Sitka Conservation Society
Sep 03 2014

Back to Basics: An Alaskan Wilderness Experience

Almost three months have already gone by since I started my internship with the Sitka Conservation Society, under the supervision of Scott Harris, the Conservation Science Director at SCS. It is now the start of September and I cannot believe how fast time flies by when I am truly enjoying my eye-opening opportunity. It still feels as though only yesterday I landed in Sitka Rocky Gutierrez Airport. Nowadays waking up every morning to rhythmic pulses of the rain droplets and the fresh aroma of the soothing ocean breeze has become a part of my daily life.

Adventure into the West Chichagof-Yakobi Wilderness.

Along with the overwhelming invasion of nature in my life, I also get a chance to spend the majority of my time here in the largest national forest in the United States at 17 million acres. The Tongass is one of the last few forests untouched by industrialization and remains as the largest temperate rainforest on earth. The forest encompasses part of the Northern Pacific coastal forests along with the Central and North Coast regions of British Columbia. Due to its vast size, the forest hosts a number of various types of trees: western red cedar, sitka spruce and western hemlock. The forest is also home to five species of salmon, brown and black bears, and Bald Eagles.

A pink salmon swims upstream to spawn.

My days at Sitka are often filled with a variety of outdoor activities- all of which have constantly kept me marveling at the great nature I am surrounded by. From hiking up mountain trails to kayaking upstream against the swift tides, my internship projects have led me to explore different parts of the Tongass while having the opportunity to meet other biologists, conservationists, and interns. One of my projects involved monitoring a conservation and restoration project implemented by the U.S Forest Service (USFS) in the Starrigavan Recreational Area. I am conducting vegetation surveys in these forest gaps and collecting data from trail cams to monitor deer activity within the gaps for tagging purposes. The workers of the USFS cut oval forest gaps with an area of 100 ft in diameter to mimic natural disturbances in the forest. The purpose of this is to encourage the growth of shrubs and ferns, which are another type of food sources for deer and bears. Starting since the 1950s, a significant percentage of the big trees (old growth) in the Tongass were logged and when the second generation of trees grew, they left little space for sunlight to reach to the ground. Thus, without these gaps, the growth of shrubs and ferns will decrease, thereby lowering the food sources for the deer, which may lead to a decline in the deer population in the future. Within the gaps, there are also deer enclosures to monitor how deer foraging affects vegetation growth.

Picturesque view of Nakwasina Sound.

From the peaks of the mountains to where streams meander across the landscape, my weekly duty takes me to a stream that flows through the community of Sitka. Once a week I would ride my bike down to Indian River to collect water samples from the river. According to the protocol, I would filter the water from the river and pour them into two sampling bottles. The Sitka Conservation Society is a part of SALMoN (Southeast Alaska Long-term Monitoring Network) and participates in the Global Rivers Observatory (GRO). GRO documents water chemistry from rivers around the world in order to understand long-term ecological changes to freshwater ecosystems. To document the water chemistry, GRO analyzes nutrient concentrations, dissolved organic carbon, and the isotope ratio of strontium.  Local streams such as Indian River will be studied alongside the great rivers such as Amazon, Yangtze and others. The program started when Dr. Bernhard Peucker-Ehrenbrink, a Senior Scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute and one of the founders of GRO was a Scientist in Residence at the Sitka Sound Science Center.

My days often began with journeys packed with wilderness adventures. I went on a five day camping trip to West Chichagof-Yakobi Wilderness which is located about 55 miles away from Sitka and it takes around 3 hours to get there by boat. This trip by far is the longest period of time that I’ve been out camping. The purpose of this project is to install temperature loggers into five different streams in order to monitor the health and the quality of the stream waters. To arrive at some of these streams, we had to bushwhack through the forest while making noises to alert the bears. Some trails were challenging and tedious with rugged and slippery mud-covered grounds but they were all fun. Once we’ve reached the streams, we conducted a variety of analyses such as installing temperature loggers and recording the stream width. We also measured the flow of the streams and noted down the dissolved oxygen levels. While performing these tasks, it was fascinating to see thousands of salmon fish swimming up these streams, their silvery scales reflecting the sunlight underneath the clear water. The end of each day was an even bigger adventure for me since we would move from one campsite to the next. Before the sun sets, we would spend about 30 minutes, cruising around the ocean in our boat, searching for a safe spot to camp. We camped on different parts of the forest each night and got to explore the wonders of the old growth wilderness in the dark, quiet night.

A brown bear lurks across the tidal flat.

From sampling streams, my internship has also taken me to Redoubt Lake, a unique meromictic lake where its top layer is freshwater with several hundred feet of saltwater on the bottom layer of the lake. Going to Redoubt was a whole new experience unlike anything before at Sitka. Not only was it the longest camp trip, it was also riveting to be at Redoubt Lake where I had a chance to work with the Forest Service. Located about 12 miles from the city of Sitka, Redoubt Lake plays an important role in the subsistence fisheries for the people of Sitka. The Forest Service maintains a weir system to count and record the fish entering whereafter the Alaska Department of Fish & Game makes management decisions based on the data collected each season. Once the fish pass through the weir, they head up to the northern tip of the lake and travel up streams to spawn. Through out the process, I witnessed the physical transformation of these iconic fish. Their bodies become bright red and the male sockeyes’ heads morphed into sharply hooked noses with gawking teeth. They nipped and bit at one another, fighting to reproduce for the first and the last time, before they lie lifeless beneath the streams. It definitely was a biological process worth observing.

Holding a Coho at Redoubt weir.

Work station for sampling fish at the Redoubt weir.

With large amount of ocean surrounding the island comes the freshest seafood. The most important resource of Southeast Alaska is salmon. There are five different types of salmon here: king, sockeye, coho, chum and pink salmon. Here, salmon is fished for industrial purposes and plays a major role in sustainable fishing as well. Out of the five different types of Salmon, I have already tried three of them, which are King, Sockeye and Pink. The two that I haven’t tasted yet are Coho and Chum. Most people here prefer the King and I have to agree with them on that. I also got a chance to try deer meat, which tasted like beef but leaves a trace of gamey palate in your mouth.

Despite the nature explorations that were required for work, I also had a chance to enjoy the beautiful picturesque landscape of Alaska. The town of Sitka is small with a population of 9000 people, yet it is lively and vibrant with esthetically decorated small vendor shops. Sitka is surrounded by the sounds of clashing waves and mountains varying in heights. During my leisure time from work, I went on hikes on the mountains with friends and enjoyed stunning landscapes from the peaks of the mountains. Along the way, I met other interns and co-workers who were passionate about conserving the natural beauty that the Tongass has to offer.

View of Crescent Harbor in Sitka, Alaska.

Chris Leeseberg, Scott Harris and I at False Island.

On the 28th of August, I completed my internship with the Sitka Conservation Society and had the opportunity to gain hands on conservation experience that I have longed for. Within the past three months, I learned so much about the importance of conservation methods, and my internship gave me a chance to work with land managers who are working on making important conservation decisions. I learned new research and conservation approaches and methods as well as the importance of social outreach to the community for our conservation works. Overall, this internship has given me invaluable knowledge and taught me to have even more respect for the beautiful wilderness and the natural wonders of the earth. This was truly an eye opening experience and certainly, one that I will never forget.

One of the remarkable inhabitants of the Tongass.

Sep 02 2014

Redoubt Lake: The Heart of the Tongass

My internship has also taken me to Redoubt Lake, a unique meromictic lake, where the top layer is freshwater with several hundred feet of saltwater on the bottom layer of the lake. Located about 12 miles from the city of Sitka, Redoubt Lake plays an important role in the subsistence fisheries for the people of Sitka. The Forest Service maintains a weir system to count and record the fish entering whereafter the Alaska Department of Fish & Game makes management decisions based on the data collected each season.

The trap weir has a fish trap used to capture fish in order to weigh, mark, or otherwise handle them.

Going to Redoubt was a whole new experience unlike anything before in Sitka. Not only was it the longest trip of my internship (a total of 6 days out in the field), it was also riveting to be at Redoubt Lake and to have a chance to work with the Forest Service. Throughout the entire trip, we lived in a small cozy cabin that is built on an island completely surrounded by water. Every morning, I was up by 6:30 and the day officially started off at 7:00. Through the quiet serene waters, we boated towards the weir, the morning silence broken by the Forest Service employees yelling“Hey Bear” and the sound of the blow horn. The Forest Service runs a mark and recapture study of sockeye returning to the stream. In addition we sampled the fish, which entailed weighing, measuring and collecting a scale sample.

The Redoubt Cabin.

 

Marking the fish was quite a challenge but fun!

 

Sitting at the weir and counting fish as they pass through was quite an experience.  It was fascinating to see thousands of salmon swimming up these streams, their silvery scales reflecting the sunlight underneath the clear water as they fought against the downstream currents. While there was a feast of action packed beneath the waters, the above grounds were active with local dip netters at the outlet of the lake and hungry bears that roamed around the surroundings. One day, as I was sitting at the weir and counting fish with Janelle Horstman, a Forest Service employee, a bear snuck up to the end of the weir. It was a chilling experience, yet quite incredible to see a wild bear within 20 feet. With the gush of rapids pouring out at the outlet, I barely heard the bear coming down from the island. It made me appreciate the rugged beauty and graceful movement of these magnificent grizzly bears.

The method of counting fish as they pass through the opening at the weir.

A bear lurks around in search of food near the weir.

 

Once the fish pass through the weir, they headed up to the northern tip of the lake and traveled up-stream to spawn. Throughout the process, I witnessed the physical transformation of these iconic fish. Their bodies became bright red and the male sockeyes’ heads morphed into sharply hooked noses with gawking teeth. They nipped and bit at one another, fighting to reproduce for the first and the last time before they lie lifeless beneath the streams. It was definitely a biological process worth observing.

The scenes at Redoubt Lake were pretty mesmerizing. The sight of glassy black pearly water reflecting the clouds above and nearby mountains created a dreamy ambiance. The sounds of nature and refreshing ocean breeze swirled around the lake, creating a perfect blend of serenity. With its picturesque landscape and its importance to the subsistence fishery of Alaska, Redoubt Lake is definitely one of the most precious landmarks of the Tongass National Forest. 

The beautiful view of Redoubt lake from the weir.

 

May 30 2014

In Memory of Greg Killinger

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

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

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

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

Greg cleaning a halibut after a day out fishing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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Jan 03 2014

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

Subsistence in Southeast Alaska from Sitka Conservation Society on Vimeo.

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

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

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

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

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

Sep 04 2013

The Salmon Forest

THE TONGASS NATIONAL FOREST AND THE COHO SALMON:

 Alaska’s coho fisheries and the Tongass National Forest are closely related. Shot in Sitka over the fishing season of 2013 by Berett Wilber, this photo essay illustrates how conservation and restoration matter  to local fisherman, and why it should matter to you.

Aug 05 2013

Summer Boat Tour Series: Sitka’s Salmon

The Summer Boat Tour Series continues on Tuesday August 13th, from 5:30 to 8pm, exploring Sitka’s Salmon.  Come learn about their life cycle, how hatcheries influence salmon populations, and how there are salmon in the trees!

 TIckets can be purchased with cash or checks from Old Harbor Books 201 Lincoln Street for $35 or (if available) at the Crescent Harbor loading dock at time of the cruise.  It is suggested that tickets be purchased in advance to assure participation. Boarding begins at 5:15 pm. at Crescent Harbor. Due to the discounted rate of this trip, we are unable to offer additionally  reduced rates for seniors or children.

This cruise is great for locals who want to get out on the water, for visitors to Sitka who want to learn more about our surrounding natural environment, or for family members visiting Sitka. Complimentary hot drinks are available on board and you may bring your own snacks. Binoculars are available on board for your use. Allen Marine generously offers this boat trip at a reduced rate for non-profits.

Questions? email erin@sitkawild.org

Jul 19 2013

Sitka Sound Science Center: Salmon Connections Exhibit

 

Salmon Connections Aquarium

The juvenile salmon behind the curved glass of the newest aquarium installation at the Sitka Sound Science Center are a pretty dour crowd. Their grey lips curl down in fishy frowns, or pucker around their next microscopic meal. But one doesn’t need to look far to find a smiling face in this fish tank. A large bubble of glass is built into the bottom of the salmon’s tank, allowing visitors to crawl under the aquarium and look up into the tank, smiling widely as they view the world from a salmon’s underwater perspective.

This interactive aquarium is part of a larger exhibit called “The Salmon Connection” that opened last week at the Science Center. The new display includes the salmon tank, educational artwork by Ketchikan artist Ray Troll, and a Salmon Olympics competition. The exhibit is the result of a partnership between the Science Center and the University of Washington School of Aquatic and Fisheries Science. It was funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation that supports projects and organizations who communicate research to a public audience. The display highlights the work of UW researchers currently studying how a range of habitat variety in salmon streams can lead to healthier, stronger salmon populations, which in turn lead to healthier coastal communities. Science Center Director Lisa Busch says that the goal of the new display is to draw an ecological and educational connection between the Center’s traditional exhibits focused on intertidal and marine environments, and its work running the Sheldon Jackson Salmon Hatchery. The exhibit will also include a video, under production, and a new game designed by Ray Troll that will be unveiled at Sitka’s Whalefest celebration in the fall.

Touch tank

Salmon Olympics starting line

At the gala opening of the Salmon Connections exhibit, the aquarium’s main room was crowded with visitors. Adults and toddlers alike slurped rootbeer floats and poked at the huge colorful starfish in the touch tanks. Locals and tourists mingled, examining the cleverly drawn interpretative signs and Ray Troll’s beautiful painted mural on the back wall. Outside, competition was fierce as several dozen kids raced to perform “egg-takes,” netting “female” water balloons out of holding bins, then transporting their slippery load across the yard to slice the balloons open and collect the precious “eggs” (pinto beans) that lay within. At the end of a frantic, wet 15 minutes, there didn’t seem to be a clear winner, but everyone was having a great time.

Amidst all the bustle, I was drawn back inside to stand in front of Ray Troll’s mural, which depicts the huge variety of rainforest flora, fauna, and fishermen that rely on Southeast Alaska’s salmon runs. An illustrated salmon lifecycle chart frames the entire piece, encompassing the bears and gulls, trees and fisherfolk in a perpetual circle of death and renewal. The title arches across the top: “A Wild, Salmon-Centric World.” It seems a fitting label for both the mural, and the Science Center itself.

Ray Troll’s mural “A Wild, Salmon-Centric World”

May 08 2013

Sitka: A Tongass Salmon Town

In 2011, SCS began the Sitka Salmon Tours program.  The goal of the tours was to give visitors a salmon’s eye view from the forests where the salmon are born, to the ocean, the fisher and processor, and finally to our plates.  We’ve discontinued the Salmon Tours for 2013.  Instead, we have distilled all of the great facts, stories, and natural history  from the tours into this manual, “Sitka: A Tongass Salmon Town.”  Now anyone can be an expert on wild Tongass Salmon.  We hope that Sitka residents, guides, and naturalist will use this guide to share the miracle of salmon that attracts tens of thousands of visitors to this place each year.

Printed guides are available at the Sitka Conservation Society office.  If you’d like us to mail you a copy, send a request to info@sitkawild.org.  Bulk copies are available for purchase at-cost (about $0.80 per copy).

Download a copy of the manual HERE.

May 01 2013

Running the Country! Sitkans Plan to Take GMO Message Across the United States

SITKA CONSERVATION SOCIETY PARTNERS WITH RUNNING FAMILY!

 

Brett, Kris, David, and Olivia Wilcox are pleased to announce that the Sitka Conservation Society is now partnering with them as they run across America in their efforts to raise awareness about genetically modified organisms that can pose a danger to health and the environment. The Sitka Conservation Society has done extensive advocacy work opposing genetically modified salmon as well as community work to build sustainable food systems. They are partnering with Running The Country because of our joint concerns about genetically modified organisms.

 

The Wilcox family got their inspiration to run across the country in 2010 when David learned of a teen-aged girl who completed the transcontinental run. “I want to do that!” David said. Over time, David convinced Brett and Kris that he was serious. They decided they would run to promote healthy lifestyles and healthy food choices. “And a big part of healthy eating,” Brett states, “is knowing what’s in our food.”

 

If successful, David will become the youngest person to complete this run, and David and Brett will become the first father and son team to do so.

 

While undertaking the run, the Wilcox’s will stop at community centers, public events, scheduled talks, and in public forums, to speak about and raise awareness on genetically modified organisms, their run, and what people can do to secure a safe, non-GMO food supply.

The Sitka Conservation Society sees this project as a great partnership to raise awareness on these important issues. Executive Director Andrew Thoms is enthusiastic about the

program, “We are facing a really scary threat with genetically modified salmon in Alaska. Our community’s livelihoods are intricately connected to Wild Alaska Salmon. Introducing a Frankenstein salmon into the environment could cause disastrous consequences to our wild salmon stocks and our local industry. The more people that know about this threat, the better. Running The Country will help spread the word about what people want for our food system and counter the voices of large food corporations that are pushing GMO foods.”

 

David showed his appreciation for Alaska’s wild and natural environment while speaking at a “No GMO Salmon” rally in February in Sitka protesting potential FDA approval of the mutant fish. David quoted one of his inspirations in the rally, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. when he said, “He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.”

 

“GMO salmon is evil, David added. “By being here today and protesting against GMO salmon, you are standing up for what is right.”

 

“The GMO issue is especially important right now,” Brett says. “California’s Proposition 37 was narrowly defeated in November after Monsanto and other pro-biotech interests poured $46 million into the state, convincing people that GMO food labels would cost too much.”

 

A 2012 poll of likely voters found that 91% support labeling. (1) “People will argue for many years about the safety of genetically modified foods,” says Brett. “Safe or not, we have a right to know what’s in our food. We also have a right to know who’s profiting from our food choices. With Monsanto’s 100+ year legacy of pollution, corruption, and lies, I personally can not morally justify spending one dime on one Monsanto product.” (2)

 

Running across America is no small undertaking, and the Wilcox family is raising money and accepting contributions for their efforts. The runners gratefully accept credit cards, PayPal or donations by check. Donations may be made directly on the runners’ web site, runningthecountry.com.

 

All donations are tax deductible and a receipt will be provided.

 

For more information regarding the run and the GMO issue, please refer to runningthecountry.com.

 

1.  Mark Mellman, The Hill, April 17, 2012, http://thehill.com/opinion/columnists/mark-mellman/222129-majority-want-more-labels-on-food

2.  Jeffrey M. Smith, Seeds of Deception: Exposing Industry and Government Lies About the Safety of the Genetically Engineered Foods You’re Eating, (Yes! Books, Fairfield, IA, 2003)

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Blog
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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