Sitka Conservation Society
Jan 31 2012

Sitka’s Hydroelectricity Maxed Out

In 2011, Sitka’s hydroelectric capacity was at the lowest in the last 30 years. The combination of a lower supply due to less rain and a high demand for electric heating forced the City and Borough of Sitka to use hundreds of thousands of gallons for diesel fuel last year alone to supplement the town’s electric need.

On January 17, 2012 electric customers pushed our hydroelectricity to the max, setting a new peak load record for the town. At 6:00pm electric customers used 24MW of electricity to set a new hydroelectric record for Sitka. According to the Electric Department, ‘this is 5 MW, or 26% greater, than the 19 MW electrical peak hit in 2005.”

Although recent increased rainfall decreases the likelihood that hydroelectricity will run out before spring weather melts the snows, the City Utility Director, Chris Brewton, still encourages residents to conserve electric energy.

Home weatherization and upgrading appliances are examples of ways to make big changes in your home’s overall energy efficiency. However, there are many free ways to conserve electricity for those who want to do their part to reduce Sitka’s dependance on the backup diesel generators, but don’t have the money for home weatherization.

Take Action: 10 Free Ways to Save Electricity

Tip 1: Air dry your dishes instead of using the drying cycle of your washing machine. If you do a load of dishes before bed, they will be dry in the morning.

Tip 2: Turn off your monitor computer when not in use. Desktop computers use significantly more energy than laptops. However, you can reduce your desktop’s electric load by simply pressing a button after each use.

Tip 3: Lower the thermostat on your hot water heater and dishwasher to 120 degrees F. At this temperature, you water is still hot and your dishes clean, yet you cut down each appliance’s electric consumption.

Tip 4: Drain a quart of water from your water tank every 3 months. This simple act removes sediment that impedes heat transfer and increases overall efficiency.  In fact, this can increase your water heater’s efficiency by 30%!

Tip 5: Wash your clothes on the cold/cold cycle of your washing machine. Enjoy clean clothes and know that you saved over 90% of the energy you normally use since heating the water accounts for most of energy expended to wash clothes.

Tip 6: Set your refrigerator to 37-40 degrees F and your freezer to 5 degrees F (0 degrees F for long-term storage). Appliances like refrigerators run constantly and suck up energy throughout the day. Therefore, if you raise the overall temperature by just a few degrees your refrigerator will use less energy while still keeping your food fresh.

Tip 7: Remove lint from your dryer filter after each use. A fresh filter for each load will improve air circulation to make your clothes dry faster and increase your dryer’s overall efficiency.

Tip 8: Use toaster ovens to bake smaller meals instead of using your stove/oven. Toaster ovens heat up more quickly and require less energy to bake small meals.

Tip 9: Keep window shades on the south side of your house open. Natural heat and light will decrease your heating system’s workload. This is especially valuable since home heating is the #1 contributor to your monthly energy bill.

Tip 10: Turn off your kitchen and bath fans within 20 minutes after use. This window allows ample time to ventilate the room but does not waste unneeded energy.

 

Jan 31 2012

Take Action: Ask Gov. Parnell to Appoint a Worthy Head of ADF&G

Background: Earlier this month, the head of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s Wildlife Conservation Division, Corey Rossi, resigned after being charged with 12 violations related to illegal bear hunting.  Rossi was controversial and divisive in his position in the agency, marring ADF&G’s respectability as a science-based organization.

Read the 2-part article on the situation from Alaska Dispatch: Part 1 and Part 2

Take Action: Rossi’s resignation opens up a new opportunity for Governor Parnell to learn from past mistakes and appoint a new candidate for the position who is honest, experienced, respected, and above all, qualified.

Please consider emailing the Governor to encourage him to select a qualified candidate.  Click here to go to the Governor’s contact page.

Sitka Conservation Society’s letter is posted below.  Feel free to use the points addressed to develop your own message to Gov. Parnell.

Dear Governor Parnell,

We were disappointed to hear about the charges brought against former head of the Division of Wildlife Conservation, Corey Rossi.  Rossi, who resigned after he was charged with wildlife violations, was obviously not fit to hold authority over laws he himself could not abide by.  This case points out how the Alaska Department of Fish and Game has lost credibility as a science based wildlife organization, and was instead headed by a big game guiding business owner who used his position to perpetuate the profits of himself and his colleagues, apparently sometimes illegally.

The Sitka Conservation Society would like to ask you to appoint a new leader for Rossi’s position that will not make the same mistakes.

Specifically, we encourage you to appoint someone who:

  • Is honest, respected and, above all, qualified
  • At minimum, holds a Master’s degree in wildlife biology or a closely related field
  • Has at least 10-15 years of experience in wildlife management
  • Has a proven track record of basing decisions from science and not personal agenda.

Our members of the Sitka Conservation Society hunt, fish, and trap for subsistence and to maintain their livelihood.  We hope that you will recognize the importance of appointing a leader who will take Alaska’s people and wildlife into account over his or her own agenda

We look forward to the qualified candidate you appoint to make needed changes to the Alaska Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Jan 30 2012

The Alaska way-of-life 4H Club Goes Tracking

For the month of January, the Alaska way-of-life 4H club focused on tracking and trapping in the Tongass National Forest. These important skills further connect us to the natural environment as we notice the habits of the animals and birds in our shared ecosystem. Tracking as a skill gives us more capacity to understand the workings of the forest and thus the compassion to protect it. Traditionally this activity was fundamentally crucial, and continues to be, as a source of food and animal pelts (for clothing, warmth, and trade).

We began the unit earlier this month by gathering around a table overflowing with animal pelts. We identified the animals native to the island and began matching each animal to its print. Ashley Bolwerk from the Science Center taught us the steps involved in tracking animals: 1) know your location and the animals native to it, 2) note the size, pattern, and type of track, 3) check for distinguishing details like number of toes, nails, etc., 4) note other animal signs like scat, fur, feathers, eating patterns, etc.

In addition to learning the basics of tracking, Kevin Johnson and Tyler Orbison, both local trappers, met with the older 4H group to show them the fundamentals of tracking mink and martens. They got to practice setting up the different traps (more difficult than one may think) and directed question after question to our guests.

On Saturday, we got to put study into action. We had a blast roaming the coastline and snowy forest searching for tracks and signs of animals nearby. We successfully saw the tracks of deer, mink, marten, squirrel, raven, and swan including scat and signs of grazing. The older kids were joined once again by trapper, Kevin Johnson, who demonstrated where and how to place traps in the forest. He also, to our delight, showed 4H members how to skin a marten in the field. Everyone was awe-eyed and attentive as he quickly removed the hide from body, an excellent lesson in anatomy.

Check out the pictures—they tell a better story than words ever will. These activities would not have been possible without the help of: Kevin Johnson, Tyler Orbison, Jon Martin, Kent Bovee, Ashley Bolwerk, Andrew Thoms, and the Science Center. THANK YOU!

**Although a bit out of order, 4Hers have learned how to identify deer tracks, skin and butcher a deer, and in February will learn how to tan hides and can deer stew. A forest to plate series!

Jan 30 2012

Vegetation Mapping Project Completed!

This winter, students from Sitka High’s Field Science Class worked with the Sitka Ranger District to target wildlife habitat restoration activities. We mapped occurrences of Vaccinium species (Blueberry) and other deer forage plants in young growth forests. We then used data analysis and mapping technologies to identify potential locations where the Forest Service can create canopy gaps. Gaps provide more light to the forest floor and encourage the growth of plants deer eat to survive snowy winters.

CLICK HERE to download our report.                                     CLICK HERE to view maps and download data.

 

Jan 26 2012

Seeking Summer Botany Intern

We are seeking an applicant who is comfortable identifying Pacific Northwest flora, documenting and cataloging herbarium quality samples as part of the Sitka Community Wilderness Stewardship Project.  The Botany Intern will accompany the SCS Wilderness field crew on expeditions to identify, record, and collect plant specimens.

If interested, please submit a resume and cover letter to Adam Andis at adam@sitkawild.org.

 

This position is now closed.

 

Full position description:

Position Title:  Wilderness Botany Intern Position

Host Organizations:  Sitka Conservation Society (www.sitkawild.org)

Location:  Sitka, Alaska

Duration:   12-week internship, June-Sept 2013

Compensation:  Paid with stipend for travel from Seattle

 

Background:  For over 45 years, Wilderness stewardship and advocacy have been core principles of the Sitka Conservation Society.  SCS played the key role in the establishment of the West Chichagof-Yakobi in 1980.  In 2009, with support from the Wilderness Stewardship Challenge grant program, SCS partnered with the local Forest Service District to conduct stewardship activities and recruit volunteers to collect data in the two Wilderness areas near Sitka (West Chichagof-Yakobi and South Baranof).  The goal of this project is to ensure Wilderness areas meet a minimum management standard.  One element the Forest Service has identified as a priority for this management standard is that Wilderness areas are “successfully treated for non-native, invasive plant species.”  In addition to non-native species, we also collect data on rare and sensitive species as these species may be indicators of large forest dynamics.  Working with the SCS staff and Field Crew, this intern position will participate in field expeditions to collect botanical survey data, record and catalog the findings.

Due to the high cost and difficult access of our field expeditions, SCS also partners with various organizations, agencies and institutions to collect additional data in may areas of study to get the biggest “bang for our buck.”  This position may assist in collection of data for partnering projects.

This year, we will continue this project and expand its scope to other Wilderness areas in the Tongass, focusing on building the capacity of local groups to facilitate stewardship projects of their own.  This intern position will present SCS’s botany work and help local groups in developing botanical components of their Wilderness stewardship projects.

Duties:  The Wilderness Project Botany intern will work with SCS staff to implement the National Forest Foundation’s (NFF) Wilderness Stewardship Challenge while also raising awareness and community involvement in Wilderness related activities.  The intern will be supervised by the Outreach and Wilderness Stewardship Coordinator.

Specific Initiatives

  • Participating in Wilderness trips with SCS and contracted staff
  • Field identifying and collecting specimens for catalog
  • Completing post-trip reports
  • Managing the collection and tabulation of botanical survey data
  • Assisting in the collection of other base-line data as needed
  • Helping to lead Wilderness trips
  • Writing articles for publication (i.e. journals, local news media, SCS newsletters, SCS website, etc.) about the Project and Tongass plant communities in Wilderness.
  • Presenting work and conducting plant identification training to project partners

 

Qualifications:

  • Degree or current enrollment in a Botany program or related field.
  • Interest and background in conservation, research, plant sciences.
  • Pertinent work experience and field experience.
  • Professional skills pertinent to the position.

Fiscal Support: The internship will provide a wage of $1,333/month (2 pay periods of 80/hours each) for 3 months. The host organization will also reimburse you the lowest cost round trip to/from Seattle to Sitka, up to $1,000.

Application will close March 31, 2013.

Jan 25 2012

Ocean Boulevard Wildlife Improvement

Ocean Boulevard second growth thinned to 25×25' spacing, 2011.

BACKGROUND: Clear-cut logging of the forests near False Island between 1967 and 1972 led to fast-paced, even-aged growth of new conifers, shrubs and herbaceous plants that is today causing serious problems for deer and other wildlife. After about 25 years of growth in a previously clear-cut area, conifers become so thick that understory shrubs and herbs are shaded out, virtually eliminating vital deer forage for over 100 years. Restorative thinning of the kind completed during the Ocean Boulevard project can help maintain a more open canopy and better habitat for the deer and other wildlife that local communities depend on for subsistence.

Ocean Boulevard was the first of an ongoing series of projects in the False Island landscape aimed at addressing a wide range of resource opportunities related to subsistence, ecosystem restoration, and recreation. Ocean Boulevard benefited from early collaboration with community stakeholders that went above and beyond the traditional U.S. Forest Service process (learn more here). Related projects include the Sitkoh River Restoration and Peril Landscape Opportunities Project.

Local contractor Todd Miller creating a "gap" at Ocean Boulevard, 2011. Gaps open the forest and mimic old growth characteristics by creating more structural diversity. This stimulates the growth of plants like blueberry and huckleberry, which provide food for deer and other animals in the winter.

STATS: In 2011, local contractor TM Construction thinned 334 acres of young growth forest with treatments that included 25 x 25 foot spacing and canopy gaps. Many of the downed trees were removed by ground-based equipment and either stored in a sort-yard for future sale, or tagged for in-stream use in the Sitkoh River Restoration Project that will be completed in 2012; others were cut into smaller pieces and left to decay in the forest.

INNOVATIONS: The U.S. Forest Service took an experimental approach with Ocean Boulevard, using it to test the costs and logistics involved in removing and storing downed trees after thinning. Better understanding these costs will help the Forest Service and community more realistically assess future opportunities to use “restoration byproducts” from the Sitka Ranger District for biomass, lumber, and other timber products.

FUNDING AND SUPPORT:Ocean Boulevard was funded by the America Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, and

Thinned young growth from Ocean Boulevard, 2011

was the first U.S. Forest Service project to involve input from the Sitka Collaborative Stewardship Group (SCSG).

Check out our briefing sheet to learn more about community input on the Ocean Boulevard Project: Ocean Boulevard Briefing Sheet.

Jan 25 2012

The Peril Strait Landscape Opportunities Project

False Island landscape, 2010

BACKGROUND: The Peril Project is a collaborative stewardship initiative designed to improve wildlife habitat and recreational access within the False Island/Peril Strait landscape. Planning for Peril officially began in 2010, but the “landscape-scale” project concept is rooted in three efforts that began as far back as 2006: the U.S. Forest Service False Island Integrated Resource Management Plan (IRMP) planning group, the Sitkoh River and Creek Watershed Inventory and Restoration Plan (2009) and the Sitka Collaborative Stewardship Group (2009).

The Ocean Boulevard Wildlife Improvement Project, completed in 2011, was the first project to transpire from these collaborative efforts to improve the False Island landscape. The Sitkoh River Restoration was the second, and will be completed in 2012.

The Sitka Collaborative Stewardship Group, which was originally formed to develop community-based stewardship opportunities related to Tongass management, organized two public meetings in 2010 to share information and gather collaborative input on Peril. These meetings were attended by a wide range of community stakeholders, and resulted in stewardship suggestions that can be read here (May 2010) and here (December 2010).

Click here for a copy of the 2011 Peril Project Environmental Assessment (EA).

Forest Service staff groundtruthing restoration opportunities at False Island, 2010

STATS: As proposed in the Peril Project EA, work will include 2,122 acres of thinning in both upland and riparian areas; opening approximately 1.75 miles of closed road to off-highway vehicles (OHVs); constructing a 0.41-mile foot trail to the East Sitkoh Lake cabin; and placing large woody debris in 2.2 miles of Sitkoh Lake inlet streams to restore fish habitat. Work on the ground will begin in summer 2012.

INNOVATIONS: Peril is one of the first projects in the Sitka Ranger District in which collaborative input from the Sitka Collaborative Stewardship Group and other community partners has been prioritized. The goal is to better integrate community priorities into Forest Service planning efforts in the SCUA, and SCS will continue to engage in similar opportunities with the Forest Service and community partners.

Peril is also the first landscape-scale project to be undertaken in the Sitka Ranger District, meaning that multiple resource opportunities are being addressed within a single large landscape. By focusing on a wide range of opportunities and looking at ways to achieve multiple goals at once, the Forest Service is saving time and taxpayer money while providing more benefits to the local community.

FUNDING AND SUPPORT: All funding to-date for the Peril Project comes from the U.S. Forest Service. The project has received input and support from the Sitka Collaborative Stewardship Group since 2010.

Jan 25 2012

Action Alert: Make Salmon a Priority UPDATED

Make Management and Protection of Wild Alaska Salmon a Priority in the Tongass National Forest!

Check out the example letters at the bottom of the post for inspiration.

Background: 5 species of Pacific Salmon spawn in the Tongass National Forest. For thousands of years, those salmon have played a key role for the peoples and cultures that make their home on the Tongass. Today, the connections and traditions between communities and salmon is still one of the most important associations that we have with the natural environment of the Tongass.

Take Action: Management of the Tongass National Forest is currently at a critical crossroads. As we begin to move beyond the ill-fated, industrial logging phase of Tongass Management, the region and the Forest Service is striving to define a new paradigm for Tongass Land Management. The decision makers who govern the Tongass need to hear from you now that management for Wild Alaska Salmon is the most important use of the Tongass National Forest.

You Can Help Now: by writing letters to Alaska State Senators, the Undersecretary of the Department of Agriculture, and the Alaska Regional Forester telling why Salmon are important for SE Alaska and how our dependence on the lands and the waters of the Tongass revolves around Salmon.

Here are some of the important points that you can highlight:

  • Salmon are the backbone of the economy of SE Alaska
  • The economic value and the jobs created by commercial harvest of Salmon is much greater than the economic value of the Timber industry—even though more money and resources are spent on the timber program ($23 million) than salmon management and restoration ($1.5 Million).
  • Salmon are important for both the local seafood industry, the SE Alaskan visitor industry, and rural communities who depend on subsistence fishing
  • Subsistence harvest of salmon on the Tongass is one of the most important protein sources for SE Alaskans— outline how subsistence caught salmon are important for you
  • Forest Service management of subsistence fisheries (such as Redoubt Lake) have enormous benefits for Sitka and other SE Alaskan Communities– expanding this program is critical
  • Salmon Habitat Restoration Projects—such as the work being done in the Starrigavan Valley and Sitkoh River in Sitka—are the most important efforts currently being conducted by the Forest Service on the Tongass. This work should be continued and expanded.
  • The success of Tongass Management should no longer be tied to “million-board feet of timber produced” but rather should be measured on the successful rehabilitation, enhancement, and continuance of Wild Salmon Runs on the Tongass
  • Continued and expanded research and investigation on Alaskan Salmon is a huge priority to assess how we will manage salmon in the face of climate change

What to do: write a letter, send it out to decision makers, pass it along to SCS so we can help make all our voices heard, and continue to get involved.

Send Letters to (email is fine):

Senator Lisa Murkowski
709 Hart Senate Building
Washington, DC 20510
Email to staff: karen_billups@energy.senate.gov
 
Senator Mark Begich
144 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Email to staff: Bob_Weinstein@begich.senate.gov
Undersecretary Robert Bonnie
Department of Natural Resources and the Environment
U.S. Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Ave., S.W.
Washington, DC 20250
Email: robert.bonnie@osec.usda.org
 
Tom Tidwell Chief of USDA Forest Service
US Forest Service
1400 Independence Ave., SW
Washington, D.C.
20250-0003
ttidwell@fs.fed.us
Beth Pendleton
Regional Forester
Alaska Region 10
bpendleton@fs.fed.us

Please send a copy to us at the Sitka Conservation Society offices at andrew@sitkawild.org. We will keep track of the letters that are received by decision makers and work on getting them delivered in person by a fisherman to decision makers in Washington, DC.

Example Letters:

Feel free to use the ideas in these example letters to write you own.

Tele Aadsen Letter

Adam Hackett Letter

Matt Lawrie Letter

Spencer Severson Letter

Jan 20 2012

Expedition: Russell Fjord

In the summer of 2011, the SCS Wilderness crew traveled north to Russell Fjord Wilderness to assist the Yakutat ranger district in Wilderness monitoring.  Check out the video, report, and photos to learn more about the project and this uniquely rugged Wilderness.

From Disenchantment Bay, at the upper end of Yakutat Bay, heavily glaciated Russell Fjord penetrates about 35 miles inland, but the advance of Hubbard Glacier is slowly squeezing it off from the sea… Within the area, which lies between the Fairweather and Brabazon Ranges, you’ll find forested river valleys rising to alpine meadows and snowcapped peaks… At the northwest boundary of Russell Fjord, the Hubbard Glacier, one of the largest and most active tidewater glaciers in North America, is advancing to Gilbert Point. Twice in the last 40 years, the Hubbard has closed against the Puget Peninsula. Eventually, this unique event will become a long term situation converting Russell and Nunatak Fjords to immense freshwater lakes.  –from Wilderness.net

Report of the trip prepared by Scott Harris

Photos by Ben Hamilton

Jan 16 2012

Wilderness Expedition: Cross Baranof

Updated: 1/16/2010

The land enclosed in the borders of South Baranof Wilderness Area is steep, remote, and difficult to travel. Other than the intrepid mountain goat hunters, this area of the Wilderness receives almost no foot traffic.

In August of 2011, as part of the Sitka Community Wilderness Stewardship Project, as expedition was organized to collect baseline plant and recreational use data. Thanks to packrafts donated by Alpacka Raft Company the Sitka Conservation Society Wilderness crew completed a pioneering transect along the southern boarder of the Wilderness Area.  See the slideshow and read the full report below.

 

Report: Tongass Wilderness Stewardship: Packrafting across Baranof Island

Thank you to everyone who came to see my presentation “The Other Route Across the Island” at the Library on Sunday.  It was a packed house!

Check out the pictures from the talk below.

 

 

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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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