, moss), sand beaches, and estuaries. The barrier islands include mudflats, sand beaches, estuaries, sand dunes, sedge, and shrub communities. Kayak Island has forested habitats, rocky shores, and rock outcroppings.

Land Use

Most of the land is public (USFS) and is used for motorized and non-motorized recreation, such as hunting, fishing, snowmobiling, boating, and ATV use. The area also supports ecological research. See Chugach National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan.