Sitka Conservation Society

About Andrew

Andrew Thoms, Executive Director, Andrew Thoms grew up in rural Upstate New York State. After studying Environmental Sciences at SUNY Plattsburgh, he worked for 10 years in Latin America as an environmental specialist in international development projects. Most of his projects focused on the interface between the sustainable use of natural resources and the conservation of tropical biodiversity. One of his favorite jobs was developing and integrating new techniques for cultivating coffee in an environmentally sustainable way on a Guatemalan Coffee farm that he managed for a few years. Andrew received a Master’s degree in Conservation Biology and Sustainable Development at the University of Wisconsin where he concentrated his studies on conservation and economics. Andrew enjoys being outdoors hunting, birdwatching, fishing, and exploring.

Aug 11 2014

Living with the Land: Seaweed Harvest

“Living with the land” means having knowledge and familiarity with the natural environment that surrounds you.  Part of that knowledge is knowing what are the edible plants in the environment and when they are ready for harvest.  On the outer coast of Alaska in the Tongass National Forest, that also means knowing what seaweeds are edible.  Knowing Seaweeds means knowing when they are in best conditions for harvest, how they are processed, and what they can be used for.

Although there are great books on identifying plants and seaweeds and recipes for preparing, sometimes the best information (and most locally pertinent), comes from spending time with elders and listening to what they have learned over their lifetimes.

In this video, SCS staff Scott Harris, Tracy Gagnon, and Adam Andis spent a morning with long-time SCS board member Bob Ellis and absorbed some of his wisdom about seaweeds in the intertidal zones of the Sitka Sound.


May 30 2014

In Memory of Greg Killinger

Greg Killinger fell in love with Southeast Alaska when he volunteered with the US Forest Service in 1983.  During that first summer, he worked in fisheries surveying dozens of streams on Baranof and Chichagof Islands and other places on the Northern Tongass.  This first summer was enough to convince him that this was where he wanted to be.  He spent his next 30 years on the Tongass doing great things for our public lands and the natural world. Greg grew up in western Oregon.  He graduated from Oregon State University with a Bachelor’s degree in Fisheries and Wildlife Science.  He went on to complete a master’s degree in Natural Resource Management. Greg married his wife Lisa Petro, a local Sitkan, in 1990.

We worked very close with Greg in his position as the Tongass lead staff officer for Fisheries, Wildlife, Watershed, Ecology, Soils, and Subsistence.  Greg held that post and worked under the Forest Supervisor from the Sitka Forest Service office.  In that position, he oversaw and helped with all the programs across the Tongass for fisheries and watersheds.  Greg was a key partner and helped build important relationships between the Sitka Conservation Society and the Forest Service.  With him, we worked together on salmon habitat restoration projects like the Sitkoh River Restoration, restoration projects on Kruzof Island, and many other salmon-related projects across the entire Tongass.

Our working relationship with Greg and his employees was so close that we even shared staff.  In 2011, SCS and Greg developed a position we called the Tongass Salmon Forest Resident.  SCS funded the position and they worked under Greg.  The position’s goal was to “tell-the-story” of all the innovative and important programs that Greg managed on the Tongass that protected, enhanced, and restored salmon habitat.  When SCS created the position, our goal was to shine the light on this great work.  Greg put the spotlight on his staff and the partners that he worked with to make the Tongass’s Fisheries and Watershed programs successful.  That was the kind of leader that he was:  he never wanted to take credit but always wanted to empower others and build more leadership and capacity.

That initial project led to two similar positions in 2012 and 2013.  Greg worked with SCS staff to make two beautiful short films that shared the story of important fisheries management programs.  One, called “Restoring America’s Salmon Forest”, illustrated a project Greg helped orchestrate that improved the health of the Sitkoh River—a major salmon producer damaged by past logging.  The other, “Subsistence in Southeast Alaska: The Tongass National Forest’s Fisheries Resource Monitoring Program”, showcases the importance of Tongass salmon for subsistence use. This film also highlights important joint fisheries projects that Greg’s program created with various Tribes across the Tongass. These programs continue to empower Native Alaskans to monitor important salmon runs across the region.  Greg understood the importance of sharing the story of Tongass programs with the larger public. He was driven to  showcase the importance of this forest in producing salmon and share how the Forest Service’s staff cares for salmon, fisheries, and wildlife habitat.  These films—and the many additional products that came from these partnerships—were catalyzed by Greg. Despite his heavy involvement, few recognized it was he who made them happen. Again, that was just the type of leader he was.  He empowered and inspired us as a key catalyst that made things happen but did so from the background, never seeking credit or recognition.

Greg cleaning a halibut after a day out fishing

Greg was also a serious outdoorsman.  He loved fishing for king salmon in the early summer and dip-netting for sockeye in July.  He was a very accomplished alpine hunter whose passion was chasing after sheep in the Alaska interior.  Greg did a number of epic hunts solo.  He once shared the story of a solo mountain goat hunt that he did during a particularly dry summer. He became severely dehydrated high in the mountains.  At one point he was crawling into a gorge looking for water while hallucinating because he had already been without water and under the sun for 2 days (in a rainforest!).  He did get his goat in the end though.

That type of solo hunting in big mountains really characterized the kind of person Greg was– not macho and he didn’t do any of that to show-off or to be the guy that got the biggest trophy– rather, he did those hunts for the pure challenge and as the highest form of communing with the natural world of Alaska.  Greg loved wildlife. He loved the land and the water and the oceans. He loved the ecosystems of Alaska and all the natural processes that tied them all together.   Hunting for him was one of the many ways that he was part of those ecosystems and part of how he connected with the natural world.

Greg didn’t just challenge himself on Dall Sheep hunts in the Alaska Range.  Greg took on enormous challenges in the work that he did and with the same calm and unassuming manner that he talked about his extreme outdoor exploits.  One isn’t the type of leader that Greg exemplified or is responsible for the variety and complexity of programs that Greg oversaw on a whim.  In fact, balancing all the issues and programs that Greg oversaw was more of a challenge than the hunts he loved so much.  Protecting salmon habitat under pressure from development, finding the resources and coordinating the partners to restore critical salmon systems, bringing together extremely diverse interests to work together, and being responsible for defining the strategy for how our largest National Forest deals with Climate Change are just the tip of the iceberg of what Greg did in his day-to-day.  In most likelihood, those extreme hunts for Greg were actually a simplification of life for him: a situation where the most logical rules of nature are paramount and where the most basic instinctual conflicts of man-vs-nature and man-vs-himself are played out amongst the most perfect and beautiful of our planet’s natural creation.

Greg died suddenly, unexpectedly, and in his prime.  The one and only grace of his passing is the fact that it happened on a mountainside, in the arms of the beautiful forest he loved, and on one of the most spectacular spring days there ever was in Sitka.  He enjoyed that last day to its fullest  fishing for King Salmon in the morning, gardening, and then a trip up the mountain.

Greg’s unexpected passing left all of us who knew him shocked.  We lost a mentor that we admired, a colleague that inspired us, and a friend that we could always count on.  Greg came to the Tongass and when he left, he left it a better place.  We will always remember him and we will always strive to be as good a person as he was.

Written by:  Andrew Thoms, Bethany Goodrich, Jon Martin, Kitty Labounty; May 30th, 2014

Video and Slideshow by: Bethany Goodrich, Corrine Ferguson, Pat Heur and the great help of Lisa, Su Meredith and all who scanned photos, dug through the archives and even digitized slides to memorialize Greg

Note:  Greg Killinger will be added to the Sitka Conservation Society’s Living Wilderness Celebration Board which honors the people who cherish and protect the wild and natural environment of the Tongass and have a passion for Wilderness.  The above essay will be added to a book that tells the story of the people we honor and forever celebrate their lives and actions.  In this way, we will continue to draw inspiration from Greg and all the others whose lives we celebrate.

Boating home after a successful trip fishing for kings with Steve and Kari Paustian and Bethany Goodrich

Jan 03 2014

Subsistence in Southeast Alaska: The Tongass National Forest Service’s Fisheries Resource Monitoring Program

Subsistence in Southeast Alaska from Sitka Conservation Society on Vimeo.

Although we often associate our National Forests with trees and silviculturalists, BY FAR, the most valuable resource that the Tongass National Forest provides is in the production of all 5 species of wild Pacific salmon. Managing salmon habitat and the fish populations within the forest is one of the key roles of National Forest Service staff in Alaska.  The Tongass National Forest is the largest National Forest in the United States.  Its 17 million acres is home to 32 communities that use and very much depend on the resources that this forest provides.

On this National Forest, fisheries and watershed staff are probably the most critical positions on the entire Forest and are responsible for the keystone species in the temperate rainforest ecosystem—Salmon–a $1 Billion per year commercial fishery that serves up delicious salmon to people around the nation and the world, not to mention subsistence harvests that feed thousands of rural community members in Alaska.  These staff also carry the legacy of thousands of years of sustainable management on their shoulders.

Like nothing else, salmon have shaped the cultures and the lifestyle of the peoples and communities of Southeast Alaska.  The Tlingit and Haida people who have called the Tongass home for thousands of years, have learned and adapted to the natural cycles of salmon.  Deeply held cultural beliefs have formed unique practices for “taking care of” and ensuring the continuance of salmon runs.  As documented by Anthropologist Thomas Thornton in his book, Being and Place Among the Tlingit, “the head’s of localized clan house groups, known as yitsati, keeper of the house, were charged with coordinating the harvest and management of resource areas” like the sockeye salmon streams and other important salmon runs.

The staff of the Fisheries and Watershed program has integrated Alaska Native organizations, individuals, and beliefs into salmon and fisheries management programs on the Tongass and have hired talented Alaska Native individuals as staff in the USDA National Forest Service.  Through the efforts of the Fisheries and Watershed program and its staff, a variety of formal agreements, joint programs, and multi-party projects that manage and protect our valuable salmon resources have been developed.  The programs on the Tongass are case-studies for the rest of the world where lands and resources are owned by the public while being managed through the collaborative efforts of professional resource managers in government agencies, local peoples with intimate place-based knowledge, and involve multi-party stakeholders who use and depend on the resource.

The Tongass is America’s Salmon Rainforest and the Forest Service’s Fisheries Resource Monitoring Program is a stellar example of how we manage a National Forest to produce and provide salmon for people across the entire country as well as the people who call this forest their home.

Mar 11 2013

Sealaska Continues to Pursue a “Constellation of In-holdings” Across important areas on the Tongass

Senator Lisa Murkowski has reintroduced the Sealaska Lands Legislation, with the new version of the bill containing five selections in the Sitka area, some of which are in crucial subsistence and recreation areas.

The Sitka-area selections are 15.7 acres at Kalinin Bay, 10.6 acres at North Arm, 9 acres at Fick Cove, 10.3 acres at Lake Eva,  and 13.5 acres at Deep Bay.


Background: Murkowski’s legislation, known as S.340, is the fourth version of the Sealaska Lands Legislation to be introduced in the last eight years.  Like the three previous versions, the primary focus of this Legislation is to allow the Sealaska Corporation to make land selections outside the boundaries it agreed upon following the passage of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act.  The Legislation would lead to the privatization of over 70,000 acres of the Tongass and grant Sealaska access to substantially more old growth forest than if it made its selections within the previously agreed upon boundaries.

In fairness to Murkowski and Sealaska, the latest version of the Legislation is a significant improvement on prior versions of the Legislation, with the addition of timber stream buffers, removal of proposed “Natives Futures” development sites from the Sitka area, and the inclusion of new provisions for subsistence access in cultural and historic sites.

Most of the development lands in the Legislation are on Prince of Wales Island, and all of the Sitka-area selections are deceptively-labeled “cemetery and historic” sites.  From the time the first version of the Legislation was introduced, the Sitka Conservation Society has held the position that we do not oppose Native management of important Native cultural and historic sites.  Our problem has been that from our experience and review of agency practices concerning previous historic site applications, including that at Redoubt Falls near Sitka, the law is so loosely interpreted by the federal agencies tasked with determining what qualifies as a cemetery/historical site that virtually anything can be considered “historic.”  Indeed, we have seen little evidence to the historic value of most of the sites selected by Sealaska.

Under the new Legislation, Sealaska has selected 76 “cemetery and historic” sites around Southeast Alaska.  For years we have said that the Tongass National Forest is large, but its greatest resources are concentrated in small areas like the mouths of streams and in safe anchorages.  Thus, some of the spots with the richest resources in the Tongass might only take up a few acres.  Many of Sealaska’s proposed cemetery/historic sites selections are small in terms of acres, but the effect of making these spots private inholdings can be very “large” such as when they are located at “choke points” of access or cover the entire mouth of a stream.  It might only takes two acres at the mouth of a stream to, in effect, control the whole stream.

SCS have told Senators Begich and Murkowski that we oppose the Sealaska Legislation, and we encourage you to do the same. SCS — Sealaska Murkowski letter to view the letter expressing our concerns.  Please contact them and explain how you and your family use and rely on the parcels selected in the Legislation.


 The latest version of the Sealaska Lands Bill includes six cemetery and historic sites in the Sitka area.  While some of these sites may contain important cultural artifacts, at this time we have seen little evidence and we would like to see a lot more.  From past experience, most notably our work on Sealaska’s pending selection of Redoubt Falls near Sitka, the standards for what qualifies as “historic” are extremely broad.  Actual archeological evidence is not needed, and often sites are deemed historic by second hand oral accounts.  Furthermore, from our experience, the agencies tasked with enforcing these loose standards are generally unwilling to raise objections or apply the law to its full extent.

 As noted, we have been given little information about the historic significance of the Sitka-area sites.  About all we know is the site locations as listed here:

- Kalinin Bay Village (site 119).  This is a tourism spot and is used for hunting and fishing.  As recently as the 1960s, it was used as a fish camp, which included a store and diesel generating plant.

- Lake Eva Village (site 120).  This includes trail access.

- Deep Bay Village (site 181).  This area is widely used for hunting and fishing.  The 1975 field investigation found no evidence of occupation.

- North Arm Village (site 187).  This is a popular hunting, fishing and guided bear hunting location. The 1975 field investigation states: “This could possibly have been a village.”

- Fick Cove Village (site 185).  This is a popular hunting and subsistence area.  The 1975 field investigation revealed the ruins of two cabins which may have been trapper cabins.

Take Action: If you or your family use these sites, please contact Senators Begich and Murkowski and tell them you do not want to lose access to public lands.

Senator Begich

111 Russell Senate Office Building

Washington, DC 20510

fax. (202) 224 – 2354

Toll-free line: (877) 501 – 6275

Email Senator Begich HERE

Senator Murkowski

Email Senator Murkowski HERE


Jan 08 2013

Senator Begich Works to Protect Salmon and Fights GMO Salmon

The Sitka Conservation Society applauds the efforts of Senator Mark Begich to stop the Food and Drug Administration from allowing genetically modified salmon to be produced and sold to consumers.  Senator Begich has called out the FDA for its recent finding that genetically modified salmon will have  “no significant impact” on the environment or public health.

Like all Southeast Alaskans, Senator Begich understands very well the importance of salmon to our lives and livelihoods.  Senator Begich understands that Wild Salmon are critical to our economy, our way-of-life, and is a keystone component of Southeast Alaska’s terrestrial and marine environment.  Senator Begich has taken a stand to protect our Wild Alaska Salmon.

Thank you Senator Begich for protecting Salmon.

Senator Begich has asked his constituents to weigh in and tell the Food and Drug Administration that we don’t want Genetically Modified Salmon.   Please help him out by telling the FDA your feelings by following this link and following the “Comment Now” prompt:!documentDetail;D=FDA-2011-N-0899-0003

For an idea on how to comment, read SCS comments:  here

To read Senator Begich’s press release, click: here

To read an editorial on Genetically Modified Salmon by a former SCS employee, click: here

Nov 20 2012

Salmon Capital: The Tongass National Forest

Sitka Conservation Society board member Richard Nelson spoke on salmon during Sitka Whalefest on the theme of “Cold Rivers to the Sea: Terrestrial Connections to our Northern Oceans.”  He spoke on the subject of one of the greatest manifestations of the connection between the terrestrial forests and the oceans:  our Wild Alaska Salmon. His eloquent words remind us of why we care so much about and treasure salmon so deeply.  Salmon are the backbone of the ecosystems of Southeast Alaska.  For all of us who live here, Salmon are an extremely important part of our lives.  Many of our jobs are directed related to salmon through fishing, processing, shipping, guiding, or managing salmon stocks.  All of us are connected to salmon as the food that we eat and prepare for our families. For the Sitka Conservation Society, it is obvious to us that the Tongass is a Salmon Forest and that salmon are one of the most important outputs from this forest.  For years we have fought against a timber industry that wanted more and more of the forest for clear-cutting and log export.  It is time to turn the page on the timber dominated discussions of the past.  Sure there is room for some logging.  But, the Tongass should no longer be seen as a timber resource to be cleared and moved on.  Rather, the Tongass should be managed with salmon as the priority, with the Forests left standing as the investment and the interest that it pays out every year being the salmon runs that feed our ecosystems, fisheries, and our families. Please help us protect Tongass salmon and help us make a new vision of Tongass management a reality.  We need you to write letters telling decision makers and land managers to make Tongass management for salmon and salmon protection a priority.  Here is an action alert that tells you how to write a letter:  here.  Or, if you need help, please feel free to visit or call our office (907-747-7509). You can read some letters that local fishermen wrote for inspiration:  here Thanks for your help and support.  Together we can ensure that are Wild Alaska Salmon are protected!

Nov 17 2012

The Future of Wild Pacific Salmon

Former Sitka Reporter Andrew Miller recently attended a presentation in Juneau by Dr. Robert Lackey on “The Future of Pacific Salmon.”  Of course, the Sitka Conservation Society is extremely interested in the future of pacific salmon.  Salmon are the backbone of the Tongass ecosystems as well as a critical component of the economies of the communities of Southeast Alaska.  Andrew wrote the following dispatch from that presentation to summarize the findings of Dr. Lackey:

                For me, the biggest takeaway from a recent lecture by Dr. Robert Lackey on the future of wild salmon was the critical importance of educating the public about our wild salmon runs.

 Dr. Robert Lackey, a fisheries scientist at Oregon State University, explained how little awareness there is about salmon among the general population in the Pacific Northwest and how that effects policy decisions there.  As an example, he noted how quickly policies to protect salmon on the Columbia River were reversed during an energy shortage in 2001.  He said it was a no-brainer for decision makers when posed with a question of whether to increase the power generation of Columbia dams even if doing so would prevent fish passage.  The salmon didn’t get a second thought.

 Lackey is the co-editor of Salmon 2100, a book that explores what steps must be taken to ensure we still have wild salmon runs in the year 2100.  He was a guest of the Alaska Fish Habitat Partnership in Juneau in early November.

 Although Lackey had a bleak outlook on the future of wild salmon worldwide, he expressed some optimism about the future of Alaska’s wild salmon, which reinforced in me how important it is to be a vocal advocate for Alaska salmon and policies that help protect and enhance wild salmon runs.

 Lackey listed a few advantages wild Alaska salmon have always enjoyed over salmon elsewhere, which have helped them to continue to thrive while wild stocks throughout much of the world have depleted to near extinction.

 For one, he said, Alaska has always had an enormous salmon population.  Bristol Bay alone produces more salmon than all of Oregon and Washington did when salmon runs there were at their historic highs.

 Also, Lackey said, Alaska still has unmatched salmon habitat.  He said natural resource development will always be a threat to habitat, but he is confident large dense populations in critical habitat areas will never develop.  He said just about everything that people do is bad for salmon, and in the Pacific Northwest, where there are millions of people in giant cities along the coast, salmon habitat hasn’t been much of a priority.

 Finally, he said that people in Alaska care about salmon.  He said people here are aware of salmon and want them to survive.  This awareness absolutely needs to continue. 

 Lackey spoke a little about external threats to salmon, notably climate change and ocean acidification.  To my surprise, he did not say these things necessarily spell doom for Alaska’s wild salmon. 

 Lackey showed a graph of world temperatures over the last 2,000 years, which consisted of four or five cycles of warming and cooling.  Current global temperatures are about high as they have been in any prior period of warming, and Lackey acknowledged that the warming is most likely going to continue for a long time, but, he said, in past warming salmon always adapted, often seeking new ranges farther north.

 On a related topic, he said he wouldn’t jump to conclusions about poor returns for some species of Pacific Salmon this last year.  He said there are too many external factors to know what causes populations to rise and fall in a given year, and scientists really need to look at 30 year trends to assess the health of a species.

 I can often be a cynic, but I left Lackey’s lecture optimistic.  I was reminded how fortunate we are to have our wild salmon runs in Southeast Alaska, but that it is up to us to keep them here.  I know it’s something we can do.

Of course, after the public is educated on the state of salmon and what we need to do to protect them, we must follow up with action to ensure that resource managers and decision makers are doing the right thing.  If you want to help SCS protect salmon, we can help you take action.  Check out our take action page and please think about writing a letter or making a call to tell Congress and Federal Agencies to protect our salmon stocks.  Follow this link:  here  or call us to find out more.  With your help, we can ensure that the future of Pacific Salmon is Alaska is good and that future generations can experience a wild Tongass filled with Salmon!

Aug 17 2012

Sitka Black Tailed Deer in August

August is an amazing month for deer in Southeast Alaska.  During August, there is food for deer everyplace.  The estuaries have copious amounts of sedges and grasses; berry bushes are filled out with green leaves, blueberries, and Red-huckleberries; ground forbs are in full growth.  The vegetarian deer are literally wading through a full salad bowl of nutritious greens and tasty treats and can take a bite of of just about everything they pass and munch it down!

With all the plants available, the deer can afford to be choosey about where they hang out and what they eat.  Obviously, they pick the best place to go:  the high alpine.   In the high alpine they find the newest and most nutritious growth.  This summer, after a heavy winter, there are many patches of alpine where the snow has only recently melted and new grass and deer cabbage is just starting to grow and begin to blossom.  These new shoots are tender and the deer graze hard on these to fatten up to get through the leaner winter months.

Deer also like the high alpine because they have both the cover of the stunted mountain hemlock trees as well as long vistas to keep a lookout on what is around then.  There is often a breeze in the alpine and on the ridges that helps the deer keep the bugs from biting.   I’m not sure if this is a factor or not for the deer, but the high alpine of the outer coast is also amazingly beautiful and has some of the most spectacular views in the entire world!

Sitka Black Tailed Deer are an amazing creature of the temperate rainforests.  They are one of the most treasured species in Southeast Alaska.  The work of SCS to protect the forest habitat of the deer and conserve intact watersheds ensures the long-term conservation of this amazing creature.


Aug 04 2012

Hoonah Sound to Lisianski Strait to Goulding Harbor: A Chichagof Wilderness Expedition through Intact Watersheds

Anyone that tells you there is a trail between Hoonah Sound and Lisianski Strait because “it’s on the map,” has never been there on foot. This is because there is no trail there!   An SCS Wilderness Groundtruthing team recently explored that area on the Tongass and confirmed that the only trails available are the ones made by deer and bear.

The purpose of this expedition was to look at habitat connectivity and bear use.  Members of the expedition were wildlife biologist Jon Martin, mountain goat hunting guide and outdoorsman Kevin Johnson, photographer Ben Hamilton, and SCS Executive Director Andrew Thoms.

SCS is interested in this landscape because of the protections given to these areas.  The land between Hoonah Sound and Lisianski Strait is protected as LUD II – a Congressional roadless designation status meant to protect “the area’s wildland characteristics.”  The lands between Lisianski Strait and Goulding Harbor are part of the West Chichagof-Yacobi Wilderness where management is to “provide opportunities for solitude where humans are visitors.”   Management language aside, the most important thing about these areas is that they are large, contiguous protected areas where an entire watershed from the high-ridges to the estuaries is left in its natural condition.  This means that these watersheds are able to function with no impact from roads, logging, mining, or other human activities.

What this looks like on the ground is a pristine habitat teaming with bears, deer, and rivers and lakes filled with salmon and trout.  There are also many surprises: on this trip, we found a native species of lamprey spawning in a river creek that no one in the group has ever seen before (and the group had over 60 years of experience on the Tongass).  We also found fishing holes where trout bit on every cast, back-pools in river tributaries filled with Coho Smolts, forests with peaceful glens and thorny devil’s club thickets, and pristine lakes surrounded by towering mountains.

If any place should be protected on the Tongass, it is these watersheds.  The Lisianski River is a salmon and trout power-house and produces ample salmon for bears that live in the estuary and trollers that fish the outside waters.  One can’t help but feel grateful walking along the river and through the forests here, thankful that someone had the foresight to set this place aside. Clear-cutting logging wild places like these provides paltry returns in comparison to the salmon they produce and all the other life they sustain.

These watersheds that we walked through are success stories and teach us how the temperate rainforest environment works in its natural unaltered state and how much value they produce following their own rhythms.  The actions taken in the past to set these areas aside give us pause to think about what we should be doing today to invest in our future and protect ecosystems that are similarly important ecologically.

Scientists have identified over 77 other watersheds across the Tongass that produce massive amounts of salmon and have ecological characteristics that need to be protected.  Some of these watersheds are slated to be logged by the Forest Service.  Even worse, pending Sealaska legislation could result in some of these watersheds being privatized, sacrificing protection for salmon streams and spawning habitat.  With your help and involvement, SCS is working to protect those watersheds and landscapes so that we can ensure the consideration of long-term health and resource benefits from these watersheds over the short-term gains of logging, road-building, or privatization.  It is our responsibility that we make the right choices and that future generations are grateful for what we leave them to explore and benefit from.

If you want to be part of SCS’s work to protect lands and waters of the Tongass, please contact us and we’ll tell you how you can help.  If you are inspired, write a letter to our senators and tell them to protect salmon on the Tongass and manage it for Salmon: here


Aug 03 2012

Trawling: A Threat to Southeast Alaska Fisheries

Above:  TROLLERS, like the family salmon troller pictured above, made sure that TRAWLING was not allowed in the Eastern Gulf of Alaska.  TRAWLING is an unsustainable method of fishing that results in massive bycatch.  TROLLING is a much more targeted fishing method and is more sustainable.


The Sitka Conservation Society signed onto a letter raising the alarm that trawl caught fish were being purchased by a local fish processor.  Trawling, the practice of dragging a net through the water or along the bottom of the ocean and indiscriminately catching everything in the path of the net, has proven to be one of the most wasteful types of fishing and one of the most environmentally damaging.  Trawling has been outlawed in Southeast Alaska east of 140 degrees West Longitude thanks to the foresight and advocacy efforts of fishermen, conservationists, community members, and local government in 1998.

Trawl fishing is very different from the types of fishing employed in Southeast Alaska today.  Not to be confused, trolling employs hooks and line and is one-hook, one-fish.  Likewise, seining and gill-netting are highly targeted to specific places, times, and types of fish and is closely monitored to ensure fish harvest does not exceed the population needed for long-term population viability.  Halibut and Black-cod  Long-lining is also a one-hook, one-fish fishery that has tight controls on by-catch and harvest levels.  Crab and Shrimp fishing in SE Alaska uses pot and traps and has little impact to the seafloor and does not kill the by-catch.

SCS is concerned about trawling because of the harm is can cause the environment and the threat that it poses to the local economy that Sitka has worked so hard to develop in ways that balance human needs and environmental protection.  This is an issue that clearly demonstrates that protecting fisheries is both about protecting the natural environment of the Tongass Temperate Rainforests where salmon begin their lives and being vigilant on what takes place in the ocean ecosystems where the fish grow and mature.

To listen to a radio story on Sitkan’s concerns on trawling and the threat it poses to fisheries, livelihoods, and the environment, click here.

To read the letter that the Sitka Conservation Society signed, click here.

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