North of Tee Harbor, Juneau’s main road carries you into a natural area of unparalleled geological and biological uniqueness. Rocky intertidal shorelines are intermixed with sandy coves before giving way momentarily to the finer unconsolidated deposits of Eagle River.
Two nearby valley glaciers flush minerals and nutrients out through a braided river delta creating a biologically rich feeding ground for migratory birds, second only in importance to the Mendenhall Wetlands. A mosaic of mature forest, wetland, and lowland meadows provide valuable habitat variation for wildlife. Animals like black and brown bear, wolf, otter, mink, deer, snowshoe hare, beaver, marmot, and birds have been observed in the area. Numerous fresh water streams lined by mixed conifer/deciduous forests provide spawning grounds for anadromous fish. It is a green world, or as some describe it, a “green zone,” for more than twenty miles.
Since the 1930’s this “Green Zone” has been Juneau’s place for retreat and recreation. From Cohen Drive north there are 5 private wild area camps, 2 public boat launch ramps, 3 Alaskan State Parks, 15 CBJ Natural Area Parks and assorted US Forest Service recreational facilities. Only five small neighborhoods, 40 some residences, are developed within this area. In the recent past there have been stormy meetings over proposed commercial zoning and development in the Eagle River area, a lawsuit over access to public lands, and confusion over a State Park’s proposal for a recreational expansion. Given the patchwork ownership, neither the public, nor any single agency, had a full grasp on the current status of the area as a whole, nor its future outlook.
In 2000, Juneau conservationist Mary Lou King granted her award from the Alaska Conservation Foundation to the Southeast Alaska Land Trust to assess the status of the Green Zone. With help from the City and Borough of Juneau, the Trust compiled the first comprehensive map detailing land ownership boundaries extending from Breadline Bluff to Sawmill Creek. In addition, willing land owners and public land managers submitted remarks about their existing individual programs and long-term plans or visions. The idea was to identify current and future trends, and act upon them to encourage partnerships that might enhance all interests.
Since the publication of this report in the spring of 2001, a great deal of local enthusiasm has blossomed within the community. The following spring, three dozen landowners, managers, and users met to further discuss their visions, goals, and plans. Meeting participants envisioned the area growing as a premiere recreation, outdoor education, and culturally/historically-rich destination for Juneau residents, visitors and youth. A collaboration was created between the CBJ Parks and Recreation Department and the State Parks and Outdoor Recreation Division forming an inter-agency strategy for management for the Amalga Meadows-Eagle Beach area. This agreement marks a commitment for future inter-agency communication for the betterment of the Green Zone.
Currently, Southeast Alaska Land Trust is working with individual landowners and exploring future partnerships for conservation in the Green Zone. In 2003, we secured protection on a 147-acre piece of prime wildlife habitat in the Herbert River Wetlands.
North of Tee Harbor on Juneau’s main road (Glacier highway) the Green Zone stretches for more than twenty miles. Specifically, it encompasses the area extending from Breadline Bluff to Sawmill Creek.
Glacier highway north of Cohen Drive is a natural area of locally unparalleled geological and biological uniqueness. Rocky intertidal shorelines are intermixed with sandy coves before giving way, if only momentarily, to the finer unconsolidated deposits of Eagle River. Two nearby valley glaciers flush minerals and nutrients out through a braided river delta creating a biologically rich feeding ground for migratory birds, second only in importance to the Mendenhall Wetlands. A mosaic of mature forest, wetland, and lowland meadows provide valuable habitat variation for wildlife. Animals like black and brown bear, wolf, otter, mink, marten, weasel, deer, snowshoe hare, porcupine, beaver, muskrat, marmot, squirrel, small rodents, and birds have been observed in the area. Numerous fresh water reaches provide spawning grounds for anadromous species and habitat for other fish.
Also dispersed throughout the area are several small residential neighborhoods, a handful of historic wild area camps, and mixed public ownership managed cooperatively for recreation and habitat values. Primary land owners include: US Forest Service Tongass National Forest, State of Alaska, State Parks, City and Borough of Juneau (CBJ), CBJ Parks, Mental Health, Goldbelt land, and an assortment of other private land owners.
This area contains valuable woodlands and wetlands that possesses unique natural, ecological, scenic, and open space values of importance to the people of Alaska. It has extensive scenic shorelines containing rocky cliffs, sandy cover, and expansive tidal flats; significant anadromous fish resource; riparian and wetland habitat for migratory and coastal birds; forest and open areas providing habitat for black bear, wolves, mustelids, moose, rodents, amphibians, and other wildlife.
Juneau’s Wonderful Greenzone, A Land Status Report by SEAL Trust (PDF: 5.21MB)