Sitka Conservation Society
May 23 2014

Fish Need Trees, Too

SCS Board Member, Brendan Jones recently published an article in the New Your Times: “Fish Need Trees, too.” detailing the Forest Service’s poor management of resources in Southeast Alaska,  putting giant, ecologically destructive clear-cuts over protecting habitat for salmon–the backbone of the Southeat Alaskan economy.

Brendan writes:

This year, though, the fishing fleet in southeast Alaska will work under the shadow of an announcement by the United States Forest Service that it intends to approve the Big Thorne timber sale, which would allow the logging industry to harvest about 6,200 acres of remnant old-growth trees in Tongass National Forest, the world’s largest remaining temperate rain forest. It would be the most destructive old-growth cut in the forest in the past 20 years.

You can help.

Sign the Petition below: Tell Alaska’s senators to put pressure on the Forest Service to prioritize our salmon and stop support out-dated logging projects.

Write a Letter: Ask the Forest Service and Senators to make better decisions about our public lands and start judging success by counting the number of jobs and economic gains of salmon production rather than the number of board feet.

Donate: We are a small organization fighting to protect a very large forest.  We rely on our members and supporters.


Remind the Forest Service that Fish Need Trees, too!













Greetings,

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Your message will be delivered to Senators Begich and Muskowski, Undersecretary Robert Bonnie, Chief of the Forest Service Tm Tidwell, and Regional Forester Beth Pendleton.

Mar 14 2014

A Guide to Serving Local Fish in School Cafeterias

It’s here! Hot-off-the-press is the Fish to Schools Resource Guide and Stream to Plate Curriculum! Fish to Schools, a program that gets local seafood into schools, began as a grassroots, community initiative in the fall of 2010. Sitka is one of the first districts in the state to serve local seafood through the National School Lunch Program and has become a leader in the State of Alaska to get local foods into schools. In the last three years, the number of schools interested in serving local seafood has increased ten-fold. And it makes sense—this is a program that not only addresses child nutrition but also food justice, community sustainability, and conservation.

In an effort to support regional and state-wide efforts to serve local foods in schools, the Sitka Conservation Society developed a “how-to” guide to serving fish in schools. Using Sitka as a case study it outlines procurement and processing strategies, legalities, tips, and recipes. Also included are case studies from around the state that offer tips and suggestions based on the success of their programs.

Click to download the Fish to Schools Resource Guide

In addition to this guide is the “Stream to Plate” curriculum, a unit of seven lessons that connect salmon to the classroom. The lessons address the ecological significance and human relationship to salmon. These lessons have been trialed and refined the last three years with third graders at Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School. Chris Bryner, teacher and collaborator on the salmon unit said, “The Fish to Schools curriculum connects my classroom to the community.  Students not only learn about a resource relevant to their daily lives, but come away with an understanding that learning happens inside and outside of school.”

Click here to download the Fish to Schools Classroom Lessons

We’ve been working on this guide since the inception of our program, tucking away tips and pieces information that have been particularly useful to get Fish to Schools up and running. I hope it inspires and supports your efforts to get local foods in schools.

Thank you to all the funders who have made this possible: SEARHC Community Transformation Grant, Alaska Obesity Prevention and Control Program, Alaska Farm to School, and the Crossett Foundation. And thank you to all of the countless volunteer hours the community of Sitka has put in to make this possible!

Feb 19 2014

Sitka’s Voice Joins in Statewide Opposition to House Bill 77

Hundreds of people throughout the state have come out in opposition to House Bill 77, known also as the Silencing Alaskans Act.

The Sitka community joined in opposition to HB 77 this past Thursday as well. Around fifty people showed up to a meeting scheduled with Department of Natural Resources Representative Wyn Menefee to get a better understanding of the bill. Mr. Menefee was unable to attend due to snow but the meeting still continued.

Linda Behnken, Executive Director of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association, helped frame the bill and answered questions posed.

“Is there anything in this bill that you like?” , moderator Eric Jordan read off a notecard given by a community member.

“If there are things that I like in this bill, I couldn’t point them out to you” said Behnken.” I do understand that DNR has interest in facilitating the permitting process so that there could be quicker decisions but I think they’ve gone way beyond that with this bill and that’s the message they need to hear from the people.”

That’s the message that was heard repeatedly at Thursday’s public discussion through the fourteen people that testified against the bill.

“Over 30 tribes have expressed opposition to HB 77 and Sitka Tribe is one of them,” said Michael Baines, Tribal Chairman of Sitka Tribe of Alaska.

“This bill attacks the basic constitutional guarantees of fish and wildlife protection. The public holds these resources in common yet [HB 77] gives priority to extractive interests that damage them,” said Matt Donohoe, board member of the Alaska Troller’s Association.

“I think a good example of things that happened when we didn’t have any kind of say about stuff was what the water used to look like when the pulp mill was operating”, said Kim Elliot, Alaska Department of Fishing & Game Advisory Council member. “We really have to think about what our future would look like if we didn’t have any rights to take care of the water upstream from our piece of property wherever that might be. People really deserve the right to question what the government is doing.”

Sitkans still want DNR to come to town and answer questions on HB 77, but this time it will be when we see the new amendments proposed on the bill. Right now behind closed doors, the Senate Rules Committee is proposing changes to the bill because of the hundreds of people that have outspoken against it. This reminds us that public participation IS in fact key to the way we manage our shared natural resources, and our rights as Alaskans.

For more information on House Bill 77, go to www.standforsalmon.org and join us in writing Governor Sean Parnell to let him know of your opposition to HB 77 and to the giveaway of your rights as an Alaskan.

Governor Sean Parnell

Alaska State Capitol Building

PO BOX 110001

Juneau, AK 99811-0001

(907) 465-3500

http://gov.alaska.gov/parnell/contact/office-locations.html

Feb 17 2014

Fish to Capital

When serving local seafood in our schools became a community health priority in the 2010 Sitka Health Summit, the Sitka Conservation Society recognized the opportunity to apply our mission to “support the development of sustainable communities.” Now all grades 2-12 in Sitka serve locally-harvested fish at least twice a month, reaching up to 1,500 students. In just three years over 4,000 pounds of fish have been donated to Sitka Schools from local seafood processors and fishermen.

Fish to Schools is a grassroots initiative that builds connections and community between local fishermen, seafood processors, schools, students, and families.  It’s a program that we would like to see replicated across the state—that’s why we created a resource guide and curriculum (available March 1st!). And that’s why I went to the Capital.

Nutritional Alaskan Foods for Schools is a state funded program that reimburses school districts for their Alaskan food purchases. This $3 million grant allows schools to purchase Alaskan seafood, meats, veggies, and grains that would otherwise be cost prohibitive to school districts. It also gives a boost to farmers and fishermen with stable, in-state markets.

Nutritional Alaskan Foods for Schools was introduced by Representative Stoltze and has been funded the last two years through the Capital Budget. I went to Juneau to advocate for this funding because it’s a way to ensure funding for local food purchases state-wide. Locally this means sustained funding for our Fish to Schools program.

I met with Senator Stedman, House Representative Kriess-Tomkins, and the Governor to tell them how valuable this grant has been for schools, food producers, and students around the state. I will continue my advocacy and ask you to join me. It is through your support that Fish to Schools exists in Sitka—let’s take that support and make this thing go state-wide!

The Sitka School District took the lead by passing a resolution to support “multi-year” funding of Nutritional Alaskan Foods for Schools. Let’s join them and advocate for a program that revolutionizes school lunches and catalyzes local food production. Please sign this letter and tell Senator Stedman and Representative Kreiss-Tomkins you support state funding for local foods in schools.


Ask Senator Stedman and Representative Kreiss-Tomkins to support sustained funding for Nutritional Alaskan Foods for Schools












Dear Senator Stedman and Representative Kreiss-Tomkins,

I am writing to express my support for sustained funding of Nutritional Alaskan Foods for Schools–a program that supports Sitka’s very own Fish to Schools program.

Fish to Schools is a program that connects fishermen, seafood processors, school food service, the school district, and students. It’s a program that gets local fish on lunch trays while building local foods security, creating access to these foods, and connecting youth to their food source. Nutritional Alaskan Foods for Schools takes it one step further–now we can support our local economy by paying our fishermen and seafood processors while creating new, stable markets for their fish to stay in-state, support more jobs for our fleet, and provide more Alaskan foods for Alaskans.

Nutritional Alaskan Foods for Schools supports Southeast Communities. Sustained funding ensures Alaska children eat Alaskan foods. It’s a small state investment that benefits many sectors or our community. I thank you for your support in having this program continue through sustained funding.

Thank you Senator Stedman and Representative Kreiss-Tomkins.

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Feb 15 2014

Protect West Chichagof

Designating land as Wilderness is the ultimate step to ensuring its protection in the long-term.  Wilderness designation protects critical habitat from mining, logging, and development while still allowing people to use the land for hunting, fishing, subsistence gathering, recreating, and even making a living from guiding and operating tours.

Wilderness was integral to SCS’s formation and we’ve maintained that commitment to Wilderness ever since.  You can see the whole story of SCS’s formation in the short documentary Echoes of the Tongass.  But the short story is that in the 1960s large, industrial pulp mills were clear-cutting huge swaths of the Tongass with no end in sight.  A small group formed in Sitka to fight the rampant logging surrounding their home.  They saw the recent passage of the Wilderness Act in 1964 as a way for them to protect at least some of the Tongass.  They drafted a proposal to designate the western third of Chichagof Island as Wilderness because of its diverse habitats, intact old-growth forests, and pristine wildlife habitats.  It took 13 years of effort, but in 1980, the West Chichagof Wilderness became the first citizen initiated wilderness in Alaska.

Original proposal for West Chichagof Wilderness

Through the politics of the designation process, the extractive interest groups for the timber and mining lobby managed to carve large sections of some of the best habitat out of the designated land.  Some of those excluded parcels like Ushk Bay and Poison Cove are currently being managed for logging.  As the Forest Service puts it, these areas are managed for “Intense Development” which means they “Manage the area for industrial wood production…and maximum long-term timber production.”

These areas were excluded because they are the best, most iconic old-growth rainforests in the world and provide habitat for important species like the coastal brown bear, Sitka deer, and pacific salmon.  Unfortunately, that also means that they are the areas where clear-cut logging is cheapest and easiest.

Area excluded from Wilderness proposal

Ushk Bay, currently managed for “industrial wood production”

Poison Cove, currently managed for “industrial wood production”

But, since the 60s, the pulp mills have closed their doors.  Nowadays, the timber industry only employs about 200 jobs.  Our economy in Southeast Alaska has shifted to tourism and fishing which employ 10,200 and 8,000 jobs and contribute almost $2 Billion to the economy annually.  Wilderness designation directly benefits tourism and fishing because it preserves both the habitat, which salmon need for spawning, and  viewsheds the tourists flock to Alaska to see.

This year the Wilderness Act is 50 years old and we think it is a perfect time to finish the job our founders began almost a half century ago to designate ALL of West Chichagof as Wilderness.  Please join us by sending a note of your support to our senators using the form below.


Ask Senators Begich and Murkowski to Fulfill Wilderness Designation in West Chichagof













Dear Senator,

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Jan 16 2014

Standing up for the Alaskan Voice

Fellow Supporter,

House Bill 77, or the “Silencing Alaskans’ Act,” is up for vote in the state senate this legislative term. The passage of this bill would cut Alaskans out of permitting decisions for any project on state lands, particularly projects that could destroy salmon habitat. The bill would give only the unelected Department of Natural Resources Commissioner power to approve permits without having to notify the public of potential impacts unless the impacts are deemed by the Commissioner as “significant and irreparable.” HB 77 also omits citizens, non-profits, and tribes from being able to apply for in-stream water flow reservations that protect fish and wildlife habitat, or be used for recreation and parks, navigation and transportation, and sanitation and water quality.

As of now, the average citizen can apply for an in stream water flow reservation to protect important salmon streams in their community. This will go away however if HB 77 is approved.

This is where you come in. If you are in Senator Stedman’s district, give him a call and let him know you appreciate him standing up for the voice of Alaskans by opposing HB 77. The Senator’s phone number is 907-465-3873.

Want to take it a step further? Get in touch with me and we’ll work together to represent Southeast’s disapproval of HB 77. The bill goes out on the Senate’s floor this session, so we gotta act fast. Call 907-747-7509 and ask for Ray.

Dec 11 2013

Stop “Clear-Cutting” Wilderness and Recreation budgets

Tell Senators Begich and Murkowski: Don't let the Forest Service Clear-Cut the Wilderness and Recreation Budget













Dear Senator,

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On the day before Halloween, the US Forest Service announced they were going to reduce the already insufficient $1.1 million dollar Wilderness and Recreation budget for the entire Tongass National Forest by over half a million dollars.

This is “budgetary clear-cutting” with the Forest Service already proposing the closure of 12 cabins alongside a reduction in the staff positions responsible for maintaining trails, keeping cabins stocked and safe, and processing the permits for guides and tour operators.

Cabin closures and loss of Wilderness and Recreation staff overall signifies a lack of prioritization of the tourism and recreation industries here in the Tongass National Forest. The tourism industry alone racks in $1 Billion annually with thousands of visitors coming every year to experience the wilderness of Southeast Alaska.

The Forest Service is not fulfilling its promise of the Tongass Transition. The Transition is a framework the agency adopted in 2010 aimed at creating jobs in sectors like recreation and tourism while moving away from Southeast’s outdated timber management program.  For instance, next year the Forest Service has estimates that just one timber sale will COST taxpayers $15.6 Million (that’s over 25 times the entire Wilderness and Rec budget).  The Transition (were it to be enacted) would dictate that sustainable and profitable programs like Recreation and Wilderness would take precedence over such wasteful timber projects.

The Forest Service enacted the Transition three years ago.  Now we want them to take action to save our recreation and tourism opportunities from these budgetary reductions. We need to support what sustains our livelihoods here in the Tongass rather than reduce them year after year.

Contact Senator Begich and Senator Murkowski. Ask them to encourage the Forest Service to take action on the Tongass Transition by reallocating their budgets to make Wilderness and Recreation a priority and to push for more federal funding for the Forest Service.  Email, while important, are not as effective as written letters.  If you would like help drafting a letter, contact SCS at info@sitkawild.org or call (907) 747-7509.

Nov 19 2013

Running Wild

Running Wild from Sitka Conservation Society on Vimeo.

Fellow runners, hikers, and outdoor enthusiasts,
 
Pretty incredible wilderness to explore, eh? I wish I could share it with everyone. However, the management of these incredible places is changing–and there is something you can do about it.
 
Right now, the Chief of the Forest Service Tom Tidwell needs to hear from you about your interests in the Tongass National Forest, the largest remaining temperate rainforest in the world.
 
 The Forest Service is shifting to a new mentality where timber is not on the top of their list when it comes to assessing the Tongass.
 
This shift is called the Tongass Transition, and this transition will focus on keeping the Tongass wild and make sure that the people, wildlife, and salmon can continue to run for generations to come.
 
This is where you come in.
 
Open up a blank email, address it to ttidwell@fs.fed.us and make the subject “I support the Tongass Transition.” Tell Chief Tidwell that you want your Tongass National Forest to remain wild and intact, and you believe in the Tongass Transition.
 
Click here for some sample letters and stats you can incorporate in your email. The most important thing to include in your support for the Tongass Transition is what protecting the world’s largest remaining temperate rainforest means to you.
 
In 5 minutes you’ll be done, and in decades to come the Tongass will still continue to be a wild, epic alternative to those paved streets we’re used to.
 
Keep the Tongass and salmon running,
 
Nick Ponzetti

 

Nov 06 2013

Stream to Plate

The “why” of Fish to Schools has had clear goals from the beginning: connecting students to their local food system, learning traditions, and understanding the impact of their food choices on the body, economy, and environment. The “how” has been a creative process. Serving locally is one component of the program, but equally important is our education program that makes the connections between stream, ocean, forest, food, and community.

We were back in the classroom this year offering our “Stream to Plate” curriculum that focuses on the human connection to fish. How are fish caught? Where do they come from? Why should we care? Who depends on them and how? What do I do with them? These are just a few of the questions we answer through a series of hands-on games and activities.

Students began by learning about the salmon lifecycle and its interconnection to other plants and animals. By building a salmon web, students saw that a number of species depend on salmon—everything from orcas, to brown bears, to people, to the tall trees of the Tongass. They learned how to manage a sustainable fishery by creating rules and regulations, allowing each user group (subsistence, sport, and commercial) to meet their needs while ensuring enough fish remain to reproduce. They learned that fish is an important local food source (and has been for time immemorial) but also important for our economy, providing a number of local jobs. (Read more here.)

Students also learned how to handle fish–how to catch fish both traditionally and commercially, how to gut and fillet fish, how to make a super secret salmon brine for smoked salmon, and how to cook salmon with Chef Collete Nelson of Ludvigs Bistro. Each step is another connection made and another reason to care.

The Stream to Plate Curriculum will be available through our website in early 2014. Check back for its release!

Photo Credit: Adam Taylor

Oct 30 2013

A Salmon Connection

Can you teach economics to kids? I wasn’t sure. I’ve been scratching my head at how to convey such an advanced topic to third graders. So what if money stays here or goes there? A dollar is a dollar to a kid and they are going to spend it on the next trendy thing, right? Probably, but Fish to Schools developed a lesson that teaches students that it does matter where money our goes.

We started with a game showing our connections to salmon. We have all seen salmon jumping in the ocean, swimming around the docks, fighting their way up Indian River, and returning  to all the streams and rivers of the Tongass National Forest. We can’t ignore their smell in the late summer air and for those who have been fishing, we can’t get enough. It’s fun to catch and delicious to eat.

After showing that we are all connected to salmon in some way, we dove deeper into the idea that our jobs are connected to salmon (in fact dependent on). To show this we handed every student a card with a picture of a profession: troller, seiner, seafood processor, grocery store clerk, boat repair man, gear store, teacher, doctor, etc. Students gathered in a circle and passed around a ball of yarn forming a web between the different professions. They identified who depended on them or who they depended on for their livelihood. Once every student and profession was connected to the web, students could visually see that each job affects the other. While it may have been obvious to many students that a seafood processor depends on a fisherman (and vice versa) it was much more abstract to show the connection between a teacher and salmon. This game provided a visual and taught students that our Sitka community is tied to salmon, that a healthy economy is dependent on healthy salmon.

After the lesson, a student in one of our classes couldn’t figure out how her mom’s job was connected to salmon. She went home to learn that her mom does daycare and takes care of fishermen’s children when they are out on the water. A connection reinforced!

19% of adults aged 16+ are directly involved in the fisheries as a commercial fisherman or seafood processor. Many, many more professions are indirectly connected, their businesses dependent on seafood. (http://www.sitka.net/sitka/Seafood/Seafood.html)

Beneficially impacting our local economy and community is one benefit of eating locally-caught salmon. Through the Fish to Schools “Stream to Plate “curriculum unit, students learned many more reasons why local is better. Check back soon for blog posts on our other lessons.

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Keep up to date on all of the issues. Check out "The Southeaster" Blog.

  • Hungry for Huckleberry Pie, Venison Stew, or Fresh Greens? Come to the Wild Foods Potluck Nov. 2!
  • Stand Up to Corporate Influence!
  • Kayaking Kootznoowoo: Report on SCS’s Final Wilderness Trip
  • Encouraging Local Natural Resource Stewardship on the Tongass: Kennel Creek
  • Teaching the Alaska way of Life: 4-H in Sitka
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