Sitka Conservation Society
Jun 13 2014

SCS Summer Cruises Take Off With a Look at Wilderness

On Tuesday night, June 10, just over 40 people gathered at Crescent Harbor to embark on a three hour boat cruise that travelled out of Sitka Sound, all the way to West Crawfish Inlet and back. Fresh off the plane from Boston, MA, I was lucky enough to be one of those participants, and had my first real introduction to the Alaskan landscape that I will be working with closely this summer as SCS’s Wilderness Intern. We were exploring by boat the South Baranoff Wilderness Area, one of the nineteen wilderness areas that is managed by the United States Forest Service within the Tongass Forest of Southeast Alaska. The cruise, the first of four trips being sponsored by SCS over the course of the summer, had as its educational theme the concept and land designation of “wilderness,” in honor of this year’s 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. A landmark moment in American history, this act, signed into law in 1964 by President Johnson after almost unanimous Congressional approval, officially recognized as important the designation and legal protection of places “without permanent improvements or human habitation” (Wilderness Act of 1964, Section 2 c. “Definition of Wilderness). Wilderness was meant to be a place where nature reigned and humans remained solely as visitors.

The visitors on this week’s boat tour certainly got a taste of wilderness’ wonders, catching sight over the duration of the trip of sea lions, sea otters, bald eagles, and sweeping old-growth forests of western hemlock, Sitka spruce, and Alaskan yellow cedar. About halfway through we even caught a glimpse of one of the brown bears for which Sitka, and Southeast Alaska in general, is so famous. In some ways, the boat cruise, and the natural beauty being appreciated from its decks, thus functioned as a celebration of the past – a celebration of the 50 years of committed stewardship that has kept such pristine places intact, and preserved them for the enjoyment of future generations and those who have yet to behold the natural splendor of Alaska.

Cruise participants look on at a brown bear from the deck of the boat.

But even as it commemorated past achievements, the tour also served as a stark reminder that the battle for the protection of wild places is not yet over. As of only a few months ago, a Department of the Army permit was issued for work in the waters of Crawfish Inlet – the very inlet to which our cruise had come. The permit will allow the Northern Southeast Regional Aquaculture Association (NSRAA) to moor structures and store net pens in the inlet, which stands to interfere with the current use of these woods and waters for subsistence, recreation, and tourism operations. The land’s “outstanding opportunities for solitude,” one of the quintessential pillars and promises of wilderness areas, will no doubt also be negatively affected by the presence and operation of these large, metal enclosures.

Fish are a fundamental part of the Southeast’s ecosystem, economy, and identity. And as such, they are a vitally important and valuable resource. But in a landscape that has so much to offer, we must be careful not to manage one resource – fish – at the expense of another – wilderness. The boat cruise, filled to capacity Tuesday night, stands as a testimony to how many people put value in the existence of these wild waters and forests of Alaska. Which is good news – because even 50 years out from the designation of the Wilderness Act, there clearly remain many natural and wild landscapes still in need of defense.

Information on the other boat cruises being offered by SCS this summer can be found on our website. And for a glimpse of even more Alaskan wilderness, be sure to check out The Meaning of Wild, a 30-minute documentary that brings you deep into some of the most remote areas of the Tongass. Interested in getting out there yourself? Head to SCS’s Wilderness page where you can learn about opportunities to volunteer for the Sitka Conservation Society and explore remote and beautiful places all while making a difference!

May 27 2014

SCS Summer Boat Cruises

Celebrating Wilderness 

Tuesday, June 10
5:30 – 8:30 pm
$40 per person
Join SCS and the USFS as we cruise to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act. Learn how SCS advocates for the protection of pristine habitats and how the USFS manages the resources of the Tongass National Forest.

Birds of Sitka Sound

Tuesday, July 8
5:30 – 8:30 pm
$40 per person
Join local naturalists as we explore the Sitka Sound through the lens of the resident and migratory birds of the Tongass National Forest. Learn how the Sitka Conservation Society advocates for pristine habitats to be protected for these diverse local species.

Intertidal life of Kruzof Island

Sunday, July 13
8 am to 12:30pm 
$55 per person
On one of the lowest tides of the summer, we will set sail early to try to find the critters of the inter tidal zone on Kruzof Island. The Allen Marine vessel will drop us off so we can explore up close and personal with marine creatures accompanied by a local biologist. Learn the importance of this micro-ecosystem, its connection to our Tongass National Forest, and how SCS supports our public lands for recreation.

Sedge Meadows and Salmon of Nakwasina Passage

Sunday, July 27
1 – 4 pm
$40 per person
Join SCS Executive Director, Andrew Thoms, and SCS board member / UAS Professor, Kitty LaBounty on board an Allen Marine vessel to sail through the Sitka Sound and surrounding area.

Salmon of Sitka Sound

Tuesday, August 19
5 – 8 pm
Join us on our final boat cruise of the season as we travel the Sitka Sound exploring the life of a salmon. Sitka Sound Science Center’s Aquaculture Director, Lon Garrison, will be on board to guide us through salmon’s importance in the Tongass National Forest.

More information on boat cruises to come this summer! Keep checking this page for more opportunities to get out to sea! Summer Boat Cruise tickets are available at Old Harbor Books two weeks prior to the event. Due to vessel regulations, space is limited and each person requires a ticket (children, adults, and seniors are all $40). The purchase of tickets must be cash or check (Sitka Conservation Society) only. For more information, please contact SCS at 747-7509 or email Mary, mary@sitkawild.org.

 

Tour Details

Boarding begins at 5:15pm from the Crescent Harbor Loading Dock.
Hot drinks are complimentary.
Binoculars are available on board.
Snacks can be purchased or you can bring your own.
May 13 2014

Alaska Way of Life 4-H Summer Programs

The Alaska Way of Life 4-H  is gearing up for Summer!!

Cloverbud Adventure: Tuesdays, 10 – 11:30am

4-H members will be able to explore various 4-H projects throughout the summer including hiking, intertidal life, plant identification, and much more! Open to grades K-3.

Cloverbud Gardening: Fridays, 9-10am

Kids will be able to get their hands dirty every week at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm while learning gardening techniques and skills. Open to grades K-3.

4-H Cooking: Wednesday, July 2, 9, 16 from 10:30am – 12:30pm

4-H members will be able to explore various cooking with wild greens, salmon, and garden harvest. Open to grades  3-6.

4-H Land and Sky: July 7-11 from 3-4:30pm

Partnering with the National Historical Park, 4-H will explore learning wild edible identification, bird behavior and migration, intertidal life, and macro invertebrates. Open to grades 4-8.

4-H Kayak Adventure: July 22-25 1:30-4pm

This club will incorporate classes on tides, tying knots, inter-tidal life, water safety, and kayaking. Open to grades 4 and above.

4-H Summer 2014

Register with Mary by calling 747-7509 or e-mailing mary@sitkawild.org. I ask that 4-H members strive for 95% attendance if signing up for the activities. Our program is about building community as well as living with the land, which is achieved by attending each activity in the series. Please Register by May 31.

May 13 2014

Sail West Chichagof and support SCS

Chichagof Island – the name alone can quicken the pulse of anybody from Sitka.

Home to the 265,000 acre West Chichagof-Yakobi Wilderness, it has a coastline only 8 miles shorter than all of the Hawaiian Islands together!

Shee Kaax (Chichagof Island) is the fifth largest island in the United States and the 109th largest island in the world, (In case you were wondering, the island of Bali is number 108) with a coastline that measures 742 miles long. It is 2080 square miles. It’s big AND wild – and you need to see it.

SCS is delighted to once again team up with SCS members Blain and Monique Anderson of Sound Sailing to offer members a once-in-a-lifetime trip to experience (and help protect) this island from the comfort and excitement of a big and beautiful sailboat.

SCS members now have the opportunity for an unbelievable adventure AND can support the Sitka Conservation Society at the same time.  When you book a trip to West Chichagof on the S/V Bob, Sound Sailing will donate a portion of the fare to SCS to help fight for Wilderness protection for this critical wildlife habitat.


 Highlights from the last two summers included watching and photographing Alaskan brown bears as they fished for salmon in the streams and on the beaches, experiencing whales breaching and hearing them trumpet their thundering songs.

Ben Hamilton shoots footage for The Meaning of Wild aboard the S/V Bob.

We had Dall’s porpoise fire across our bows and play with us on crystal waters. We hoisted white sails through Inian Pass and rode the powerful currents to George Island where we hiked the abandoned WW2 fortifications and peered at the open Pacific from towering cliffs.  We photographed elfin orchids and visited unique quaint Elfin Cove – a boardwalk fishing village with a great story. We hiked the primordial forests and kayaked through pristine waters.

Capt. Blain told us, “SCS members are more than welcome aboard any trip we run this summer, including Juneau to Glacier Bay, Haines to Juneau, Sitka to Petersburg, and many other trips. Active members are eligible for a 10% discount on any trip we sail”. When asked “Why SCS members? “, Blain stated, “We enjoy hanging out and exploring with them. They love to explore, hike, and kayak, and can be easily entertained in a muskeg.”

“Seriously, we want to give back to SCS for their strong advocacy of wild places in Southeast Alaska, and as a company dependant on unspoiled and intact landscapes and ecosystems, we strongly support the mission of SCS,” said Blain.

All of their trips feature our Alaskan Wilderness Areas on Chichagof, Admiralty, and Baranof islands as well as mainland and lesser known island Wilderness Areas. These incredible trips culminate in the end-of-the-season outer coast trip. This “round Chichagof” trip lets SCS members have the opportunity for an unbelievable adventure AND supports the Sitka Conservation Society at the same time. Blain and Monique have offered to make a sizeable donation of the proceeds from this trip!

Their sailboat – S/V BOB – is a 50-foot sloop with 4 large queen-sized berths that  sleeps 6, plus the two Andersons, very comfortably. They carry all the trappings to make any trip amazing, including shrimp and crab pots, fishing poles for salmon and halibut, kayaks to explore the quiet bays and anchorages, and a well-appointed galley with meals and beverages customized to your requests.

Both Blain and Monique are great cooks, and they specialize in artfully prepared freshly caught seafood dishes and homemade desserts. Special diets are no problem for them, and they can happily adjust ingredients to accommodate nearly any food preferences.

For more information on Sound Sailing, the boats, or the other trip offerings this season, please check out www.soundsailing.com, or call Capt. Blain at (907) 887-9446. But call soon, trips are quickly filling up.

Apr 29 2014

Youth Eco-Challenge

2014 Earth Week wrapped up with the first annual Youth Eco Challenge. The event, hosted by the National Historical Park, had five teams engaged in various challenges that tested their living with the land skills as well as teamwork and communication.

Photo: James Poulson

The event began with a fire building task on the beach. Teams made a Leave No Trace fire below high tide using Usnea (old man’s beard), kindling, and 3 matches. They then worked as a team to guide blind folded members to the next task in a Trust Walk. At the Battlefield site, teams worked together to move a tent pole 10 feet using only their index fingers. They engaged in effective communication, teamwork, and patience.

At the Fort site, teams were sent on a scavenger hunt with their compasses to spell a four-letter word that was mapped out in the grass. One team member reflected on how he learned that it is easier when the whole team is working together and listening to each other.

Next, teams practiced bear safety as they walked down the path to find a bear hiding in the woods. The kids “got big” with each other and calmly talked to the bear. After successfully going around the bear, teams were ready to make a safe, weather proof shelter with items from their safety kit. One team even made a natural lean-to shelter with insulation!

 

The event wrapped up with a native plant identification game with Ranger Ryan Carpenter from the National Historical Park.

Ranger Ryan Carpenter

A very well deserved THANK YOU goes out to Jen Grocki, co coordinator for the Eco Challenge. Jen inspired the event and saw it through to fruition. Also, a thank you to Sea Mart for donating healthy snacks, Russell’s for their help with purchasing compasses and survival kits, Ryan Carpenter and the National Historical Park for hosting the event as well as adding a native education task, and AmeriCorps member Xaver and Kelly for helping with the event.

Apr 28 2014

2014 Parade of Species

Thanks to everyone who attended the 13th Annual Parade of Species!

The Parade of Species is an annual celebration of Earth Day organized by the Sitka Conservation Society.  Families are invited to dress up as their favorite plant or animal and swim, slither, fly, or trot through town.  Community partners offer games and activities after the parade and donate prizes for “Best Costume” contest winners.

SCS would especially like to thank the following organizations and individuals who donated their time and resources for the activities after the parade:

  • Alaska Department of Fish and Game: Troy Tydingco & Patrick Fowler
  • Park Service: Ryan Carpenter, Christina Neighbors, Kassy Eubank-Littlefield, Anne Lankenau, Andrea Willingham, Jasa Woods & Janet Drake
  • Kayaani Commission: Judi Lehman & Erin Rofkar
  • Forest Service: Marty Becker & Perry Edwards
  • Sitka Tribe of Alaska/Herring Festival: Jessica Gill & Melody Kingsley
  • Sitka Sound Science Center: Madison Kosma, Ashley Bolwerk, Michael Maufbach & Margot O’Connell
  • Kettleson Memorial Library: Tracy Turner
  • Cooperative Extension: Jasmine Shaw
  • Stream Team: Wendy Alderson, Amy Danielson, Nora Stewart, Al Madigan, & Levi Danielson
  • 4H: Mary Wood
  • Fish to Schools: Jess Acker
  • Harry Race: prize tokens to soda fountain
  • Botanika Organic Spa: delicious earth-friendly treats

 

Apr 08 2014

13th Annual Parade of the Species – Friday, April 25th

 Parade of the Species, Friday, April 25th, Meet at 2:30

The 13th Annual Parade of the Species will be held on Friday, April 25th.  Parade participants are invited to dress as their favorite animal or plant and gallop, slither, swim, or fly with us. We will meet in Totem Square at 2:30 and parade down Lincoln Street to Centennial Hall at 3:00 pm. Prizes will be awarded for Best Use of Recycled Material, Most Realistic, and Best Local Plant/Animal.

There will be a number of community organizations with hands-on Earth Day inspired activities for the whole family from 3:00-4:30 at Harrigan Centennial Hall.

For a full list of Earth Week community events, go here.  Earth Week Events  For more information contact Mary at SCS offices -747-7509.

For inspiration, check out all the wonderful costumes from the 2013 Parade of the Species.

Post- parade Activities for Kids

Friday, April 25th, 3:00 – 4:30 pm

 

Two young scientists at the 2013 Earth Week event for kids.

There will be a number of community organizations with hands-on Earth Day inspired activities for the whole family at Harrigan Centennial Hall following the parade.  All the activities are kid friendly, free and open to the public.

Participating organizations this year include:

  • Alaska Department of Fish and Game
  • National Park Service
  • Forest Service
  • Sitka Tribes of Alaska
  • Sitka Sound Science Center
  • Kettleson Library
  • Cooperative Extension
Mar 04 2014

DC Environmental Film Festival

We are very excited to announce that The Meaning of Wild has been accepted to the DC Environmental Film Festival!

Please join us for the event March 20th at 6:30pm at the Yates Auditorium (address below).

Washington, D.C. Premiere The Meaning of Wild is a documentary film that takes viewers on a journey through one of our nation’s most wild and pristine landscapes – The Tongass National Forest of Southeast Alaska. The film follows wildlife cameraman Ben Hamilton as he travels by boat, plane, kayak and foot to capture and share the true value of Wilderness. Along the journey Ben encounters bears, calving glaciers, ancient forest, and harsh seas but it’s the characters he meets along the way that bring true insight to his mission. Filmed in stunning HD,The Meaning of Wild, highlights never before captured landscapes while provoking reflection about their importance to us all. Ultimately The Meaning of Wild celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act and seeks to share these national treasures and inspire the next generation of wilderness advocates.

Introduced by Peggy O’Dell, Deputy Director for Operations, National Park Service. Discussion with filmmakers Ben Hamilton and J.J. Kelley follows screening.

Shown with YOSEMITE: A GATHERING OF SPIRIT (Ken Burns)

Background: Sitka Conservation Society has been partnering with the USDA Forest Service for over 5 years to monitor and steward Wilderness areas in the Tongass.  Part of SCS’s mission is to educate and inspire community members to take care of their local public lands through projects like the Meaning of Wild.

This film was made possible through support from the Forest Service, Sitka Conservation Society, and the contributions of over 100 community members all of whom we would like to thank for making this film a reality.

Ticket/Reservation Info:

FREE. No reservations required.

U.S. Department of the Interior
Yates Auditorium
1849 C St., NW
(Metro: Farragut West)

Feb 12 2014

The Meaning of Wild, March 9th in Sitka

SCS will present the Sitka premiere of The Meaning of Wild Sunday, March 9, 2014 from 6-8pm at the Sitka Performing Arts Center.  Tickets $7 available at Old Harbor Books (2/14/2014). Free for kids 10 and under.

The film will be accompanied by a selection of wilderness-themed short films,  a photography exhibit and silent auction, and door prizes.

 

The Films:

Meaning of Wild (25:00)

Film by Ben Hamilton, Pioneer Videography

The Meaning of Wild takes viewers on a journey through one of our nation’s most wild and pristine landscapes – The Tongass National Forest of Southeast Alaska.  The film follows wildlife cameraman Ben Hamilton as he travels by boat, plane, kayak and foot to capture and share the true value of Wilderness.   Along the journey Ben encounters bears, calving glaciers, ancient forest, and harsh seas but it’s the characters he meets along the way that bring true insight to his mission. The film highlights never before captured landscapes while provoking reflection about their importance to us all. Ultimately The Meaning of Wild celebrates the fiftieth anniversary of the Wilderness Act and seeks to share these national treasures and inspire the next generation of wilderness advocates.  Visit the Meaning of Wild website.

Background: Sitka Conservation Society has been partnering with the USDA Forest Service for over 5 years to monitor and steward Wilderness areas in the Tongass.  Part of SCS’s mission is to educate and inspire community members to take care of their local public lands through projects like the Meaning of Wild.

This film was made possible through support from the Forest Service, Sitka Conservation Society, and the contributions of over 100 community members all of whom we would like to thank for making this film a reality.

Big Bear Country (26:11)

Film by Ben Hamilton, Pioneer Videography

Follow wildlife biologist Jon Martin, big game guide Kevin Johnson, conservationist Andrew Thoms and filmmaker Ben Hamilton as they travel by foot and packraft through the rich habitats of West Chichagof Wilderness.  The team seeks out the coastal brown bear, a keystone species, to unravel the importance of protecting large tracks of intact habitat for wildlife population.  Their journey takes them through the Lisianski-Hoonah Sound corridor, an area proposed but ultimately removed from the original citizen-intiated Wilderness proposal and a prime wildlife area, and over the Goulding Lakes, within the Wilderness boundary.  Prepare yourself—you’re about to enter into Big Bear Country.

Running Wild (4:00)

Film by Alexander Crook

Getting out into wilderness, feeling the moss underfoot, legs pumping uphill, breathing clean air, and taking a minute to reflect at the top of a climb—these are the things that inspire backcountry trailrunner Nick Ponzetti to travel to designated Wilderness areas.  Follow Nick on a run through the heart of Wilderness to find out how his love of running has inspired a passion for protecting wild places.

Tongass Wilderness, Our Wilderness (1:06)

Film by Adam Andis

This short film, shot in South Baranof Wilderness area shows how designated Wilderness is integral to us all.

 

 

Exhibit:

The Wilderness of Southeast Alaska

Photos by Adam Andis

Photographer Adam Andis has been exploring the remote Wilderness areas of Southeast Alaska for the past 8 years as a private kayak guide and manager of the Sitka Community Wilderness Stewardship Project.  This collection of photos includes 24 images depicting the raw beauty of 14 Wilderness Areas in the Tongass.  Prints will be available to purchase through silent auction at the event with a portion of the proceeds being donated to SCS.

 

Door Prizes:

Attendees can enter their ticket stubs into a drawing for a number of great door prizes donated by local businesses including:

2 REI Flash Packs from REI Anchorage

Coupon for Whale Watching tour from Aquatic Alaska Adventures

Gifts from Sound Sailing

2 copies of The Meaning of Wild DVD

 

Feb 07 2014

Alaska Way-of-Life 4H

Want to get involved with 4H? 4H is a positive youth development program to get youth civically engaged and apply leadership skills at a young age.

Our 4H Adventure Series starts February 18!! This series will be Tuesdays through May from 4:15 – 5:45pm for ages 8 to 13. Skills we will explore are: map and compass navigation, using survival kits, GPS and geocaching, fire building, shelters, knots, water purification, Leave No Trace Wilderness ethics, bear awareness, and other skills to prepare for an overnight trip!

New 4H members are encouraged to join! Please share with friends who may be interested.

Attendees must be 4H members. Please complete the registration forms before the 18th. Copies are available at the Sitka Conservation Society.

Registration is open for this series by e-mailing Mary or Tracy or by calling SCS at 747-7509.

Get outside and explore!

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  • 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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