The Tongass provides an abundance of wild salmon berries, blueberries, and huckleberries—what better way to enjoy their wild summer flavors than in a pie shared with friends and family? The Cloverbuds 4H Club learned how to bake pies this week, mastering a home-baked good that many shy away from. Each Cloverbud went home with a pie ready to bake; for many it was their first (and for the parents too!).
Each member made their their dough, patted it into a round, and rolled it out to fit in the pie dish. Fillings were poured in and tops were added. It was great to see youth who were overwhelmed by the thought of making pie or touching butter get into the process and see (and eat ) their final product. Sharing foods, especially ones with locally-harvested foods is a deep pleasure that connects us to place.
After our pie-baking extravaganza, we met to create light. Candles today often add ambiance to rooms but historically they were a critical light source. Students got to rotate through different stations, creating three different types of candles. They each dipped candles, resulting in chubby little pillars perfect for the next birthday cake. They filled a votive mold and also decorated jars with glitter, marbles, stones, and sprinkles to create personalized candles. After the melted wax was poured, wicks were placed in the center, and we patiently waited for them to dry. The candles turned out beautifully—putting a few in our survival kits wouldn’t be a bad idea for emergencies.
A big thank you to parents Eric Kaplan and Susea Albee for leading the activities for the month and parents Paty and Scott Harris for hosting!
Earlier this month 4H members went to Ed Gray’s local tannery at the Sawmill Industrial Park. We were instantly immersed in his world of preserving hides, the process between skinning an animal and the hide that sits nicely on your couch or lines your mittens. Ed Gray took us through this process step by step. What I write below is an over-simplification but will give you an idea of what it takes to preserve an animal hide.
First the hide needs to be scraped to remove any remaining flesh that could rot, this process is appropriately called “fleshing.” Ed has his own unique method, but I won’t share his secret here! It is then salted, which acts as a preservative and pulls out excess liquid. Once the skin is dry and the hair is set, the skin is rehydrated and placed in a pickling solution of water, salt and acid (Ed uses a plant-acid). This swells the skin so it can be shaved, creating a softer pelt. Ed said it took him over 300 hours to master this fine technique. The hide is then placed in another solution with an adjusted pH allowing it to react with the tanning solution where it sits for 15 hours. Then the skin is removed and allowed to dry overnight before it is oiled and dried almost completely, about 90%. The skin is then tumbled in a hardwood powder to finish the drying process by removing any remaining oils. The process is complete once it is tumbled in a wire cage to remove the wood flour and then buffed creating a soft and shiny hide for the proud hunter.
Students got to touch a number of hides in different stages of the process and got to test (under supervision of course) the acidity level of the solutions using pH strips. Ed showed us how a number of his pieces of equipment worked (some ingenious yet simple and others more complicated needing very refined motor skills). Ed works with all animal hides ranging from sea otter to marten to bear and will be working individually with one of our 4H members on his very own deer hide.
This skill continues to be cherished in the local community, with two operating tanneries in Sitka. Traditionally tanning hides (often with the natural acids found in the brain) was a source of warmth in the cold winters. Today it serves as a connection to the past, to keep the tradition alive. It is a skill that we find valuable to share with 4Hers as a reminder of how we used to survive using only local resources native to the area. Although we had an introduction on how to tan on a commercial scale, we may continue to explore this topic if there is interest and learn how to tan hides as a survival skill.
THANK YOU to Ed Gray for sharing his local knowledge of tanning animal hides.
The Sitka Conservation Society is seeking an applicant to support the Sitka Community Wilderness Stewardship Project. The Wilderness Intern will assist SCS’s Wilderness Project manager to coordinate and lead monitoring expeditions during the 2012 summer field season.
If interested, please review the position description below and submit a resume and cover letter to Adam Andis at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This position is now closed.
Position Title: SCS Wilderness Project Internship
Host Organizations: Sitka Conservation Society
Location: Sitka, Alaska
Duration: 14 weeks, starting in May 2013. Specific start and end dates to be determined by intern and SCS
Compensation: $ 4664 plus travel
Benefits: Intern will receive no health or dental benefits. Intern is responsible for housing (SCS will try to assist in finding low-cost housing options). SCS will provide appropriate training for fieldwork in Southeast Alaska.
Organization: The Sitka Conservation Society (SCS) is a grassroots, membership-based organization dedicated to the conservation of the Tongass Temperate Rainforest and the protection of Sitka’s quality of life. We have been active in Sitka, Alaska for over 45 years as a dynamic and concerned group of citizens who have an invested interest in their surrounding natural environment and the future well-being of their community. We are based in the small coastal town of Sitka, Alaska, located on the rugged outer west coast of Baranof Island. Surrounded by the towering trees of the Tongass National Rainforest, the community has successfully transformed from an industrial past and the closure of a local pulp mill to a new economy featuring a diversity of employers and small businesses.
Background: The Tongass National Forest in Southeast Alaska is the nation’s largest National Forest totaling 17 million acres with almost 6 million acres of designated Wilderness Area (also the largest total Wilderness area of any National Forest). The Sitka Ranger District alone encompasses over 1.6 million acres of countless islands, glaciated peaks and old growth forests. In 2009, SCS partnered with the Sitka Ranger District (SRD) to ensure the two Wilderness areas near Sitka (the West Chichagof Yakobi and South Baranof Wilderness Areas) meet a minimum management standard by conducting stewardship and monitoring activities and recruiting volunteers. We will be continuing this project into its fifth year and extending the project to ranger districts throughout the Tongass National Forest.
Direction and Purpose:
In this position you will be expected to assist in organizing the logistics of field trips. Trips can range from just a few nights to three weeks. Backcountry field logistics include float plane and boat transport to and from field sites; kayaking, backpacking, and packrafting on location; camping and living in bear country; field communications via satellite phone, VHF radio, and SPOT transmitters. You will be co-leading trips with SCS Staff. Depending on experience, you may have the opportunity to lead short trips of volunteers on your own.
Working with SCS Staff, this intern position will assist in the following duties:
- · collection of field data
- · coordinating logistics and volunteers for field surveys
- · plan and conduct outreach activities including preparing presentation and sharing materials on Wilderness and Leave No Trace with outfitters/guides and other Forest users.
- prepare and submit an intern summary report and portfolio of all produced materials, and other compiled outputs to the Forest Service and SCS before conclusion of the residency, including digital photos of your work experience and recreational activities in Alaska. Reports are crucial means for SCS to report on the project’s success.
- · Graduate or currently enrolled in Recreation Management, Outdoor Education, Environmental Studies or other related environmental field
- · Current Wilderness First Responder certification (by start date of position)
- · Outdoor skills including Leave-no-Trace camping, sea kayaking, multi-day backpacking
- · Ability to work in a team while also independently problem-solve in sometimes difficult field conditions.
- · Ability to communicate effectively and present issues to the lay-public in a way that is educational, inspirational, and lasting
The ideal candidate will also have:
- · Experience living or working in Southeast Alaska
- · Pertinent work experience
- · Outdoor leadership experience such as NOLS or Outward Bound
- · Ability to work under challenging field conditions that require flexibility and a positive attitude
- · Proven attention to detail including field data collection
- · Experience camping in bear country
- · Advanced sea-kayaking skills including surf zone and ability to perform rolls and rescues
Fiscal Support: SCS will provide a stipend of $4,664 for this 14 week position. SCS will also provide up to $1,000 to cover the lowest cost airfare from the resident’s current location to Sitka. Airfare will be reimbursed upon submittal of receipts to SCS.
With respect to agency/organization policy and safety, intern agrees to:
- · Adhere to the policies and direction of SCS, including safety-related requirements and training, including those related to remote travel and field work.
- · Work closely with the SCS Wilderness Project Coordinator to update him/her on accomplishments and ensure that any questions, concerns or needs are addressed.
- · Be a good representative of SCS at all times during your internship.
- · Arrange course credits with your university if applicable.
With respect to general logistics, resident agrees to:
- Seek lowest possible round trip airfare or ferry trip and book as soon as possible and before May 1st, working in conjunction with SCS whenever possible;
- Provide SCS with travel itinerary as soon as flight is booked and before arriving in Alaska. Please email itinerary to Adam Andis at email@example.com..
- Reimburse SCS for the cost of travel if you leave the intern position before the end of your assignment.
- Have fun and enjoy the experience in Sitka!
May 20-June 1: SCS and Forest Service trainings; get oriented and set up in offices; begin researching and getting up-to-speed on background info (Outfitter/Guide Use Areas, patterns of use on the Tongass National Forest (subsistence, commercial fishing, guided, recreation), Wilderness Character monitoring, Wilderness issues).
June 4 – August 17: Participate in field trips and assist in coordinating future trips, contact Outfitter and Guides to distribute educational materials, assist SCS in other Wilderness stewardship activities.
By August 20-24: Prepare final report including any outreach or media products, trip reports, and written summary of experience to SCS. Work with Wilderness Project Coordinator on final reports.
To apply please submit a cover letter and resume that includes relevant skills and experiences including documentation of trips in remote settings to Adam Andis: firstname.lastname@example.org
Application will close March 31, 2013.
Last Friday, Girl Scout troop #4140 continued the Innovate Award for the Get Moving Energy Journey. As part of the journey, the girls went on an energy tour of their school, Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary. Sitka School District Maintenance Supervisor, Bill Steinbaugh, volunteered to lead the girls on the tour in order to help them better understand the energy in the building they use almost 40 hours every week. He showed the scouts the backup diesel supply, the boiler room, the various air ducts throughout the school, the attic and contributed his expertise of the energy system in each location.
This detailed tour gave the girls an in-depth look at the school’s energy systems and procedures. Some questions the girls asked include what kind of heating system is used, its efficiency, and any weatherization updates made to the building since it was erected in 1989. The scouts were surprised to learn that no notable weatherization improvements have been made since it was built over 20 years ago. Another shock came when the troop learned that the school spends an average of $4,600 a month on utilities during the school year!
The next step for troop #4140 is to submit the information they gained from the tour to an online database where they can compare their school’s efficiency to other schools in the region as well as throughout the country. After reviewing the information they found and discussing what they experienced, they will propose various weatherization improvement options to the school board to make the building more energy efficient. Through their work, the troop hopes to encourage the Sitka School District to think of long-term energy efficiency since 5 of the top 25 top electric users in 2010 were school buildings.
Alaska Ocean Film Festival
Sheet’ ka Kwaan Naa Kahidi Community House
Thursday, March 15th
Tickets available March 2nd at Old harbor Bookstore or at the door
Brought to the good people of Sitka by the The Alaska Center for the Environment in conjunction with the Sitka Conservation Society
2012 Alaska Ocean Film Festival Program
Click the link below for previews.
Monsterboards, Holland, Matthew McGregor-Mento, 8 mins
Combine a crack up sense of deadpan humor, small waves, eco art surfboards, and a horrific fear of sharks … what do you get? Monsterboards, of course. Surf’s up, enjoy the ride!
Into the Deep with Elephant Seals, USA, Sedva Eris, 11 mins
Meet the UC Santa Cruz marine biologists using high-tech tools to track elephant seals along the San Mateo coast. Some of these marine mammals weigh 4,500 pounds, can dive for a mile, and hold their breath for an hour. The elephant seals incredible come back from near extinction is a testament to the power of protected areas.
Capture: A Waves Documentary, Peru, Dave Aabo, 22mins
This piece dives deep into the impoverished community of Lobitus, Peru and the experience of surf travelers who share their passion with the youth. Witness the opportunity for empowerment as kids learn about creativity and self-expression from international surfers turned humanitarians.
The Coral Gardener, United Kingdom, Emma Robens, 10 mins
Coral reefs are like underwater gardens, but who would have thought you can garden them in just the same way? Austin Bowden-Kerby is a coral gardener. He has brought together his love of gardening, and passion for the underwater world, to do something very special that just might save the coral reefs of Fiji. Directed by Emma Robens.
Landscapes at the World’s Ends, New Zealand, Richard Sidey, 15 mins
A non-verbal, visual journey to the polar regions of our planet portrayed through a triptych montage of photography and video. This piece is a multi-dimensional canvas of imagery recorded either above the Arctic Circle or below the Antarctic Convergence.
Eating the Ocean, USA, Jennifer Galvin, 21 mins
Narrated by Celine Cousteau, this film is a journey to the heart of Oceania where an international team of researchers studies the rapidly changing diet of French Polynesians. Through the scientists’ investigation and by spending time with families, fishermen and school children we discover a public health crisis brought on by western influences.
Birdathlon, USA, Rachel Price and Karen Lewis, 4 mins
Who will win a race that involves both air and sea? Find out when our intrepid Rhinoceros Auklet is pitted against an Arctic Tern in an Olympic-caliber spoof that demonstrates the unique physiology and biology of the Alcid species.
Team Clark Goes Canoeing: Valdez to Whittier, USA, Dan Clark, 9 mins
Simply mesmerizing. This is the story of six weeks solitude and simplicity, the rewards of submersing children in the wilderness, and the challenges that make it memorable. A dream trip for many of us, no doubt, but does that dream include diaper swap outs at the re-supply? You’re not gonna believe this one!
The Majestic Plastic Bag, USA, 4 mins.
A brilliant mockumentary about the miraculous migration of “The Majestic Plastic Bag” narrated by Jeremy Irons. It was produced by Heal The Bay as promo in support of California bill AB 1998 to help put an end to plastic pollution.
As Junior Girl Scout Troop 4140 continues to press on with the Get Moving Energy Journey, the scouts learn the value of good insulation in homes and buildings. The troop had the opportunity to see four different types of common insulation and test their knowledge of R Value. The results surprised the girls as they learned appearance does not always reveal which insulation will be most energy efficient.
After examining insulation in buildings, they focused on every day types of insulation such as wool, aluminum foil, cotton, and plastic. Following their predictions on which material would be the most energy efficient, the scouts took turns taking the temperature of the water inside the experiment jars. As most scouts predicted, the wool worked best followed by the aluminum foil – it turns out these girls can’t be fooled by appearances anymore.
The skills the girls learned in this activity are just a fractional of the material in the overall journey that will teach them how to live more energy efficient lives. This Friday, troop 4140 will go on a tour of their school, Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary, led by a member of the maintenance staff to learn the ins and outs of the energy in the building. Proceeding the tour, the girls will make a list of recommendations to the school board regarding potential upgrades that could make the school more energy efficient based on the things they have learned during the journey.
At SCS, we know that getting people outside and participating in the stewardship of our environment is the single best way to realize our vision of a sustainable community living within the Tongass National Forest. Last summer, SCS, the Sitka Ranger District, and Sitka High School established a long-term monitoring study that will evaluate the efforts made to restore deer habitat in young growth forests in Peril Strait. Students built four “deer exclosures” to support this study. The exclosures will allow us to study the plant growth that occurs without being browsed upon by deer. Students will revisit these study sites each year. Through this project, students are being active participants in ecological restoration and gaining valuable insight in what it takes to be good stewards of our backyard!
The Sitka Conservation Society has been awarded a grant to partner with local organizations to build capacity for the use of Tongass young growth timber, and to create a long-term strategic plan for watershed restoration in the Sitka Community Use Area. The grant is awarded through the Community Capacity and Land Stewardship Program, a collaborative program of the National Forest Foundation and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The two-phase project will build momentum of the Sitka Collaborative Stewardship Group by partnering with local high schools and community members. With the $20,000 grant, the project will last throughout 2012 and will result in a collaboratively defined Strategic Restoration Priorities List, a Best Management Practices document on partnering with the U.S. Forest Service on restoration projects, and initial efforts to advocate for the highest priority projects.
“The project will combine ecological data with social and economic priorities to create a framework that prioritizes where we need to restore salmon and deer habitat,” Said Scott Harris, SCS Collaborative Restoration Projects Coordinator. “It will also find ways to maximize local benefits to create jobs for local contractors to perform the work needed on the Tongass National Forest, as best for the community as a whole.”
SCS will partner with Sitka High School (SHS) on the young growth component of the project. Industrial arts students will build furniture and a visitor’s kiosk for Sitka Sound Science Center with young growth timber harvested and milled on Prince of Wales Island. These projects will take place during the 2012-2013 school year and will be the first time local wood has been used in SHS industrial arts projects in nearly a decade.
“It is exciting to bring local wood back into the classroom. There will be some differences in using young growth than what we usually build with, so it should be a good experiment to see the best ways to use the wood,” said Sitka High School industrial arts teacher, Randy Hughey. “It will also be a great opportunity for the students to learn about the local resources available and how they can support the Sitka economy.”
Based on the experiences at Sitka High, SCS will develop a best practices guide for buying local wood. The guide will compare the cost of local young growth to imported wood, will detail where and when local wood can be purchased, and will explain properties of local young growth that may be different from conventional lumber. SCS and SHS will host two educational open houses during the 2012-13 school year for local builders and other community members on the best practices.
Bill Thomason, owner of Alaska Wood Cuts Mill, will sell SCS young growth spruce from a stockpile of timber he acquired under stewardship contract during a 2007 habitat restoration project on Prince of Wales Island.
“We have been cutting and milling second growth here on POW for a few seasons now. It is great wood for a number of purposes, particularly in the construction of log and timber cabins as we are now doing,” he said. “We are really encouraged by the start of its use here in Southeast Alaska.”
“There are a lot of opportunities for using young growth timber from the Tongass, and I hope this experience will not be a one-time thing at the high school,” said Sitka contractor Marcel LaPerriere, owner of Southeast Cedar Homes, which uses wood from local sources. “I believe this is an opportunity to raise awareness and increase the commercial use around the region.”
The second component of the grant will focus on strategic planning for collaborative watershed restoration projects on the Tongass. In recent years, the U.S. Forest Service, Sitka Conservation Society, Trout Unlimited and other partners have worked together to restore salmon streams damaged by industrial logging practices decades ago. Despite the work and successful partnerships, projects have proceeded without a community-derived strategic plan.
“There are important watersheds in the Sitka Ranger District that were heavily impacted by logging during the pulp mill days. We know that this has had a negative impact on the number of fish these watersheds produce,” Matt Lawrie, a 2nd generation Sitka salmon troller said. “I’m hopeful that this project will bring together agency staff, fishermen, and locals with knowledge about local watersheds and it will lead to more habitat restoration projects that will increase Coho numbers and create more stability and resiliency for salmon populations.”
The Sitka Conservation Society strives to blend sustainable community development with policy advocacy through projects and initiatives that demonstrate our ideals while building community and community assets. Along the way, we organize stakeholders to work together with a commonly shared vision. The ideal projects are those that bring people together working face-to-face/shoulder-to-shoulder to jointly and collaboratively build our community under a vision of sustainability. If we are not working with new and different partners, if we are not working toward institutionalizing our values within existing agencies, or if we are simply working within one closed group, we are not successful.
The Fish to Schools program is accomplishing all of the above as it organizes fishermen, integrates traditional Native cultural values around locally harvested fish in the school classrooms, teaches youth about fishing livelihoods and fisheries management by bringing community members into the classroom, and, above all, improves the school lunch program by finding creative and economically sustainable pathways to integrate locally produced food into the USDA school lunch program. The program works with all the schools in the local school districts, all the major fish processors, multiple fishermen, parents, youths, USDA staff, State of Alaska agency staff, and many more. Recently we won a statewide award which received national attention in the USDA Farm-to-Schools program.
Our hope is that this program will create closer connections between our community and the natural resources from the environment around us. Through its implementation, youth and stakeholders will gain an increased understanding of how we use and depend on the land and waters of the Tongass. With the fish on our plates at home and at school, we will, as a community, make better decisions on the management and future of those resources that we intimately depend on. Our hope is that in its actions the USDA, and the policy makers who direct it, will choose to focus on a more sustainable school lunch food system by using local sources for food. And, importantly, our school districts will teach children about local natural resources and the jobs and livelihoods in our community by using hands-on, real-world learning experiences.
In this way, SCS is working to build a socially, economically, and environmentally sustainable community living within the splendor and beauty of the Tongass.
Months have passed with hydroelectric shortage and the City of Sitka Electric Department has warned the community that the risk of having to use supplemental diesel fuel to run the town’s functions is high. In order to let this message sink in a bit further, Utility Director, Christopher Brewton, made this graphic meant to encourage electric users to switch to oil by using a visual that most people can relate to.
This simple graphic shows electric users that using an oil heater is over 2X as efficient as gaining electricity through the extremely inefficient diesel generators. Brewton hoped to encourage those with duel heating systems to switch since the diesel surcharge will add to every electric user’s monthly bill.