Sitka Conservation Society
Dec 30 2011

Fish to Schools, A Third Grade Reflection

With so many programs already dedicated to teaching students about fish biology and lifecycle, The Sitka Conservation Society chose to take a different angle. We wanted to answer the question, “How did fish end up on our dinner plate?” Modeled after the Farm to School program, we developed a series of interactive lessons to illuminate the steps fish take from stream to plate. We invited a number community members and organizational partners into the classroom to share their part of the story.

We began with third graders in early October by teaching students about fishing methods. We answered the question, “How are fish caught?” Through a number of silly, hands-on activities, students learned the differences between commercial, sport, and traditional harvesting methods. To reinforce commercial methods, local fishermen were invited to give presentations on their chosen method(s). One fisherman father, Dan Falvey, went so far as to have students set a longline with baited hooks (magnets). After a good soak, students landed their catch… of paperclips!

Fishing, a familiar pastime for many of the students, was well understood. But less known was what to do with them next. Students were invited on a tour of Sitka Sound Seafoods, a local seafood processor, where they saw a boat unload fish, a halibut fillet demonstration, shrimp, crab, and sea cucumbers processed and packaged. Back in the classroom, Alaska Native Tom Gamble, took students through the process of gutting, filleting, and preserving the catch. He shared native traditions and emphasized respect for the salmon throughout the entire process for feeding him and his family.

Next in line was cooking, a final and very important step in the journey from stream to plate. Students gathered around wisps of steam as they watched Alaska Native, Charlie Skukla Jr., place fire-hot rocks into a traditional bentwood box. In less than minute the water began to boil chunks of local fish. Boiled fish couldn’t be simpler and the students loved it.  One class got to work with Chef Colette Nelson of Ludvigs Bistro. Together students created delectable tastes of sesame salmon and toasted rockfish. Paired with cooking, we taught students why fish is good for their bodies. They all seemed to know that seafood was good for them but few could articulate why. Students learned a simple mantra–that “fish are healthy for our head, heart, and make us happy.”  This really stuck; over 70% of participating students increased their health knowledge after the program.

The underlying thread that connected all of these steps was conservation. After playing a game to demonstrate a salmon food web, students learned how fish are connected to the livelihood of other plants, animals, and habitats. They learned that salmon feed the Tongass, not because the forest has teeth but because it absorbs all the nutrients of the salmon carcasses that act as a fertilizer. Students were also asked to consider what would happen if people overfished. Along with extreme answers like, “We would die,” were other answers like, “Other animals need fish to survive,” and “They won’t be able to reproduce.” It is our hope at SCS that students feel more connected to the food they eat and that they now know it is our responsibility to protect and care for the habitat and waterways that are home to these incredible animals. –Dec. 2011

Dec 30 2011

Mushroom Hunting with 4H Group

4H Mushroom HuntEarlier this fall we set out on a hunt, a mushroom hunt. With our paper bags in hand we searched for different mushrooms with Sitka Conservation Society Board Treasurer, UAS Professor, and mycologist Kitty LaBounty. Families worked together looking for different fungus: some large, some small, some edible, some gilled and others with spongy pores. This was the first time many of the members of the Alaska Way-of-Life 4H Club have ever looked for mushrooms. This outing helped them to experience their natural environment in a new way, with different eyes. Their vision became focused and directed at finding these special fungi that are intimately connected to the forest through their extensive mycelium network. After collecting mushrooms we gathered together to group the mushrooms in to different categories: edible and non-edible, size, color, and cap structure. On this evening parents and children alike learned safe harvesting practices, edible mushroom types, and mushroom identification. It was a wonderful opportunity to tap into the underground mysteries of the forest with fresh, young eyes. And—what a fun way to forage for food!

**Knowing how the different forms of life in an ecosystem interact helps us all to better understand the natural world. And the more we understand the natural world, the better stewards we can be to ensure that future generations can experience the magnificence of the local environment. The Alaska Way-of-Life 4H Club teaches students about the natural world through hands-on activities so they too can be a part of their natural environment of the Tongass.

–October 2011

4h Mushroom Sorting

Dec 27 2011

Expedition: Stag Bay

In the summer of 2010, the SCS Wilderness crew packed up and headed north for an attempt at circumnavigating Yakobi Island by kayak. The weather and health of the crew were not cooperating, so paddling around Yakobi was not an option. Instead, the crew traveled to Stag Bay across Lisianski Strait, which turned out to be a fantastic destination.

Dec 27 2011

Reboubt Falls Land Transfer

Sealaska is moving forward with plans to take ownership of Redoubt Falls.  Stakes have been placed, and opportunities for public comment on this divisive plan are limited.

Although Sealaska has claimed in the past that the public will continue to have access to the most important subsistence sockeye stream close to Sitka, there doesn’t seem to be a legal mechanism to guarantee public access once the land is transferred.  The Sitka Tribes have submitted a letter of support for the transfer which doesn’t mention continued public access.

Bureau of Land management publication states, ”Do not hunt, fish, or trap on or from a 17(b)easement unless you first get a permit and permission from the Alaska Native corporation who owns the private land.” The regulations in the Bureau of Land Management publication will apply to Redoubt Falls, if transferred to Sealaska.  Sealaska attorney Araugo has stated in the past that access to Sealaska land would be granted on a “case by case” basis.

Currently the Forest Service is the agency with the standing to object to the transfer based on protecting the valuable fishery at Redoubt.  A strong show of support for keeping Redoubt open to the public is needed through letter to the Forest Service
For more information call SCS at 747-7509.  If  you would like to take action, please urge the City Assembly to pass a resolution to keep Redoubt Falls public land.
Read the full briefing sheet on the issue:
Dec 16 2011

Expedition: West Chichagof

West Chichagof Wilderness has always been near and dear to our hearts here at SCS, in fact we probably wouldn’t be here today if our founders hadn’t fought for its protection (check out the whole history here).  And we still protect it today, by monitoring on the ground conditions that lead to effective management decisions and give us a baseline to chart the health of the ecosystem.

In the summer of 2011, the SCS Wilderness crew spent 3 weeks aboard the S/V Paulette, captained by our good friend Ken Merrill traveling the entire coast-line of West Chichagof.  Ben Hamilton of Pioneer Videography came along to document the trip.  You can watch all of his videos below.


Week One

Week Two

Be sure to check out the cave report and map of “Calvin Cave” here.

Week Three


Dec 10 2011

Starrigavan Restoration

This is a test post about the Starrigavan Restoration Project.

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Keep up to date on all of the issues. Check out "The Southeaster" Blog.

  • Hungry for Huckleberry Pie, Venison Stew, or Fresh Greens? Come to the Wild Foods Potluck Nov. 2!
  • Stand Up to Corporate Influence!
  • Kayaking Kootznoowoo: Report on SCS’s Final Wilderness Trip
  • Encouraging Local Natural Resource Stewardship on the Tongass: Kennel Creek
  • Teaching the Alaska way of Life: 4-H in Sitka
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