Sitka Conservation Society
Apr 30 2013

Jig Saws and Jack Planes and Clamps, Oh My!

Women in Carpentry class participant, Judi, driving the wormsaw

You’re going to want to burn two and then mark it 13.5,” Judi says to her workshop buddy Linda. Linda carefully measures across a piece of hemlock harvested from Starrigavan Valley and marks it with a pencil. She pulls out the tape measure and goes over it again (measure twice and cut once!) as Judi confirms the pencil lines and arrows.  Judi grabs the ‘worm saw’ (a powered skillsaw) and starts ripping the board as Linda holds it down and observes.

After a piece of wood drops to the floor, both women carefully inspect the cut, running their fingers along the edge then nodding in approval. It’s not perfect but pretty close. “We can fix that when we sand it,” Linda says.

We’ve come a long way from our first workshop class when we built our saw horses, making sure to pad the top of them with ‘sacrificial’ wood. The sacrificial wood being scrap that we don’t mind chipping, cutting and scarring as a result of our novice woodworking abilities. Our first class began with instructions from Marcel LaPerriere, local craftsman and owner of Southeast Cedar Homes. He gave us the basic DOs and DON’Ts of the wood shop as we eyed the unfamiliar gadgets and tools that surrounded us. The next few meetings we learned how to use tools, how to change drill bits and saw blades and the difference between crosscut and plane cut. Despite our rapidly growing repertoire of skills and vocabulary, we were still short on confidence, often having to encourage one another to take the helm when it was time to start up a saw.  Now, class participants are confidently using saws, drill presses, and are continually awestruck all while being steeped in the delicious smell of fresh cut wood.  Our class is small (eight participants) but maxes out the space in the wood shop.  It is also a diverse group of women ranging from an opera singer to a retired teacher to a Sheldon Jackson summer camp organizer proficient in Chinese.

Kenley and Cindy clamping down a straight edge guide

In April SCS and the Sitka Fine Arts Camp partnered to offer a ‘Women in Carpentry Workshop’.  The workshop, a brain child of SCS board member Judi Lehman, and she thought it would tie in nicely with our young growth projects that were funded by the NFF Community Capacity and Land Stewardship program. The course provides locally harvested wood, tools, supplies and instruction from SCS board President Marcel LaPerriere.  The product of the class is quite simple: six wooden benches to be placed at the Allen Auditorium on the SJ campus.  The goal, however, is much more involved. SCS wanted to showcase young growth timber, contribute to the production of a local wood product and shed light on the quality and usefulness of young-growth timber. This class takes it one step further by providing an opportunity for women who had little to no experience with wood working to learn new skills and create something for the community.

One class member, Kenley, described why she decided to take the course: “I signed up because I really wanted to learn how to use power tools and wanted to gain skills for volunteering and life projects. I’ve learned so much already! The vocabulary and skills are foreign to me and I’ve reveled in learning the names of tools, techniques, and processes. I have a much deeper respect for how buildings are constructed and how wood objects are made. I’ve learned a lot about trees and wood and really appreciate Marcel’s dedication and patience in teaching this awesome class”.  We aren’t quite ready to start building our dream homes, but we are learning and having fun along the way. For now, I just wish I could wield a planer or skillsaw fluidly and one handed like Marcel!


Apr 26 2013

Summer Boat Tours – Back by Popular Demand

See new places, new perspectives and learn more about this wild place we live in!

Whether you are a born and bred Sitkan, or a recent transplant to the Tongass, the SCS Summer Boat Tour series offers an excellent opportunity to get out to explore and learn more about Sitka Sound and the Tongass. There will be six tours  throughout the summer, each about 2.5 hours.

These tours are for you! And we want to hear your ideas on topics and tours you would like see as a part of our Boat Tours this summer.  Visit our Facebook page, call our office (747-7509) or email Erin with your ideas.

Check back soon for updates on tour topics and tickets!

Apr 26 2013

Green Drinks!

Join SCS staff at Green Drinks, the monthly environmental get-together.  With no agenda and no membership or admission fees, Green Drinks is a nice way to have some informal conversation on whatever environmental or community topics you want to bring to the table.

This week’s event will be hosted by Tracy Gagnon, SCS’s Community Sustainability Organizer and will focus on local foods.  For more information, contact Tracy at 747-7509 or

Apr 25 2013

Parade of Species 2013


Thanks to everyone who participated in the 2013 Parade of Species!  The costumes were creative, the activities were fun, and march was a truly WILD time!

We hope that you will remember to celebrate Earth Day every day and help us here at the Sitka Conservation Society to protect the natural environment of the Tongass and promote sustainable communities in Southeast!


Best Costume Winners:

Best Use of Recycled Materials

Silas Ferguson




Most Realistic Costume

Grace Clifton




Most Creative Costume

Finnan Kelly




Best Local Animal

Lena Keilman




Photos from the 2013 Parade of Species

We would especially like to thanks the following folks for helping to make this year’s parade such a huge success:

Costume Contest Judges

Judges: Steve Ash, Rita Mounayar, Heather Riggs, Pat Kehoe

Activities and booths by: The US Forest Service, Alaska Department of Fish and Game, The National Park Service, Sitka Global Warming Group, Sitka Local Food Network, the Science Center, The Kayaani Commission, Jud Kirkness, Fish to Schools, 4H Alaska way-of-life, and Community Schools

Prizes and donations from: Harry Race, Ben Franklin, Lakeside, True Value, Botanikaand Allen Marine

Volunteers: Coral Pendell, Garrett Bauer, Josh Houston, Wendy Alderson

And everyone who made costumes, cheered on the marchers, and celebrated Earth Day with the Parade of Species!

Apr 23 2013

Science Sharing Night Monday, April 29th, 7:00 pm, UAS

Want to learn more about the genetics of Alaska yellow cedar or intertidal beetles, marine mammal bioacoustics, winter song bird hangouts, the effects of forest thinning on deer habitat, and stream chemistry?

The Second Annual Sitka Science Sharing Night from 7-8:30 p.m. on Monday, April 29, at the University of Alaska Southeast Sitka Campus Room 229 will highlight the work by several student scientists from Sitka schools, including projects conducted through the Science Mentoring program. During the past school year, these students have been active stewards of our local forest, freshwater and marine ecosystems by developing and conducting their own research studies.

The Sitka Science Sharing Night gives these students a chance to share with the general public about their projects. It will be set up just like a poster session at a scientific conference, and the students will be available to share their work and answer questions.

This event features students from Sitka High School, Mt. Edgecumbe High School, Blatchley Middle School, and Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School. Student projects are funded by the Sitka Charitable Trust, the National Forest Foundation, and the Bio-Prep Program at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

The Sitka Science Sharing Night is a joint project of the Sitka Conservation Society, Sitka Sound Science Center, UAS Sitka Campus, Sitka School District, and Mt. Edgecumbe High School. For more information, contact Kitty LaBounty at 738-0174 or Scott Harris at

Apr 23 2013

“Do the Math” Film Screening – Thurs. April 25th

In honor of Earth Week, the Sitka Conservation Society invites folks to a screening of “Do the Math,” a thought provoking and action motivating film about the battle between the fossil fuel industry and our future as a species.  This film showing is free and open to the public.

Thursday, April 25th, 7:30 pm

Larkspur Cafe
Watch the trailer:
Event details:

Apr 16 2013

Gavan Forest: The Natural History

Check out this in-depth natural history of the Gavan Forest in Sitka, put together by naturalist Richard Carstensen.  Download the report HERE.

Apr 12 2013

Sealaska Bill: A Threat to Public Lands

Take action to protect your public lands HERE.

The following letter was submitted to the Sitka Sentinel by SCS.

Dear Editor:

The current version of the Sealaska legislation is scheduled for a hearing on April 25th in the Senate Public Lands Subcommittee.  This Sealaska bill is a threat to the public lands of the Tongass and to the ways that Sitkans use the Tongass.  This legislation would transfer lands on the Tongass to Sealaska that are outside of the original boxes where they were allowed to select lands.   The legislation would affect us in Sitka because the corporation is asking for in-holdings throughout the Sitka Ranger District that are some of the most valuable areas for access and use.  The bill would allow the corporation to select in-holdings in North-Arm/Hoonah Sound, Kalinin Bay, Fick Cove, Lake Eva, Wrangell Island off Biorka, Port Banks, and many others.   On Prince of Wales Island, the corporation has  cherry-picked the lands that have the highest concentration of the remaining economically valuable cedar trees, the oldest and fastest growing second growth, and the timber stands that have the most investment made by taxpayer dollars in roads, culverts, and forest thinning.

The in-holding selections might seem familiar topic.  The corporation is selecting them in the same process they are using for Redoubt Lake.  It is claiming that fishing access areas are eligible for selection under authorities that were meant for cemeteries.  In the case of Redoubt Lake that means that one of the most important sites for public use and subsistence on the Sitka Ranger District could be privatized and owned by a corporation that has a for-profit mandate and is run by a board of directors that has created its own closed circle of power (remember when Sitkans tried to get elected to that board).  The CEO of Sealaska came to Sitka a few weeks ago and made many promises about public access.  That all sounded good, but how long is he going to be around?  None of the agreements they proposed are legally binding.  What happens when their board of directors decides that they don’t want to allow everyone to fish there anymore?  What happens when they decide that they “are obliged to make profit for their shareholders” and the best way to do that could be to capitalize on the asset of Redoubt Lake and build a lodge on the island between the two falls?  Promises made today don’t necessarily stand the test of time when lands are not in public hands and are not managed by a publically accountable entity.

For all of the above reasons, SCS will be telling members of the  Senate Public Lands Subcommittee that the Sealaska Legislation is not good for the Tongass and not good for Southeast Alaska.  Information on how to contact members of that committee can be found on the SCS website:

                                                  Andrew Thoms

                                                  Executive Director

                                                  Sitka Conservation Society


Update: Sealaska Corporation’s CEO recently issued a response to the above editorial.  He also complained about the photos below.  He called them “unethical,” “mysterious,” “misinformation.”

Of course our photos of Redoubt Falls with no trespassing signs are fabricated, that is because (thankfully) this area is still in public hands where everyone, including Sealaska shareholders, have equal rights to utilize this place.  The photos we didn’t need to fabricate are the images of Sealaska Corp’s logging practices on land they currently own on Dall Island.  (Watch this Google Earth tour to see for yourself.*)  But don’t take our word for it; take a look at the short video Hoonah’s Legacy, showing the massive clearcuts logged by Sealaska Corp that scarred that community’s landscape.  Or, visit the Sealaska Shareholders Underground’s Facebook page to hear about shareholders who disagree with the Corporation, but who have so far been suppressed by Sealaska and prevented from allowing any new voices onto the Sealaska board of directors.

Based on history and the facts, it is hard to see how allowing a profit-driven corporation like Sealaska to take away public lands from Alaskans would be “good for Sitkans, the Tongass and for Southeast Alaska.”  If you agree, please consider writing a Letter to the Editor of your local paper and share this information with your friends and community.

* This is a Google Earth tour (.kmz file).  You must have Google Earth installed on your computer to view the tour.

Please encourage your friends and relatives living in states listed below to call their Senator.

Key Senate Public Lands Subcommittee Members:

Oregon- Senator Ron Wyden (202) 224-5244

Washington- Senator Maria Cantwell (202) 224-3441

Michigan- Senator Debbie Stabenow  (202)224-4822

Colorado- Senator Mark Udall (202) 224-5941

New Mexico- Senator Mark Heinrich (202) 224-5521

Minnesota- Senator Al Franken (202) 224-5641




Apr 10 2013

SCS Recommends: Black Oystercatchers: Their Ecology and History in Sitka Sound

Black Oystercatchers: Their Ecology and History in Sitka SoundThursday April 18th, 7:30pm room 229.David Tessler is with the Fish and Game
Apr 09 2013

Take Action: Salmon, Water, Alaskans need your help

Salmon, water, and the Alaskans who depend on them need your help!

Background: Right now, the Alaska State Senate is debating whether or not they should make it more difficult for Alaskans to protect the water in their backyards for salmon habitat.  HB77, the In-Stream Water Reservations Bill, would convolute an already convoluted public process, eliminating the requirement for public comment periods.  It would also give the Department of Natural Resources Commissioner the authority to issue General Permits for industrial operations if the commissioner determines the project will not cause “significant or irreparable harm” to Alaskans and issue permits that would directly and negatively impact salmon habitat if the commissioner determines it is in the “best interest of Alaska.”

As a reminder, the Department of Natural Resources no longer values future generations—they eliminated “future generations” from their mission statement last year.

Additionally, HB77 intends to revoke certain rights from Alaskan individuals, organizations, and tribes, and gives the government of Alaska authority on whether or not salmon and water are as important as industrial development.  In other words, this bill protects Outside interests at the expense of local Alaskans.  For an example of DNR siding against Alaskans in favor of Outside interests, and why this bill is relevant to all Alaskans, click here.

Talking Points

  • Alaskans need more opportunities to preserve salmon and our unique way of life, not fewer
  • HB77 protects the right for Outside interests to take water out of salmon streams while making it more difficult for Alaskans to keep water in salmon streams
  • The bill gives DNR discretion to negatively impact salmon habitat if it is in the “Best Interest” of the State of Alaska
  • It eliminates the requirement for DNR to open public comment periods on “Best Interest Findings”
  • 95% of public testimony opposed HB77, including fishing organizations, Alaska Native Tribal councils, city councils, fishermen, hunters, and every day residents

Take Action: Time is running out on the Legislature.  To add your voice to this issue, act now!

Alaska’s fish and water need you to stand up and take action immediately.  There are two ways you can help: You can write a My Turn in the Juneau Empire, or you can contact the Alaska State Senate Coastal Caucus and let them know you oppose HB77, a bill that revokes certain rights from Alaskans, eliminates the requirement for public comment periods at DNR, and gives DNR discretion to impact salmon habitat for the benefit of Outside companies.   465-3873   465-4947   465-2828   465-4925   465-3707

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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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