Sitkans have been following the threat of the privatization of the very popular Redoubt Lake Falls Sockeye Fishing site over the past years with growing alarm. There is a pending transfer of the site to the Sealaska Corporation through a vague 14(h)(1) ANSCA provision that allows selection of “cultural sites.” The obvious intent of that legislation was to protect sites with petroglyphs, pictographs, totem poles, etc. However, Sealaska has worked to expand selection criteria very liberally and select sites that were summer fish camps or other transient seasonal sites. Of course, the places that were fished in the past are still fished today. The result of this liberal interpretation is that sites are being privatized that are extremely important fishing and access areas that are used and depend by hundreds of Southeast Alaskans and visitors today.
Beyond the fact that the potential transfer of cultural and historic sites is not to tribal governments or clans, but to a for-profit Corporate Entity, one of the most alarming developments is the fact that Sealaska is selecting virtually all of the known subsistence Sockeye Salmon runs across the Sitka Community Use Area. Here is a link to a map that we made a few years ago that shows those sites: here . It is inconceivable to us that legislation that would give a corporation strategic parcels of public lands that control access to Sockeye Salmon streams is even a thought in Congress.
We have heard that there negotiations going on in Washington, DC right now that are choosing the sites that Sealaska would obtain through the Sealaska Legislation. It is extremely important that people who use sites that are in danger of being privatized let Forest Service and Congressional staff in Washington, DC know how important these sites are. Here is a link to a letter that SCS just sent that includes a listing of the sites: here . Feel free to use that letter as a guide.
If you want help writing a letter, please get in touch with us and we will help.
If you have a letter outlining how you use the sites, send them to Mike Odle’s email at Michael.Odle@osec.usda.gov
These inholdings could seriously change the face of the Tongass and the way the public can access and use public lands. Make your voice heard now to ensure that we can continue to use and enjoy these sites.
As citizens across the country watch the antics of the 112th Congress, we are all left wondering, “where is the leadership we need to take on the challenges we are facing in the world? When are we going to take care of our environment? When are we going to move away from fossil fuels to renewable energy? When are we going to invest in local economies rather than giving massive subsidies and tax-breaks to global corporations? When is Congress going to actually put aside partisan differences and do something meaningful?”
It surely isn’t happening right now. In fact, the House of Representatives just introduced a bill that shows the worst of Congress and it could have huge implications on SE Alaska and critical public lands across the country. They have cynically named the bill the “Conservation and Economic Growth Act.” It should probably be called, “The- Worst Bills For The Environment in Congress Wrapped Into One Act of 2012.” The bill is a lands omnibus bill and pulls together some of the worst bills currently in Congress. It includes such cynically titled acts such as the “Grazing Improvement Act of 2012” which allow grazing to continue on lands where cows shouldn’t even be roaming and puts grazing permits outside of environment review. It also includes the beautifully named “Preserve Access to Cape Hatteras National Seashore Act” which sounds good, but in reality is meant to open miles of critical beach habitat for piping plovers to ATVs, Dune Buggies, and other off road vehicles. Good luck plovers!
For Southeast Alaska, this bill is awful because our Representative Don Young has inserted the Sealaska Legislation which would privatize close to 100,000 acres of ecologically critical Tongass Lands. The version of the bill that Representative Young has introduced is much worse than the bad version of the bill being debated in the Senate. This version would create an even more widespread pox of in-holdings throughout the Sitka Community Use Area in areas that Sitkans routinely use and enjoy. If this bill passes, the nightmare we are facing with the corporate privatization of Redoubt Lake Falls is just the beginning.
If you dislike these developments as much as us, please take action. We don’t think that calls to Representative Young will help (you can try, his number is 202-225-5765). However, his goal seems to be to privatize and give away as much of the Tongass as possible. If you are in the lower 48, you should call your Congress members and tell them that HR2578 is awful and they should not support it. If you are in Alaska, please consider writing a letter to the editor letting everyone else in the community know how bad this bill is and that its introduction is a travesty (give us a call if you want some ideas or help).
As we watch our Congress and elected leaders flounder, we are reminded that in a democracy, we share responsibility and need to take action to create the society and the environment we want. Voicing concerns over the misdirection of Congress, especially on bills like this one, is one way we can engage and make change.
Here is a link to a letter that SCS submitted opposing the legislation: here
Here is a link to a Radio Story on the legislation: here
Here is a link to a copy of the legislation: here
The Tongass National Forest is the heart and soul of Sitka and the people who live here, as has been the case for thousands of years.
The Tongass provides our food, and it provides jobs in the fishing and tourism industries, which are the backbone of Sitka’s economy. The Tongass is also where we go to relax and find inspiration.
When the Tongass is not well, neither is Sitka, a fact that has driven the work of the Sitka Conservation Society for over 40 years.
This blog will tell stories of the ways the Sitka Conservation Society, the people of Sitka, and all of Southeast Alaska, are finding ways and solutions to build communities that live with their natural environment and turn away from the unsustainable practices that were tried over the last 200 years. This blog will include stories of individuals, groups, practices we have learned, natural history concepts, and much more that we hope will begin to help us learn how to live with the land and build sustainable communities in Southeast Alaska.
The Sitka Conservation Society released a report today on the Future of Energy in Sitka that calculates how much energy Sitka uses in a year, how much energy will be needed to sustain the community over the next 20 years, and how much money will be spent on oil if there is not an investment in renewable energy and energy efficiency. The Sitka Conservation Society has worked in Sitka for 45 years to protect the natural environment of the Tongass and support the development of sustainable communities in Southeast Alaska. This study is part of the Sitka Conservation Society’s sustainable communities program which seeks to power Sitka on renewable energy, implement thorough energy efficiency actions, and reduce Sitka’s carbon footprint.
Andrew Thoms, Executive Director of the Sitka Conservation Society, explains the rationale behind the study, “We did this study because we wanted to figure out how we could completely reverse our current energy mix in Sitka. Right now, Sitka runs on oil: 75% of our energy comes from non-renewable energy sources while 25% comes from renewable energy. We want to figure out if it is possible to completely reverse that within 20 years. We know that oil prices are increasing because of reduced supply and increased demand. We also know that burning fossil fuels causes climate change. There is an urgent need to shift to renewable energy.”
For SCS board member Lexi Fish, the impetus to do this study is all about the future of the community. “The 20 year projection gives us an idea of what the next generation of Sitkans will be dealing with. If a child is born today in Sitka, in 20 years they will be soon considering where to start their careers and family life. Will we have enough energy to sustain our community and economy? Will we have taken continual action to prevent the destructive impacts of climate change? This project gives us an idea of where to start now, so that our future generations will have a solid ground to stand on in Sitka’s community, environment and economy.”
The study found that Sitka, with a population of 8,881, currently uses approximately 1,585 Billion Btus of energy per year which is the equivalent of almost 275,000 barrels of oil or 465,000 Megawatt/hours of electricity. According to Scott Brylinski, former City of Sitka Public Works Operations Manager and the principal investigator of this report, “Sitka will spend between $1B and $1.5B on oil over the next 20 years. By making investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy projects now, we can avoid much of those costs and keep dollars flowing within the local economy rather than leaking out of the community through purchase of oil.”
Garry White, director of the Sitka Economic Development Association, and member of the Southeast Conference, adds, “Having a viable energy supply is key to economic development and overall quality of life for Sitka. The recently released Southeast Alaska Integrated Resource Management Plan provides some direction and potential paths. Sitka has the opportunity to take information from both reports and shape the direction that works best for our community and our energy future.”
SCS’s report sought to find solutions that took advantage of local opportunities and proven technology with successfully demonstrated commercial applications. Local business owner Gary Smith, who was interviewed in this study, comments that, “There is no silver bullet solution for meeting our energy needs. It will take multiple initiatives and technologies working together. This presents a huge opportunity for us to create local jobs and a local workforce installing and maintaining energy efficient technology like heat pumps.”
“Because of the scale and scope of the issue of energy, informed public and private sector investment is needed to ensure a viable energy supply for SE Alaska communities. The State of Alaska legislature is currently working on legislation related to energy that includes oil tax structures, energy efficiency rebates and weatherization, emerging energy technology research, and renewable energy funds. As can be seen from this report, it is critical that the legislature makes the right decisions on these issues because energy is a critical element for the sustainability of Alaska communities and we know that our oil supplies are running out and we need to think beyond oil,” comments Andrew Thoms.
The full report outlines a range of scenarios for Sitka’s energy mix over the next twenty years and recommendations on actions that should be taken to ensure a viable energy supply.
The report can downloaded: here
To look at a timeline of the Sitka Conservation Society’s work on Climate Change and Renewable Energy, click: here
In 2007, the Sitka Conservation Society began a fruitful partnership with the City of Sitka Electric Department to initiate action on climate change in Sitka and to begin taking steps to become more energy efficient. The start of the partnership was a joint position that worked in the electric department to find ways for Sitkans to save energy and reduce their energy bills. One of the many outputs of the work was a series of educational brochures for Sitkans Below is how we introduced the results of this work to Alaska Senator Bert Stedman:
December 10th, 2007
Dear Senator Stedman,
We are pleased to announce the release of our series of brochures on energy conservation inSitka. These brochures are the end result of an ongoing collaborative project with the City and Borough of Sitka to identify, evaluate, and implement energy conservation measures that reduce energy demand inSitka, reduce energy costs forSitkaresidents, and reduceSitka’s environmental footprint on a local and global scale.
This project began in late 2006 when the Sitka Electric Department released a 28 year electric energy provision plan that identified an increase in demand for electricity that has the potential to outstrip total available electric supply. The high cost and potential environmental impact of new hydroelectric facilities alarmed our membership. However, a provision in the City’s plan identified energy conservation as part of a solution to reducing energy demand. The Sitka Conservation Society identified this section as a potential niche where we may be able to aid the city in developing energy conservation initiatives.
To help develop the energy conservation initiatives, we applied for a grant to pay for an intern with experience in energy policy and analysis that would work at the electric department with the electric department employees to identify possible energy conservation actions. After an extensive recruiting process at top Universities across the country, Amy Heinemann was chosen from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies for the internship. Part of the needs she identified during her work inSitkawas public education on energy conservation possibilities and specific choices the energy consumer can make that will achieve results. These brochures were the results of some of her work.
This project is part of a continuing effort by the Sitka Conservation Society to offer “solutions” to the community that not only benefit our surrounding natural environment but also provide tangible and needed benefits to our community.
Please let us know if you would like more information on this work or any of our other initiatives or if you would like more copies of the brochures.
Download the brochures below:
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
Rhonda Reany Salmon Design: here
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)
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:
“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 state.bs 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
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
“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
The Sitka Conservation Society has been awarded a grant to partner with local organizations to build capacity for the use of Tongass young growth timber, and to create a long-term strategic plan for watershed restoration in the Sitka Community Use Area. The grant is awarded through the Community Capacity and Land Stewardship Program, a collaborative program of the National Forest Foundation and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The two-phase project will build momentum of the Sitka Collaborative Stewardship Group by partnering with local high schools and community members. With the $20,000 grant, the project will last throughout 2012 and will result in a collaboratively defined Strategic Restoration Priorities List, a Best Management Practices document on partnering with the U.S. Forest Service on restoration projects, and initial efforts to advocate for the highest priority projects.
“The project will combine ecological data with social and economic priorities to create a framework that prioritizes where we need to restore salmon and deer habitat,” Said Scott Harris, SCS Collaborative Restoration Projects Coordinator. “It will also find ways to maximize local benefits to create jobs for local contractors to perform the work needed on the Tongass National Forest, as best for the community as a whole.”
SCS will partner with Sitka High School (SHS) on the young growth component of the project. Industrial arts students will build furniture and a visitor’s kiosk for Sitka Sound Science Center with young growth timber harvested and milled on Prince of Wales Island. These projects will take place during the 2012-2013 school year and will be the first time local wood has been used in SHS industrial arts projects in nearly a decade.
“It is exciting to bring local wood back into the classroom. There will be some differences in using young growth than what we usually build with, so it should be a good experiment to see the best ways to use the wood,” said Sitka High School industrial arts teacher, Randy Hughey. “It will also be a great opportunity for the students to learn about the local resources available and how they can support the Sitka economy.”
Based on the experiences at Sitka High, SCS will develop a best practices guide for buying local wood. The guide will compare the cost of local young growth to imported wood, will detail where and when local wood can be purchased, and will explain properties of local young growth that may be different from conventional lumber. SCS and SHS will host two educational open houses during the 2012-13 school year for local builders and other community members on the best practices.
Bill Thomason, owner of Alaska Wood Cuts Mill, will sell SCS young growth spruce from a stockpile of timber he acquired under stewardship contract during a 2007 habitat restoration project on Prince of Wales Island.
“We have been cutting and milling second growth here on POW for a few seasons now. It is great wood for a number of purposes, particularly in the construction of log and timber cabins as we are now doing,” he said. “We are really encouraged by the start of its use here in Southeast Alaska.”
“There are a lot of opportunities for using young growth timber from the Tongass, and I hope this experience will not be a one-time thing at the high school,” said Sitka contractor Marcel LaPerriere, owner of Southeast Cedar Homes, which uses wood from local sources. “I believe this is an opportunity to raise awareness and increase the commercial use around the region.”
The second component of the grant will focus on strategic planning for collaborative watershed restoration projects on the Tongass. In recent years, the U.S. Forest Service, Sitka Conservation Society, Trout Unlimited and other partners have worked together to restore salmon streams damaged by industrial logging practices decades ago. Despite the work and successful partnerships, projects have proceeded without a community-derived strategic plan.
“There are important watersheds in the Sitka Ranger District that were heavily impacted by logging during the pulp mill days. We know that this has had a negative impact on the number of fish these watersheds produce,” Matt Lawrie, a 2nd generation Sitka salmon troller said. “I’m hopeful that this project will bring together agency staff, fishermen, and locals with knowledge about local watersheds and it will lead to more habitat restoration projects that will increase Coho numbers and create more stability and resiliency for salmon populations.”
The Sitka Conservation Society strives to blend sustainable community development with policy advocacy through projects and initiatives that demonstrate our ideals while building community and community assets. Along the way, we organize stakeholders to work together with a commonly shared vision. The ideal projects are those that bring people together working face-to-face/shoulder-to-shoulder to jointly and collaboratively build our community under a vision of sustainability. If we are not working with new and different partners, if we are not working toward institutionalizing our values within existing agencies, or if we are simply working within one closed group, we are not successful.
The Fish to Schools program is accomplishing all of the above as it organizes fishermen, integrates traditional Native cultural values around locally harvested fish in the school classrooms, teaches youth about fishing livelihoods and fisheries management by bringing community members into the classroom, and, above all, improves the school lunch program by finding creative and economically sustainable pathways to integrate locally produced food into the USDA school lunch program. The program works with all the schools in the local school districts, all the major fish processors, multiple fishermen, parents, youths, USDA staff, State of Alaska agency staff, and many more. Recently we won a statewide award which received national attention in the USDA Farm-to-Schools program.
Our hope is that this program will create closer connections between our community and the natural resources from the environment around us. Through its implementation, youth and stakeholders will gain an increased understanding of how we use and depend on the land and waters of the Tongass. With the fish on our plates at home and at school, we will, as a community, make better decisions on the management and future of those resources that we intimately depend on. Our hope is that in its actions the USDA, and the policy makers who direct it, will choose to focus on a more sustainable school lunch food system by using local sources for food. And, importantly, our school districts will teach children about local natural resources and the jobs and livelihoods in our community by using hands-on, real-world learning experiences.
In this way, SCS is working to build a socially, economically, and environmentally sustainable community living within the splendor and beauty of the Tongass.