Sitka Conservation Society
Mar 09 2012

SCS and partners to restore Sitkoh River this summer

The Sitkoh River currently flows down a logging road and "strands" important pool-forming habitat for rearing juvenile salmon like this piece of wood.

Past logging practices, now disallowed, in the Sitkoh River watershed damaged important spawning and rearing habitat for salmon and steehead trout. For the past 12 years, the river has been flowing down an old logging road. Two years ago, SCS formed a partnership with the US Forest Service, Trout Unlimited, and the Alaska Sustainable Salmon Fund to restore 1.25 miles of the river. Work will start this summer.

This week, SCS and US Forest Service staff are presenting at the Community-Based Watershed Management Symposium in Juneau. We are using the Sitkoh project as an example of how working together can increase the ability to restore more watersheds and ensure healthy fisheries for all Alaskans.

To learn more about the Sitkoh River Restortaion, click here


Mar 08 2012

SCS Illustration Contest: Natural Patterns of the Tongass, Mycelium and Dendritic Patterns

The Tongass is a place of patterns that repeat at different scales.  Branching patterns are found at all scales on the Tongass.   On a grand scale, these patterns are seen in bays and fjords on a map, in the rivers that flow through watersheds, and in the glaciers plowing down through the mountains.   At a medium scale, these are the dendritic patterns seen in the networks of stream in estuaries, in the branches and roots of trees, and the trails of wildlife through the forest.  At a micro-scale, these patterns repeat in the mycelial web of fungi that feed the living trees and in the decay of the logs on the ground.  in the veins of leaves, and in the filter feeding organs of intertidal creatures.  To see photos of some of our favorite dendritic patterns, check out the SCS web gallery below.

The dendritic patterns we see on the Tongass are all pathways for wildlife and nutrients.  Salmon travel up the branches of the bays to the river mouths.  They travel up the rivers and its streams to reach their spawning grounds.  Bears pick up dying salmon and carry it through the trails of the forest.  The nutrients of the decaying salmon are picked up by fungal networks and are delivered to tree roots.  The tree roots carry the nutrients up the trunk and then into the tree branches and to the needles. The pattern of interconnectedness repeats itself over and over again.

The patterns seen across the Tongass are visible manifestations of the web of life that connects the oceans with the land with all the creatures of the Forest and Waters.  They are beautiful in both their infinite fineness and in their grand majesty.  And they are intriguing and inspirational to many who live in and visit the Tongass.

We need help illustrating this pattern and telling the story through art!  Help us with a design and your art could be featured in the next SCS t-shirt design or web graphic.

“Your submission must be two dimensional, no larger than 12in. by 12in., and must be ready for a scanner (mixed media is okay, but please keep in mind that we will use a high-quality scanner to make the submission digital).  We encourage you to incorporate Rhonda Reany’s Coho Salmon Design to represent the journey of salmon from the forest to the ocean and back to the trees; however, it is not required.”  Download a copy below.


1st prize:  SCS Double Salmon Design Hoodie

2nd Prize:  Copy of Amy Gulick’s Salmon in the Trees Book

3rd Prize:  SCS Double Salmon T-Shirt

First 50 entrants will receive a camelback waterbottle 

Rules:  here

Rhonda Reany Salmon Design:  here

Mar 06 2012

Green Girls Grow: Energy Education Event for Girl Scouts Across Southeast

The Girl Scouts in Ketchikan had the opportunity to learn about energy efficiency first-hand with the help of an engineer from Ketchikan Public Utility (KPU).

Green Girls Grow is an event that toured three communities in Southeast Alaska to bring Girl Scouts a new way to look at renewable energy and conservation. Bitty Balducci, SCS AmeriCorps member, and Melissa Edwards, Girl Scout Southern Tongass Membership and Program Specialist, developed the energy-themed curriculum and made plans to tour Ketchikan, Petersburg, and Sitka in early March. The event reached over 75 girls in the three communities and gave them a look at renewable energy in Southeast as well as fundamental concepts of conservation.

The event ran two days in each community: the first for Daisy and Brownie Girl Scouts, the second for Junior and Cadette Girl Scouts. The activities on each day reflected the different badges and awards offered through the Forever Green campaign promoted by Girl Scouts as a long-term effort to increase energy efficiency awareness and encourage conservation in the community. The girls learned about the effects of fossil fuels on the environment, wind energy, hydroelectricity, solar power energy, and more through hands-on activities that modeled each type of renewable energy!

Petersburg Girl Scouts demonstrate the efficiency of the wind energy with their very own rocket pinwheel.

Ketchikan and Sitka had the privilege of hosting experts in energy efficiency for the event in their communities Gregory Fast, an engineer from Ketchikan Public Utility, showed the girls how much energy a household could save by switching to energy efficient lighting. An incandescent and compact fluorescent light bulb were connected to a meter reader and the girls observed as the dials spun much more rapidly with the incandescent, thus, using a significant amount more energy to power. University of Alaska Southeast Assistant Professor of Construction, Greg Reynolds, made a model specifically for this event to demonstrate conduction and convection in the home.He showed the girls how inadequate insulation can cause mildew, and eventually molding in walls of homes and the weatherization updates necessary to stop the cycle.

Greg Reynolds shows Sitka Girl Scouts the condensation that built up in wall insulation.

Green Girls Grow received praise from each of the hosted communities from parents, troop leaders, scouts, and professionals in the community. In fact, the event was so successful that future plans to integrate energy education into Girl Scout events across Southeast are underway.  Melissa Edwards views the event as a “huge achievement towards the mission of Forever Green” and “hopes to continue the partnership between the Sitka Conservation Society and Girl Scouts of Southeast.”

Mar 06 2012

President Obama Quotes SCS’s Favorite Conservation Author, Aldo Leopold

President Obama quoted one of SCS’s favorite authors, Aldo Leopold, during a White House Conference on Conservation on March 3rd.  Specifically, he cited the famous quote “Conservation is a positive exercise of skill and insight, not merely a negative exercise of abstinence and caution.”  Everyday at the Sitka Conservation Society, we are exercising our skills and insights as we work to find ways for Sitka to live within the majesty of the Tongass and thrive, while conserving its resources and ensuring they are there to sustain future generations.

Prior to his address, there was a panel discussion at the White House that discussed topics related to many of the land stewardship issues that SCS is working on.  One member of the panel was Maia Enzer, from the Portland based NGO Sustainable Northwest.  Maia visited Sitka in 2009 and helped us get SCS started on community-based collaborative resource management so that we can ensure that management of our Sitka Community Use Area is done in a way that responds to how we use and depend on those lands.  During her comments at the White House, Maia said, “the backbone of collaborative natural resource management efforts comes from small, rural community based organizations that have networks tin the community that connect to a lot of other communities and people [and] the accomplishments of these small community organizations is what gets to the systematic change.”  

SCS, the small community organization in the Tongass, is the best example in the region of a group that is implementing projects and initiatives on the Tongass with a new vision and using those successes to help change National Forest Policy across the nation.  As we work to connect our local network of neighbors and partners with organizations like Sustainable Northwest that help us tell our story and advocate on policy makers at a national level, we are making long-term change in public lands policy.  Thanks for the all the help and for the props at the White House Maia!!!

We applaud the White House’s attention to conservation and public lands and look forward to more positive policy changes on the Tongass.

Here is a link to video of the President’s address on Conservation:  here  (forward to min 16:55)

Here is a link to the panel discussion:  here  (forward to min 8:40)

Mar 05 2012

4H Alaska way-of-life: Following wild game from forest to stew.

The much anticipated deer stew has been put up, 37 pints worth! After months of patience, 4H members got to see their skinned and butchered deer turn into a shelf-stable food. And a delicious one at that! 4H members gathered around a large table full of ingredients that needed prepping. We rotated through different stations of washing and skinning potatoes, chopping garlic and onions, dicing carrots and celery, and slicing up deer and moose meat. We all commented on how together, as a community, we could accomplish so much. It brought me so much joy to be working alongside my new friends (young and younger..) putting up food until hunting season begins again next August.

After our raw ingredients were prepped we filled our jars with a little of this and a little of that. Potatoes, meat, carrot, onion, garlic and celery were layered in each jar and topped with salt, pepper, spices, and a little bit of a stock mix before carefully cleaning each jar rim and capping with a top and ring. The jars were then placed in two large pressure canners and once they reached a pressure of 10#s were cooked for 110 minutes. Once the timer alerted us that they were done, we turned off the heat letting the pressure and temperature come down naturally. Once it was safe to open, we removed the jars and delighted in the popping sound that comes with a finished product!

I have to say that this was an activity that I was really looking forward to. I feel more empowered when I can put up food for myself, knowing every ingredient and its source. I have learned that hunters are very close to the land, know its subtleties and patterns, and have a deep respect for the lives that they are taking for food. That respect is carried through the entire process from the hunt, to processing, and cooking. These 37 pints of deer stew carry with them stories of community and the gratitude of a life for a life. We will share these delicious jars with 4H volunteers, mentors, and elders to continue the story…

A big thank you to 4H Parent and Subsistence Biologist for the Forest Service, Jack Lorrigan for sharing this important skill with the 4H Alaska way-of-life Club!


Mar 05 2012

Fishermen Travel to Washington, DC to Advocate for Tongass Management that Prioritizes Wild Alaska Salmon

Salmon are the lifeblood of Sitka’s economy, culture, and way-of-life and are a keystone species in the temperate rainforest ecosystems of the Tongass.  Management of the Tongass has long focused on timber and historic logging practices were done in ways that severely damaged salmon runs.  The Forest Service has since learned that stream beds shouldn’t be used as logging roads and that there needs to be buffers between logging and salmon streams.  However, Forest Service management priorities and spending still overwhelmingly focus on timber harvest—even though salmon are really the drivers of the SE Alaska economy and the most valuable resource from the Tongass.

A group of fishermen are traveling to Washington, DC this week to lay out the facts for decision makers in Washington, DC.  They will be delivering a stack of letters from hundreds of people who use and depend on Salmon from the Tongass and ask for a shift in budget priorities in Tongass management.

To take action to help us protect Tongass Salmon, click here.


Read the Press Release Below on their visit below:

Fishermen to Forest Service: Grow Jobs, Protect Fish in America’s Salmon ForestGroup Asks Obama Administration, Congress to Strengthen Conservation and Restoration of Salmon and Trout Watersheds in Tongass National Forest

Juneau, A.K. — A group of Alaska commercial fishermen, anglers, guides, naturalists and tour operators are in Washington,
 D.C., this week to advocate for more conservation and restoration of fish habitat in the Tongass National Forest in Southeast Alaska. The group, together with Trout Unlimited, Alaska Program, and Sitka Conservation Society, is meeting with key lawmakers and agency leaders to seek critical changes in the management of America’s largest national forest, a top producer of wild salmon. They want conservation of critical salmon habitat and watershed restoration to become higher priorities for the U.S. Forest Service in Southeast Alaska. The group is also delivering dozens of letters from individual fishermen asking the Forest Service to make salmon a priority in the Tongass.

“Salmon and trout alone are a billion-dollar industry in Southeast Alaska that sustains more than 7,000 jo
The U.S. Forest Service is the lead agency that manages the 17-million-acre Tongass National Forest, part of the world’s largest coastal temperate rain forest that covers most of Southeast Alaska and produces tens of millions of salmon every year. Southeast Alaska commercial salmon fishermen landed nearly 74 million fish during the 2011 season, a harvest worth more than $203 million—the most valuable in the either directly or indirectly. And yet the Forest Service budget remains squarely focused on timber and road building. It doesn’t make sense given the enormous value of fish

eries in the region,” said Sheila Peterson, a Juneau commercial fisherman and co-owner of a direct marketing seafood business.

Sport fishing is also big business. Salmon and trout anglers in Southeast Alaska spent an estimated $174 million on trips, gear, and related expenses in 2007, according to economic research commissioned by Trout Unlimited. The


total economic output related to their purchases that year is estimated at $358.7 million. Salmon and trout angling also supported 2,334 jobs and generated $84.7 million in personal income in 2007. On average, sport anglers catch 900,000 salmon each year in Southeast Alaska. They also catch halibut, steelhead, trout, char, rockfish, lingcod, and other species.

Because of its stunning beauty, the Tongass draws more than 1 million tourists to Southeast Alaska every summer. Many come aboard cruise ships to view the forest’s snowcapped mountains, tidewater glaciers, pristine fjords and abundant marine and terrestrial wildlife, including brown bears, wolves and humpback whales.

Despite the bounty fishing and tourism provide to Southeast Alaska, the Forest Service budget fails to reflect this

economic reality.

The agency spends more than $25 million annually on timber sales and road building in the Tongass – an industry that supports about 200 private-sector jobs, according to the Alaska Department of Labor. At the same time, the Forest Service only invests about $1.5 million each year on watershed restoration. And yet, by the Forest Service’s own estimate, it will cost some $100 million and take 50 years at current investment rates to restore salmon-producing watersheds damaged by past logging. This funding shortfall and backlog needs to be addressed. Salmon watershed restoration will create new jobs and increase salmon productivity. More salmon will provide greater opportunity for commercial, sport, and subsistence harvest as well as additional jobs in the fishing industry.

“We hope the Forest Service will move funding in a new direction. It’s time to change the Forest

Service budget so that more money goes toward

managing the Tongass as the salmon forest it is,” said Jev Shelton, a longtime Juneau commercial fisherman who has served on many fishery boards, including the Pacific Salmon Commission.

For more than four decades, the Forest Service managed the Tongass primarily for old-growth timber produ
“There are fe

w places left in the world where wild salmon still thrive. The Tongass National Forest is one of them but we need to ensure watersheds that were damaged by past timber harvest and road building are restored to their natural conditions. The only way that’s apt to happen in a timely manner is through shifts in the Forest Service budget,” said Mark Kaelke, Trout Unlimited, Southeast Alaska Project Director.ction. But with the closure of the region’s two large pulp mills in the 1990s, the agency has begun to shift toward second-growth timber management, restoring fish-producing watersheds damaged by logging, and supporting other industries such as fishing and tourism. Trout Unlimited, Alaska P
rogram, supports the Forest Service’s transition and would like to see this policy shift reflected in a new Tongass National Forest budget that emphasizes fisheries, watershed protection and h
abitat conservation.

For more information, visit, and

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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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