This past week, I checked an usual piece of luggage with me on the plane down to Albuquerque: a box of frozen Marten, Ermine, and River Otter skulls, femurs, and intestinal parasites. I was delivering my parcel to Steve O. MacDonald and Dr. Joe Cook (who literally wrote the book on Alaskan mammals) and Jonathan Dunnum, the collections manager at the University of New Mexico Museum of Southwest Biology as part of the ISLES (Island Surveys to Locate Endemic Species) project. ISLES is attempting to create a Tongass-wide catalog of mammal species to use in future research. SCS has been collecting vole in alpine areas of Chichagof and Baranof Island for the past 3 years as part of the Wilderness Project. But it’s not just scientists and researchers who are involved.
“Trappers and hunters are clearly stakeholders in the maintenance of sustainably harvestable wildlife populations in SE Alaska and typically have the best local knowledgeable about the animals they are interested in.”
ISLES relies on trappers and hunters to do what they do best and provide specimens of furbearers and big game animals to help create an archive of mammal species throughout Southeast Alaska. The samples will be included with non-game species collected by biologists and field crews, in the archive at the University of New Mexico and will be a valuable resource for management by providing a baseline of for future studies. Check out the ISLES site to learn more about the project and to learn how you can help by collecting and contributing samples.
ISLES is a progressive type of project because it recognizes the need to involve the folks who are actually on the ground. Its a new breed of conservation biology that we are likely to see a lot more of in the future if budgets for agencies and funds for research grants decrease. Budget realities are one impetus for projects like this, but it is also just common sense. The hunters, trappers, fishermen and women, recreationists, and other folks who spend countless hours in the field already have a more intuitive understanding of the environment and the most familiarity with conditions in the field. These folks are also those with the most invested in research that promotes conservation of the very resources they rely on.
If you would like to collect specimens for the ISLES Project contact:Jon Martin Assistant Professor of Biology
Department of Natural Sciences
University of Alaska Southeast-Sitka
1332 Seward St. Sitka, AK 99835
All of us at SCS are excited about this hybridization of science and in situ, on-the-ground data collection. Soon, we will be compiling all of the citizen science initiatives that Sitkans can take part in on our Citizen Science page. Be sure to check back as we populate that page to see how you can get involved.
US Forest Service
Alaska Department of Fish and Game
US Fish and Wildlife Service
University of Alaska Southeast
Sitka High School
Sitka Conservation Society
This school year, SCS partnered with the Sitka High School Construction Tech program to explore and demonstrate ways that young-growth red alder and Sitka spruce from the Tongass can be used in building and woodworking. The projects that resulted are profiled, along with others from throughout the region, in “Alaskan Grown: A Guide to Tongass Young Growth Timber and its Uses,” published by SCS this month.
Whether you are a builder, woodworker, consumer, or simply interested in the growing conversation around Tongass young-growth timber, the guide profiles projects throughout the region and shares practical insights about the quality and performance of local young-growth in a variety of applications. It also discusses basic challenges and opportunities surrounding the eventual U.S. Forest Service transition to young-growth timber harvest on the Tongass, which was announced in 2010.
Funding for this guide was provided by the U.S. Forest Service and the National Forest Foundation as part of an ongoing effort to support sustainable timber harvest and local markets in the Tongass National Forest. The purpose is to invigorate markets for Tongass young-growth timber products, particularly in Southeast Alaska, by exploring their performance in a variety of interior and exterior applications. By sharing practical information, broadening the knowledge base, and connecting local producers with consumers, we hope to help builders, woodworkers, resource managers and others make more informed decisions about using Tongass young-growth.
Check out the guide to learn more about:
- Why Tongass young-growth is important right now
- What the most common species are, and how they can be used
- Where Tongass young growth is being used, including in the Sitka High School construction tech program, U.S. Forest Service public recreation cabins, and private homes
- When experts predict economic harvest of young-growth will be possible on the Tongass
- What it will take to start shaping a sustainable local young-growth industry with the opportunities we have today
We know there is significant interest in the use of young growth, and we believe Southeast Alaska communities can sustain small young-growth timber operations that support local expertise and sustainable economic development. Harvesters, processors, builders, and consumers throughout the region are interested in realizing this vision. We hope that this guide will be one small step toward expanding and informing this conversation.
We’ve been spreading the message for a few years now that Sitka is a national leader at countering climate change through its commitment to renewable energy and energy independence. In the past we’ve touted Sitka’s investment in hydropower and the many efforts Sitkans have taken to reduce their carbon footprints. We are now pleased, but not entirely surprised, to share a link to the National Park Service, which is seeking summer staff to work on climate change issues in Sitka.
At just 113 acres, the Sitka National Historical Park is among the smaller national parks in the country, but, like the small community of Sitka, it recognizes that seemingly small steps are crucial in taking on climate change. The park’s summer 2013 intern will be conducting stream flow and water quality tests in the Indian River as part of an effort to document the impacts of climate change in Sitka. This is critical work, particularly given the potential influence the Park Service has on driving policy.
In order to fight climate change, we need scientifically valid evidence of the impacts on climate change, and, as much as we wish we were not seeing the impacts of climate change in Sitka, we are grateful the Park Service here is stepping forward and investing resources. For more information on the program: Visit the NPS Position Description
Background: In Sitka, we take climate change seriously–so seriously that the community just invested $96 million dollars into a hydroelection project at Blue Lake that will greatly cut our fossil fuel consumption.
The project came at an enormous price, but the benefits to the climate and our quality of life are worth the price. Unfortunately, most of that cost has fallen on the shoulders of our community. Despite efforts by SCS and the City of Sitka, the project has received no money from the federal government and only a small amount from the State of Alaska (which is a small fraction of the subsidies and support given to oil corporations every year). For the most part, the burden has fallen to the community of Sitka because oil companies have invested so much of their resources into convincing politicians that funding big oil is more important than funding sustainable communities. The result is that we are far behind where we need to be in moving our country and our economy in a direction away from fossil fuels to a renewable energy based economy.
Take Action: SCS is asking Senator Murkowski and the Senate Energy Committee to stand up for small towns, the climate, and a sustainable future. Please help us take action to demand that our politicians take climate change seriously. Write or call Senator Murkowski today.
Write:Senator Lisa Murkowski 709 Hart Senate Building Washington, DC 20510
Call:D.C.: 202-224-6665 Juneau: 907-586-7277
Check out the letter we wrote below for ideas.
Dear Senator Murkowski and Members of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee:
Climate change is the greatest threat to our way-of-life and national security. Climate change is caused by human activity that put amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere at levels that are changing global climate and weather patterns. We know that these changes are disrupting agricultural production, global shipping, and causing more extreme weather events that put our coastal cities at risk.
Human caused climate change is happening because of our use of fossil fuels. Oil, gas, and coal have formed through biological and geological processes over millions of years. Human activity in the last 300 years since the beginning of the industrial revolution has burned a large number of those deposits of fossil fuels and put amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere far above normal natural/geological processes. It is known that the burning of fossil fuels has increased the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from 275 Parts-per-million to 390 parts-per-million. It is impossible for this change to happen without severe side-effects.
At the same time that the impacts of climate change are becoming apparent, we are seeing the end of fossil fuels. At this point, we must make greater investment and go to greater lengths to extract oil, gas, and coal from the earth. We are being forced to go into extreme oceans like the Chukchi and Beaufort Sea where conditions are extremely difficult and risky to operate in. We are forced to drill much deeper into the earth in areas of extremely high pressures as well as drill in very deep ocean waters. We are forced to use techniques like fracking that have consequences that we aren’t even fully aware of to access oil and gas. All of the above is being done without acknowledging the inevitable fact that fossil fuels are a non-renewable resource that will run out.
American citizens are relying on your leadership. And yet, more and more it seems that Congressional policy seeks to favor the biggest corporate donors rather than take action that equates to good policy for the future of our nation. We have known about climate change for decades. Oil companies have invested in distracting the public and calling into doubt the science—just like big tobacco did when public policy to reduce tobacco deaths was being initiated. The result is that we are far behind where we need to be in moving our country and our economy in a direction away from fossil fuels and carbon emissions to a renewable energy based economy.
Despite the lack of significant and meaningful action from our elected leaders in Washington, DC, Americans across the country are stepping up and taking action. Here in our small town of Sitka, Alaska, where we live very close to the natural environment and can see the changes and impacts of climate change first-hand, we have decided to take action in a big way. This past December we broke ground on a $96 Million dollar, salmon-friendly hydroelectric expansion project. Most of the cost of this project is on the shoulders of the community members in Sitka. We have received support from the State of Alaska (which is a small fraction of the subsidies and support given to oil corporations) but we have received no help from the federal government.
We are asking you what you are going to do in this next session of Congress to take meaningful action to move our national energy policy in a direction that moves us away from a reliance on fossil fuels and reduces carbon emissions? In Sitka, we are tired of waiting for you to take action and we did it on our own. We are tired of the dynamic in Washington, DC and we implore you to take action for the sake of the future generations of our nation.
The Sitka Conservation Society
Intern Job Title: “Using Story-telling and Media for Social Change Organizing” Internship
Location: Sitka, Alaska
Description and Goals of Assignment:
The native people who have occupied Southeast Alaska for thousands of years learned to live with the land and the resources the landscape provided. For them, living locally wasn’t a trendy thing to do, but was a reality that was dictated by geography, climate, and available resources. Southeast Alaska as a place—the actual landscape—helped to define the culture of the people that lived there. One of the cultural developments that the landscape helped create was the use of story-telling as a method of passing along customs, practices, skills, and ideals from one generation to the next and amongst clans and extended cultural networks and groups. As anthropologist Thomas Thornton notes in his seminal work Being and Place Amongst the Tlingit, “Events, beings, objects, [ideals] and places typically become at.óow(sacred) when they are crystallized as encapsulating images and consecrated through use.”
At the Sitka Conservation Society, we have learned from and adopted these story-telling customs as a way to share our conservation ideals and conservation ethic and the story-telling practice continues to be an important part of our Southeast Alaskan landscape. As noted by the Island Institute’s Gary Holthus in 2010, “One secret of creating an enduring culture is to choose those healthy stories…” For the Sitka Conservation Society, for the Native People of Sitka, and for the diversity of groups that constitute Sitka and Southeast Alaska, those healthy stories that create an enduring conservation culture are the stories that teach us how we can use and depend on our natural environment while also protecting and preserving that environment. Some of the stories that we tell that exemplify this include:
- The stories of the original activists who stepped up despite all odds to save a part of the landscape that was slated for destruction
- The right way to hunt, fish, trap, and gather resources from the environment to both be successful and to ensure that the resources aren’t depleted so that we can provide for the continuity of that resource for future generations
- The story of the lives lived that exemplify community and conservation ideals and service to the community to built and sustain
- The stories of the animals, plants, fungi, and processes of the ecosystem and their interrelatedness and how they work together to create the whole
In the past, stories were told around campfires and at potlatch celebrations. We still do that today. But even more, with the access we have to technology and media, we have an infinite number of mediums where we can tell our stories and instill our values and strive to create our enduring culture of conservation and sustainability and reach much larger audiences.
As part of our work for the Fish, People and Place Campaign on the Tongass in 2013, we will strive to integrate and recreate the native cultural traditions of shagoon, our sense of place and being, across our community and region, using storytelling. We will use stories to both help define and shape who we are as a community and a place; we will also use these stories to tell others who we are, to share the lessons that we have learned, to inspire in others, and to promote a sense of a need to protect and conservation this place and the livelihoods and lifestyles that are unique to the Tongass and Southeast Alaska. We will tell these stories using 21st century media and we will reach new and varied audiences in innovative and effective ways.
- Community Organizing: build relationships and networks amongst community members who use and depend on the natural environment of the Tongass
- Share stories that exemplify our conservation ideals and demonstrate people finding ways to live sustainably within the natural environment of the Tongass and build their communities
- Use diverse media to share our stories and reach diverse audiences (local, regional, state-wide, and national)
Document the ways that the people who live in Southeast Alaska exist in a close relationship with the natural environment that surrounds them. Document the conservation ethic and values that have evolved alongside the lives and livelihoods of people of Southeast Alaska that co-exist in a close relationship with the natural environment. Use photography, audio, video, and media to share these stories and values.
- Spend time with Sitkans and Southeast Alaskans who use and depend on the natural environment including fishermen, tour guides, subsistence gatherers, scientists and researchers, land managers, contractors, etc.
- Use informal interviews to collect and document unique stories and relationships
- Use photography, writing, video, and other media to document stories
- Use innovative media to share stories and ideals with larger audiences
- Use creative and innovative approaches to tell new types of stories that foster increased knowledge and understanding and promote civic and environmental action.
- Ability to effectively work with people of diverse backgrounds
- High level of problem solving ability; high level of ability to work independently; high level of ability to adapt and innovate
- Demonstrated ability to document stories and represent ideals through writing, photography, and/or video
- Knowledge of Southeast Alaska
- Ability to work for extended periods of time in the outdoors, especially in maritime and Wilderness environments; WFR, Leave No Trace training, or Wilderness Leadership experience/certification preferred
- Master Degree level experience in field pertinent to the position
- Demonstrated knowledge and experience in conservation issues and philosophy
This is a paid internship. Amount to be determined by Alaska Conservation Foundation.
Since the Forest Service first announced its Tongass Transition Framework in early 2010, the Sitka Conservation Society has both partnered with the agency and sought models to demonstrate ways Tongass second growth timber can be used locally and sustainably. We know there is a significant interest in the use of local wood, and we believe Southeast Alaska communities can sustain small second-growth timber operations and mills. Local builders are interested in realizing this vision. However the Forest Service still needs a little convincing to move away from a dependence on unsustainable old growth logging. With the help of a National Forest Foundation grant, we recently donated 1,800 board feet of local young growth Pacific red alder to the Sitka High School industrial arts department for students to use in building night stands. Our hope is if students can successfully use this local wood in their first-ever carpentry projects – and perhaps discover a few of its quirks – local builders and the Forest Service will take note, and give more consideration to local second growth. To learn more about the Sitka High industrial arts classes’ use of local alder, listen to this article by KCAW radio.
Salmon are the backbone of the economy and the way-of-life in Southeast Alaska. Many of our regional leaders recognize the importance of salmon for Southeast Alaska and recently worked with the Sitka Conservation Society to articulate why Salmon are important and the efforts they are taking to protect and sustain our Wild Salmon Populations. With support from the State of Alaska Sustainable Salmon Fund and Trout Unlimited Alaska, SCS helped to produce a series of “Targeted, effective, and culturally competent messages on the importance of wild salmon and salmon habitat will be created that are customized to appeal to specific Southeast Alaska communities.”
The work of the Sitka Conservation Society strives to find the common ground that we all have to the natural world that surrounds us. We work to build upon this common ground to chart a course for policy, practices, and personal relationships that create an enduring culture of conservation values alongside natural resource management that provides for current and future generations. In Alaska, we have in Salmon an opportunity to do things right. We are proud when are leaders recognize and support this vision and take actions that manifest this support. Listen to what they have to say:
Listen to: Senator Mark Begich
“We have an incredible salmon resource in Southeast Alaska. Did you know that salmon provide a 1 Billion dollar industry that powers the local economy? And that catching, processing and selling salmon puts 1 in 10 Southeast Alaskans to work? Salmon is big business throughout Southeast Alaska and symbolizes the richness and bounty of the Tongass National Forest. Healthy and abundant salmon–something we can all be proud of!”
Listen to: Senator Lisa Murkowski
“Since I was a young girl growing up in Southeast the region has been sustained because of the diversity of our economy, and a key part of that diversity is our salmon which fuel a 1 Billion dollar commercial fishery annually. Not to mention the sport fisheries’ economic contributions. Catching, processing and selling salmon accounts for 10% of all regional jobs. Everyone is lucky to live in a place that produces such bountiful fisheries. Healthy and abundant salmon–something we can all be proud of!”
Listen to: Dale Kelly – Alaska Troller’s Association
“Did you ever think that an old log lying in the stream might be good for salmon? Turns out it is! A fallen tree creates pools and eddies where salmon like to lay eggs. These areas are also nurseries for young salmon. Back in the day, people used to clear logs from salmon streams, but that’s no longer allowed and restoration work is underway in some rivers. Healthy forests mean healthy salmon–something we can all be proud of!”
Listen to: Bruce Wallace – United Fishermen of Alaska
“Did you know that conserving and restoring salmon habitat means jobs for Southeast Alaskans? Salmon already employ about 1 in 10 people here. Restoring salmon watersheds damaged in the past means more fish, bigger overall catches, and more jobs. With support from the Alaska Sustainable Salmon Fund, forest restoration projects are underway in the Tongass National Forest. Healthy forests mean healthy salmon–something we can all be proud of!
Listen to: Sencer Severson – Salmon Troller
“Southeast Alaskans love our rare spells of hot, dry weather, but heat and sunshine can be bad for salmon–in fact, they like shade. That’s why our towering trees in the Tongass National Forest are so important for our salmon to reproduce. Leaving trees along salmon streams provides essential shade. It also prevents erosion and keeps rivers in their natural channels. In the Tongass, healthy forests mean healthy salmon!”
“Alaska’s sustainable salmon management depends on good information. That’s why technicians may ask to look at salmon you’ve caught. Fish with the adipose fin removed usually means the salmon had a tiny wire ta implanted in side when they were juveniles. These tags provide managers with important information on the origin of the stock. Healthy and abundant salmon–something we can all be proud of!”
Thanks to everyone who came out to the 2012 WildFoods Potluck! Check out the photos, get an update on the prize winners, and even see the presentation on SCS’s Restoration work below.
And the Winners Are:
Most Filling (Judges: Courtney Bobsin and Paul Killian)
Ellen Frankenstein—Crab Loaf
Chris Leeseberg—Lingcod Curry
Prizes: Pickled Beach Asparagus (donated by Gimbal Botanicals) and a Eating Alaska DVD donated by Ellen Frankenstein
Best Dish/ Most Wild (Judges: Jud Kirkness and Wendy Alderson)
Linda Wilson—Potato pepper pickle pea salad
Kerri Fish—Panang Curry with halibut cheeks
Prizes: $100 gift certificate to Alaska’s Own (co sponsored by AO and SCS) and a homemade hemlock/cedar cutting board made by Spencer Severson with a Victorknox knife donated by Murray Pacific
Best Side (Judges: Marsh Skeele and Tachi Sopow)
Kerry O’toole–venison, goat cheese, and pickled crab apple
Prizes: one night paid in a FS cabin and two summer boat cruise tickets (both prizes sponsored by SCS)
Best Dessert (Judges: Fred Fayette, Veronica, and Kerri)
Darlene Orr –Cloud berry bites
Prize: $30 gift certificate donated by the Larkspur Cafe
Most Creative/Artistic (Judges: Chelsea Wheeler and Elena Gustafson)
Judy Lehman–salmon lingnon berry pizza
Prize: $60 gift basket donated by WinterSong Soap Co.
SCS’s Watershed Restoration Mission presented by Scott Harris
2012 Potluck Photo Gallery
Background: The US Forest Service has adopted the Tongass Transition Framework, a program intended to shift forest management away from the out-dated and ill-fated old growth logging paradigm toward management that support multiple uses of the forest, including recreation, restoration, subsistence, and second-growth management. This is an encouraging recognition of the region’s important natural resources, but the figures don’t match the Forest Service’s transition plan. Check out the figures here.
For example, the Forest Service still spends over $22 million a year on logging and road building, but only $6 million on recreation and tourism and $8 million on restoration and watershed. Our fishing industry relies on healthy watersheds and restoring damaged salmon stream. Our tourism industry relies on recreational facilities and wildplaces for visitors to get the Alaska experience. It just so happens that these are also the two biggest industries in Southeast, together supporting over 15,000 jobs and providing just under $2 BILLION to the local economy. Logging on the other hand only supports 200 jobs.
Take Action: Please ask the Forest Service to follow through with their Transition Framework and put their money where their mouth is. Write to the Undersecretary of Natural Resources, Harris Sherman.
Contact:Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell U.S. Dept. of Agriculture 1400 Independence Ave. S.W. Washington, D.C. 20250
Please also send a copy to SCS at email@example.com so we can hand-deliver all of your letters to the Undersecretary himself in Washington, DC.
Some key point to include in your letter:
- Tourism and fishing are the two largest economic drivers in Southeast Alaska.
- Logging and road building cost tax payers $22.1M annually, while the Forest Service only spends $6.1 M annually on tourism and $8.1M annually on fisheries and watershed management. BUT, the timber industry only supports 200 jobs— tourism supports 10,200 and fishing supports 7,200.
- The Forest Service has adopted the Tongass Transition Framework, a program to transition from timber harvesting in roadless areas and old-growth forests to long-term stewardship contracts and young growth management. This is an encouraging recognition of the need to protect the region’s natural resources and fundamental economic drivers: tourism and fishing, BUT the Forest Service needs to reflect this transition in their budget.
- Be sure to include your personal connection to the Tongass, it’s forests and natural resources.
- Also, be sure to include how you rely on the Tongass—for subsistence, recreation, business, etc.
Example: Here’s an example letter I wrote. Feel free to use this as a template:Your Address Here Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell U.S. Dept. of Agriculture 1400 Independence Ave. S.W. Washington, D.C. 20250 Dear Chief Tidwell: I am writing out of concern for my home. I live in Sitka, Alaska, a small fishing community in Southeast Alaska surrounded by the Tongass National Forest. Our entire economy revolves around our natural resources. I have been a guide for many years with a sea kayak tourism company. When my clients, or really anyone, come up to see Alaska they want to see three things: bears, forests, and salmon. Luckily for me as a guide, if you find one of them, you’ll find the others. For instance, if you find a salmon stream, you’d better be on the look-out for a bear; if you want to find a good salmon stream, go to the healthiest, oldest forest; and if you want to find a stand of big healthy trees, follow the salmon and bears. Just as the bears, salmon, and tress are connected, so too are our industries: tourism, fishing, and timber. In Sitka, we’ve already seen that poor logging practices kill our fishing industry by destroying the spawning-streams, the birthplaces of our salmon populations. Without standing forests and salmon fishing, tourism wanes in response. Recently, though, we have also seen that if all of these industries are balanced, our communities benefit as a whole. Small-scale logging, responsible fishing, and eco-friendly tourism have been growing at increasing rates and are the model for a new future for the Tongass. In Southeast, we are trying to build a sustainable future, and we are succeeding. My concern for my home stems from your agency’s spending priorities. Like any healthy and productive systems, our economy and your budget need to be proportionate and well-balanced. So, why does your agency spend just $6.1 million on recreation and tourism and $8.1 million on fisheries, but about $25 million annually on timber and road-building? That is certainly not a balance, and considering that fishing is our largest industry and tourism is the second in line, it is nowhere near proportionate. As the Forest Service, you say that your job is “caring for the land and serving people.” To care for the land and serve people in Southeast (and anyone who values these wild places) please redistribute your budget priorities to reflect the real situation on the Tongass. Imagine if we invested $25 million in salmon habitat restoration and recreation instead of timber. In four years, we will have completed all of the restoration projects needed on the Tongass. Compare that to the 50 years it will take at current rates. Speaking for all of us in Southeast Alaska, we cannot wait 50 years. Thank you for your consideration. Sincerely: Adam Andis
When I was in the Tongass it became clear that it is one of the few remaining wild places in America. It is an ecosystem with a deep cultural significance, beauty, and wonder. During the time we spent in Sitka we were able to meet fisherman of the charter, commercial, and subsistence trades alike. We were able to meet with community members and local politicians to see the importance salmon and the Tongass forest have on each of their daily lives and the community’s economy as a whole. We were also fortunate enough to witness the amazing and significant work many individuals and advocacy groups are doing to see to it that there are lots of opportunities to use, enjoy, and care for the lands and waters of the Tongass.
Despite being over 3,000 miles away in Galesburg, IL, I wanted to continue to show my support for the prioritizing of watershed restoration and salmon habitats in the Tongass. I started talking to my classmates who had come to Alaska with me and we decided to talk to others who have never been there, and informed our peers about the Tongass and its salmon. It turns out that the message was pretty simple- we told students about the two-fold mission statement of the Forest Service: (a.) to make sure that America’s forests and grasslands are in the healthiest condition they can be and (b.) to see to it that you have lots of opportunities to use, enjoy, and care for the lands and waters that sustain us all- and we told them about what we saw in the Tongass and the surrounding communities. The response was empowering. We soon held a Salmon Advocacy Party where admission was free aside from personal advocacy. Each student was asked to write a letter to the Chief of the Forest Service describing why the Tongass and particularly salmon habitat restoration was important to them. This event helped many students, who otherwise would not have been engaged by this particular environmental issue, become interested and engaged in advocating for the health of the Tongass and the surrounding community.