Sitka Conservation Society
Jan 31 2013

“Changing Shorelines and the Search for Early Habitation Sites: a Talk by Jim Baichtal, Tongass Forest Geologist”

Friday, February 8th, 7:00 pm, UAS, Sitka, Room 220

Learn about research into the interactions of ice, land and sea across Southeast Alaska at the end of the last ice age. Recent discoveries, some in the Sitka area have been used in an attempt to model changing shorelines from the end of the last ice age into the present.
You are invited to enter in to the discussion in hopes that you may know of places that will help with development and refining future models.
This talk is free and open to the public. If you have any questions, please call Kitty at 747-9432

Jan 24 2013

“Review of Earthquakes Along the Queen Charlotte Fault” Program


Natalia Ruppert,  Seismologist, Alaska Earthquake Information Center, GI UAF

  • Tuesday, January 29
  • UAS  Room 229

The Queen Charlotte fault is a strike-slip fault that marks the boundary between two tectonic plates: the Pacific Plate to the southwest and the North American Plate to the northeast. This fault has previously ruptured in major earthquakes, including a magnitude 8.1 on August 22, 1949; a magnitude 7.6 on July 30, 1972; and the recent magnitude 7.7 earthquake that occurred on October 28, 2012 off Haida Gwaii in British Columbia. On January 5, 2013, a magnitude 7.5 event was located near the northern end of the 1949 rupture but south of the 1972 event; i.e., it most likely occurred in the remaining rupture gap. This presentation will discuss characteristics of each of these earthquakes and how they are related to the tectonics of the Queen Charlotte fault.

This program is free and open to the public.  It is sponsored with the generous support of the US Forest Service, UAS Sitka Campus and the Sitka Conservation Society.

If you have any questions, please contact Kitty LaBounty at 747-9432

Jan 08 2013

Celebrating an Amazing Year of 4-H!

Over the last year, the Sitka Conservation Society has offered lots of exciting Alaska Way of Life 4-H programs! In 2012 4-H kids learned how to track deer, make devils club salve, identify wild mushrooms, harvest berries, and much more! 4-H kids were able to walk, touch, eat, and experience everything the Tongass has to offer. 4-H is an amazing program that focuses on four H’s: head, heart, hands, health. Head refers to thinking critically, heart focuses on caring, hands involves giving and working, and finally health emphasizes being and living. Every 4-H class builds community and enhances our understanding of our natural environment by learning these skills together through hands on activities in the Tongass.

By living in Sitka, we must be invested in the Tongass because hurting it would mean damaging our own home. 2012 was filled with dedicated 4-H members who wanted to dive into the Tongass and learn all about its beauty and complexities. As a community, we all were able to experience these things through Alaska Way of Life 4-H clubs. Thank you to all 4-H participants for a terrific year! Please enjoy a sneak peak of our slideshow celebrating the wonderful skills we learned together in 2012! To see the full album with all the pictures from the year check out our facebook page.

It’s never too late to get involved with 4H! We are always excited to welcome new members to participate in our clubs and workshops that explore the natural world. In the next few months, members will get to go on night hikes, identify wild edibles, monitor beaches, and much more! If you are interested or want to get involved in 4-H please contact Courtney at or 747-7509.


Dec 20 2012

Second-growth in High School Wood Shop

Since the Forest Service first announced its Tongass Transition Framework in early 2010, the Sitka Conservation Society has both partnered with the agency and sought models to demonstrate ways Tongass second growth timber can be used locally and sustainably.  We know there is a significant interest in the use of local wood, and we believe Southeast Alaska communities can sustain small second-growth timber operations and mills. Local builders are interested in realizing this vision. However the Forest Service still needs a little convincing to move away from a dependence on unsustainable old growth logging.  With the help of a National Forest Foundation grant, we recently donated 1,800 board feet of local young growth Pacific red alder to the Sitka High School industrial arts department for students to use in building night stands.  Our hope is if students can successfully use this local wood in their first-ever carpentry projects – and perhaps discover a few of its quirks – local builders and the Forest Service will take note, and give more consideration to local second growth.  To learn more about the Sitka High industrial arts classes’ use of local alder, listen to this article by KCAW radio.

Sitka High School Alder Project Briefing Sheet_Press Quality

Dec 06 2012

Salmon Community

Salmon are the backbone of the economy and the way-of-life in Southeast Alaska.  Many of our regional leaders recognize the importance of salmon for Southeast Alaska and recently worked with the Sitka Conservation Society to articulate why Salmon are important and the efforts they are taking to protect and sustain our Wild Salmon Populations.  With support from the State of Alaska Sustainable Salmon Fund and Trout Unlimited Alaska, SCS helped to produce a series of “Targeted, effective, and culturally competent messages on the importance of wild salmon and salmon habitat will be created that are customized to appeal to specific Southeast Alaska communities.”

The work of the Sitka Conservation Society strives to find the common ground that we all have to the natural world that surrounds us.  We work to build upon this common ground to chart a course for policy, practices, and personal relationships that create an enduring culture of conservation values alongside natural resource management that provides for current and future generations.  In Alaska, we have in Salmon an opportunity to do things right.  We are proud when are leaders recognize and support this vision and take actions that manifest this support.  Listen to what they have to say:


Listen to: Senator Mark Begich

“We have an incredible salmon resource in Southeast Alaska.  Did you know that salmon provide a 1 Billion dollar industry that powers the local economy? And that catching, processing and selling salmon puts 1 in 10 Southeast Alaskans to work?  Salmon is big business throughout Southeast Alaska and symbolizes the richness and bounty of the Tongass National Forest.  Healthy and abundant salmon–something we can all be proud of!”


Listen to: Senator Lisa Murkowski

“Since I was a young girl growing up in Southeast the region has been sustained because of the diversity of our economy, and a key part of that diversity is our salmon which fuel a 1 Billion dollar commercial fishery annually.  Not to mention the sport fisheries’ economic contributions.  Catching, processing and selling salmon accounts for 10% of all regional jobs.  Everyone is lucky to live in a place that produces such bountiful fisheries.  Healthy and abundant salmon–something we can all be proud of!”


Listen to: Dale Kelly – Alaska Troller’s Association

“Did you ever think that an old log lying in the stream might be good for salmon?  Turns out it is!  A fallen tree creates pools and eddies where salmon like to lay eggs.  These areas are also nurseries for young salmon.  Back in the day, people used to clear logs from salmon streams, but that’s no longer allowed and restoration work is underway in some rivers.  Healthy forests mean healthy salmon–something we can all be proud of!”


Listen to: Bruce Wallace – United Fishermen of Alaska

“Did you know that conserving and restoring salmon habitat means jobs for Southeast Alaskans?  Salmon already employ about 1 in 10 people here.  Restoring salmon watersheds damaged in the past means more fish, bigger overall catches, and more jobs.  With support from the Alaska Sustainable Salmon Fund, forest restoration projects are underway in the Tongass National Forest.  Healthy forests mean healthy salmon–something we can all be proud of!


Listen to: Sencer Severson – Salmon Troller

“Southeast Alaskans love our rare spells of hot, dry weather, but heat and sunshine can be bad for salmon–in fact, they like shade.  That’s why our towering trees in the Tongass National Forest are so important for our salmon to reproduce.  Leaving trees along salmon streams provides essential shade.  It also prevents erosion and keeps rivers in their natural channels.  In the Tongass, healthy forests mean healthy salmon!”


Listen to: Cora Campbell – Commissioner of the Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game

“Alaska’s sustainable salmon management depends on good information.  That’s why technicians may ask to look at salmon you’ve caught.  Fish with the adipose fin removed usually means the salmon had a tiny wire ta implanted in side when they were juveniles.  These tags provide managers with important information on the origin of the stock.  Healthy and abundant salmon–something we can all be proud of!”


Nov 23 2012

My Alaskan Experience: Nora McGinn

Nora McGinn is a Junior in the Environmental Studies program at Knox College in Illinois.



Five months ago I was one of thirteen undergraduate students from Knox College (located in Galesburg, IL) to travel north to Southeast Alaska’s Tongass National Forest with the Sitka Conservation Society. This trip was the final component of a trimester- long course entitled “Alaska: Forest, Fisheries, and Politics of the Wilderness.’”Prior to our Alaskan adventure, our class spent ten weeks reading and writing about the history and policy of the land management practices in the Tongass National Forest. Once we got to Alaska we spent 15 days kayaking 100 miles along the beaches of the Tongass Forest. We finally reached False Island where we helped the United States Forest Service with restoration of key salmon habitats. After that we spent an additional week in Sitka learning and talking to local policy makers and stakeholders.  This unique experience gave my classmates and I a hands-on look at the complex ways nature, policy, and the public are inextricably intertwined.

When I was in the Tongass it became clear that it is one of the few remaining wild places in America. It is an ecosystem with a deep cultural significance, beauty, and wonder. During the time we spent in Sitka we were able to meet fisherman of the charter, commercial, and subsistence trades alike.  We were able to meet with community members and local politicians to see the importance salmon and the Tongass forest have on each of their daily lives and the community’s economy as a whole.  We were also fortunate enough to witness the amazing and significant work many individuals and advocacy groups are doing to see to it that there are lots of opportunities to use, enjoy, and care for the lands and waters of the Tongass.

Despite being over 3,000 miles away in Galesburg, IL, I wanted to continue to show my support for the prioritizing of watershed restoration and salmon habitats in the Tongass. I started talking to my classmates who had come to Alaska with me and we decided to talk to others who have never been there, and informed our peers about the Tongass and its salmon. It turns out that the message was pretty simple- we told students about the two-fold mission statement of the Forest Service:  (a.) to make sure that America’s forests and grasslands are in the healthiest condition they can be and (b.) to see to it that you have lots of opportunities to use, enjoy, and care for the lands and waters that sustain us all- and we told them about what we saw in the Tongass and the surrounding communities. The response was empowering. We soon held a Salmon Advocacy Party where admission was free aside from personal advocacy. Each student was asked to write a letter to the Chief of the Forest Service describing why the Tongass and particularly salmon habitat restoration was important to them. This event helped many students, who otherwise would not have been engaged by this particular environmental issue, become interested and engaged in advocating for the health of the Tongass and the surrounding community.


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 14 2012

Tracy Hunts: Take 2

The morning light began to unfold as we motored south of town, a pod of whales to our right and the sun dancing in the still water. I am witness to the incredible orchestration of the ocean, the interconnection between everything. This is just the beginning…

At the hunting grounds, we anchor the skiff and pack up our gear. Now we hunt. I follow in my partner’s foot-steps, every step deliberate. We walk slowly with vigilance, our eyes constantly scanning. Every movement is intentional, every sign of deer noted. We push forward and find a spot to hunker down and call in the deer, a sound that can be described as a guttural kazoo.

This is only my second time out on a hunt and I’m somewhat unaware of how this day will unravel. I try to stay present and note how ironic it is to be searching for edibles when so many are underfoot. Cranberries, crowberries, and labrador tea are in abundance but we pass them by, our eyes intent on another prey. Will our goal to find a deer override the pleasure of exploring the wilderness? Will we feel unsuccessful if we have nothing on our backs but the wind?

We keep walking, our steps intersecting existing deer trails. I am aware of my feet and the gentle forgiveness of the sphagnum moss. I look back and see the moss literally bounce back; the land feels uniquely alive. We stop again on the crest of a hill looking below while blowing the deer call. Nothing.

I begin to think I am cursed. The last time I went out we didn’t even see a deer. Maybe I’m slowing my partner down or perhaps I am walking too loudly. But I remind myself that regardless of our intent, this is incredible. The sun plays with the clouds and mountain peaks surround me, I can’t imagine a more perfect place.

We note the time and keep moving, knowing we must inevitably turn back soon before darkness sets. My eyes start to get lazy, my focus less centered but I try to remain attentive. We perch ourselves behind a large rock and try to call in a deer. We wait. We call again. And then out of my peripheral vision I notice movement to the left. A deer! I quickly signaled to my partner holding the rifle. And then…it was over.

We walked up to the buck and paid our respects. A life for a life, gunalchéesh. We quickly set to work, pulling out the organs. I was astounded by the warmth of this creature, its heart beating just minutes ago. I’ve heard of others leaving tobacco or tokens of respect for the life given, so without a tradition of my own, I pulled out a few of my hairs and sprinkled them atop the organs that would soon feed others.

On the return, my step was light (my partner did indeed pack out the deer); I was overcome with a feeling of success. I noticed how the walk back was starkly different then our journey in. The intention and awareness I brought with me began to fade. Our quiet whispers turned into conversation. It is so interesting how our interactions with place can change with context.

We were right on schedule when we returned to the skiff. Still plenty of day light to make the trip home. The air was surprisingly warm and calm for November, everything about today just felt so right. I was at home here.

When we returned to Sitka, my body was numb and tired. The spray from the skiff drenched me completely and the cold bit at every extremity. Exhaustion was setting but the day was just beginning. I watched my partner skillfully skin and quarter the deer, his hands knowing the right placement of his knife. In just a few minutes this beautiful animal transformed. How quickly this happened.

Once the deer was quartered we began to process the deer into cuts that would soon become dinner. I followed my knife along the bone and began to cut away the fat. I was fascinated by every muscle, how it connected to the bone and other muscles. We worked side by side for hours, ensuring every piece of meat was used.

This morning we finished the process by packaging up our roasts, rib meat, stock bones, and sausage. All evidence of our expedition lies in a small chest freezer, but it doesn’t end there for me. The blood has washed off my hands, but I can still see it. It is through this experience that I find myself deeply connected to this place, to the interconnection of life. We are bound in this web and in the cycle of death and creation.


A heartfelt thank you to my partner who was a patient teacher.



Nov 13 2012

Starrigavan Stream Team 2012

It’s November and the salmon eggs are all nestled in their gravel beds, but we can still dream of next year’s Blatchley Stream Team by watching this very cool video! Each May, over 100 Blatchley 7th Graders participate in Stream Team, where they help restore fish habitat and monitor stream health. This annual event is eagerly anticipated by the students as well as the organizers, which includes the US Forest Service, Sitka School District, Sitka Conservation Society, National Park Service, Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game, Corps of Engineers, and US Fish and Wildlife Service.

Nov 13 2012

2012 Science Mentor Program students selected

Three Sitka High School students were recently chosen to participate in the Science Mentor Program for the 2012-2013 school year. Program Coordinator Scott Harris and UAS Professor Kitty LaBounty stand with students Kaya Duguay, Naquoia Bautista, and Melea Roman. Kaya and Melea will be working on a cedar genetics study and Naquoia will be working on a winter songbird study.

Follow Us
Get Updates
Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for our Newsletter and updates

Take Action Now
Take Action

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
Get Involved
Get Involved