Sitka Conservation Society
Jan 13 2012

Action Alert: Make Wild Alaska Salmon a Priority!

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

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 ($30million) 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:  mckie_campbell@energy.senate.gov
 
Senator Mark Begich
144 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Email to staff:  Bob_Weinstein@begich.senate.gov
Undersecretary Harris Sherman
Department of Natural Resources and the Environment
U.S. Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Ave., S.W.
Washington, DC 20250
Email: Harris.Sherman@usda.gov
 
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.

Jan 13 2012

Fishermen at the Capital

The Sitka Conservation Society is working hard during this Forest Service budget preparing season to advocate for a shift of Tongass funding from a disproportionate logging program to a focus that manages our largest National Forest for Salmon.  It is high time that we made this shift because salmon are the lifeblood of our region for our ecosystems, our economy, and our way-of-life.  Now is a critical time to write letters supporting the Tongass’s Fisheries and Watershed program and ensuring that the Forest Service is putting Tongass funding in the programs that benefit our wild, Alaska Salmon and the communities within the Tongass.

You can help by writing a letter, click here to Take Action.

In December, SCS was able to help Matt Lawrie, a local Sitka Troller, travel to Washington, DC to take copies of letters that Fishermen and community members wrote asking for a shift from Forest Service spending on Old Growth Clear-cutting in the Timber program to the Fisheries and Watershed program to restore and protect Tongass Salmon Habitat.  Matt personally delivered the letters to Harris Sherman, the Undersecretary of Natural Resources, Senior Staff at the USDA Rural Development offices, staff from the President’s Management and Budget Office, and spoke personally with the Chief of the Forest Service and delivered the message on the importance of Tongass Salmon.

The meetings were frustrating because everyone acted like they agreed that funding needs to shift from Timber to Salmon, but everyone seemed to point the finger that someone else had to step up and demand the change was made.  It seemed that some of the decision makers that were visited (The Forest Service Chief and the Undersecretary) were genuinely happy that commercial fishermen were visiting DC and speaking up on the budget because they are slowly recognizing the importance of the Tongass National Forest’s role in producing salmon and sustaining a sustainable fishery and sustainable livelihoods and that they agree that this shift needs to be made.

Officials were also glad that commercial fishermen and concerned community members were finally visiting because the timber lobby visits at least twice a year to keep the programs funded that log the Tongass!

We always knew that timber had a big lobby and it is likely why more money is going to cut down the Forests that salmon depend on than restoring the damage that pulp mill clear-cutting has done to the Tongass that needs fixing.

The fact that Matt and the other fishermen visited the same offices as timber shows us that we are doing the right thing.  It was really good that young fishermen stand up and speak too because he represents a new generation on the Tongass that is looking ahead to the future and thinking about sustainable management of Tongass resources— the opposite of what we’ve had with clear-cut logging.

We are going to try to send more fishermen back to Washington in February to advocate for a Forest Service budget that focuses on Salmon and Watershed restoration.  We want to take back at least 200 letters from fishermen in February.  That would be 40 more letters than there are timber jobs in Southeast Alaska (160 timber jobs, over 4000 jobs related to Salmon).

You can help us by writing letters to the regional forester, the undersecretary of Natural Resources, our Alaskan Senators.  Tele Aadsen did a really good blog post that outlines the issue calls fishermen to action.  It is a great post to point people to for motivation:

http://nerkasalmon.wordpress.com/2011/12/14/easy-salmon-advocacy-protecting-the-tongass-part-2/

Jan 05 2012

4H Way-of-Life Club: General Information

The Alaska Way-of-Life 4H Club seeks to connect youth to their natural environment through a number of hands-on, outdoor activities. Through parent and volunteer-led activities, youth are taught the skills to feel equipped while out in the Tongass National Forest. They are taught skills that relate to safety, like building survival kits and shelters, to  wild-food harvest and preservation, to outdoor hobbies like bird identification. As with all 4H Clubs, our group seeks to incorporate elements of the 4H’s: Head, Heart, Hands, and Health. We also strive to develop a healthy community through family and youth participation.

For the 2012-2012 school year, we will focus on a variety of topics: mushroom hunting, berry picking, cooking, shelter building, tracking, plant ID, survival kits, and food preservation.

We meet the first and third Tuesday of the month and every last Saturday. There are two groups: Cloverbuds, ages 5-8 and 4H, ages 9+. The cost to join is $20.00, which is divided between registration to National 4H, insurance, and the Activity Fund. If cost is an issue, please ask us about scholarships.

Check out our briefing sheets for more information:4H Briefing sheet

Please contact Tracy Gagnon at tracy@sitkawild.org or call 747.7509 if you are interested in joining!

Jan 04 2012

Backwoods Lecture: The Other Route Across the Island

January 15th

5:00pm (note time change)

Kettleson Memorial Library, Sitka

Adam Andis from the Sitka Conservation Society leads the Sitka Community Wilderness Stewardship Project. The project seeks to involve the community to monitor on-the-ground conditions in local Wilderness Areas. In the summer of 2011, the SCS Wilderness Crew spent countless hours bushwhacking in the field, including pioneering a new route across Baranof Island.

The route paralleled the southern boundary of South Baranof Wilderness Area and followed two watersheds from sea to source. To cover the terrain, the team used packrafts, lightweight backpacking techniques, and lots of chocolate.

Come learn a little bit more about your local Wilderness areas and join in the expedition Across the Island!

 

Jan 03 2012

Energy Education in the Schools

Students at Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School learn about fossil fuels in Alaska.

The first step towards achieving energy awareness begins in the schools. In 2011, the Sitka Conservation Society launched an energy education program called Energize to Educate. The program consists of five comprehensive lessons spread across the school year and make students more aware of the role of energy in the world today. The lessons cover Sitka’s energy situation and conservation, fossil fuels in Alaska, home weatherization, home and building energy audits, and a tour of the Blue and Green Lake Dam that produce the town’s hydroelectricity.

The first lesson on hydroelectricity already reached one third and fourth grade class, as well as every sixth grade class. In December, one fourth grade class completed the second lesson on fossil fuels in Alaska and so did the entire seventh grade. Over 270 students received a portion of the energy curriculum by the first semester.

Despite the program’s initial success, additional program support to the school board is needed to ensure that all lessons are available to students since it is not yet part of the school’s guaranteed curriculum. However, several teachers at Keet Goohsi Heen Elementary and Blatchley Middle School expressed interest in completing the program in the next semester of the school year.

Jan 03 2012

Alaska Craftsman Home Program Weatherization Workshops

Small changes to a drafty or poorly insulated house can result in a significant drop in winter heating for a Sitka homeowner, not mention reduce the burden on the hydroelectric demand which is currently running at capacity. With this in mind, the Sitka Conservation Society and the Southeast Alaska Career Center partnered to bring residents five days of weatherization workshops led by Jim Ward, Board President, from the Alaska Craftsman Home Program in November 2011.

The first three days of workshops were geared towards construction trade professionals. Topics included Building Energy Efficiency Standards and Advanced Cold Climate Building. Each participant attended full day classes and had the opportunity to update or attain the Residential Endorsement Certificate. The professional workshops also offered partial education requirements for state licensing. Of the participants who took the exam, 100 percent passed.

Following the workshops for professionals, ACHP offered shorter do-it-yourself weatherization workshops geared for homeowners. Topics in these eight workshops included energy efficient insulation, windows and doors, ventilation, and lighting and appliances. Participants were able to pick two hour sessions with a licensed professional.

Over 175 participants ranging from homeowners to local contractors, to home auditors, city staff and more attended the workshops. The workshop facilitator was impressed by the turnout and arranged to return to Sitka with more weatherization workshops in 2012. The set days for the workshops are March 3-7. Information on specific session information and times will be updated in the future.

Jan 02 2012

Students selected for Science Mentor Program

Four Sitka High students were recently selected to participate in the Science Mentor Program. This program pairs students with professional mentors to conduct ecological field studies. From left to right: Program Coordinators Scott Harris, Ashley Bolwerk, and Kent Bovee, Tahnee Curran will be work with Wildlife Biologist Chris Leeseberg at the US Forest Service, Spencer Combs will be working with Fisheries Biologist Troy Tydingco at the AK Dept. of Fish and Game, Justine Webb will be working with Botanist Kitty LaBounty at the University of Alaska Southeast, and Sarah Rasmussen-Rehkops will also be working with Chris Leesburg. The program is funded by the Sitka Conservation Society and the Secure Rural Schools Act.

Jan 02 2012

Salmon Curriculum Project goes to Tenakee

SCS’s Salmon Curriculum Project recently conducted a Teacher Training Workshop in Tenakee. Because that only means 2 teachers, we decided to involve the entire student population of 10 as well! So far, SCS has conducted 5 of these workshops in communities throughout Southeast Alaska. Our goal is to provide teachers with the tools (field equipment) and resources (lesson plans) to teach about the value of habitat and water quality for wild Alaska salmon. Ed Ronco from Raven Radio joined us.

Click here for the radio story that was aired on the Alaska Public Radio Network.

Jan 02 2012

End of Year Tally – Salmon Outreach Project

In 2011, with funding from the Alaska Sustainable Salmon Fund, we developed the Salmon For All Ages Project. Now that the year has ended, we can tally our success at spreading the word about the value of our Alaska Wild Salmon and Salmon Habitat to people throughout Southeast Alaska. We developed a curriculum resource guide for teachers, conducted teacher training workshops, aired public service announcements, and developed a university-level course in watershed ecology. Some of our 2011 key statistics:

756             potential number of K-12 Southeast Alaska students exposed to the curriculum

1,342          number of PSA’s aired

14                number or radio stations involved

5                  number of teacher workshops conducted in different communities

5                  number of school districts involved

25                number of teachers involved

Click on this link to hear an example of one of our radio PSAs.

 

Jan 02 2012

Now Available! Wild Salmon Teacher’s Guide

The Alaska Wild Salmon Teachers’s Guide was created by teachers for teachers.

This 237-page Guide provides curriculum resources that meet Alaska State Performance Standards and Grade Level Expectations for math, science, writing, and cultural requirements. The Guide provides detailed lesson plans for middle school teachers and additional information and resources for elementary and high school teachers.

This Guide was inspired by the successful partnership between the Sitka School District and the US Forest Service. Each year over eighty 7th graders in Sitka participate in a week of classroom and field-based salmon and stream ecology education. The Sitka Conservation Society designed this Guide with a grant from the Alaska Sustainable Salmon Fund to share these lessons with other Southeast Alaska communities.

Check out some sample pages below. Download the 4 MB guide here, or obtain a copy from the Sitka Conservation Society by contacting Scott Harris at (907) 747-7509 or (907) 738-4091.

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

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  • Encouraging Local Natural Resource Stewardship on the Tongass: Kennel Creek
  • Teaching the Alaska way of Life: 4-H in Sitka
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