Sitka Conservation Society
Jul 25 2013

Alaska Way of Life 4H Summer Clubs!

After a summer of exploring, examining, and identifying, kids in the Alaska Way of Life 4H clubs are walking away from these 7 week clubs will a whole new skill set. During June and July, clubs in gardening, hiking, and kayaking met every week to build community, interact with their landscape, and learn new skills.

Gardening club spent every Monday at St. Peter’s Fellowship farm learning how to plant, weed, water, harvest, cook, and de-slug. Every Thursday we explored other gardens in Sitka to learn different gardening techniques. We learned how chickens are helping Sprucecot Garden, saw how bees are pollinating plants at Cooperative Extension’s Greenhouse, and the many different styles of gardening present at Blatchley’s Community Garden. Kids walked away a little dirty and wet, but with smiles and plants in hand.

Kayaking Club incorporated more than just how to paddle a boat. We learned how to tie bowlines, clove hitches, and double fishermen knots. We had another 4H’er teach us how to build survival kits. Every kid learned how to use and put together their own kit to keep us safe on our kayaking journeys. Rangers at Sitka National Historical Park showed us why we have tides and how they change during the course of the day. Finally, after weeks of preparation, 4H’ers learned how to put on gear, get in and out of their boat, and paddle before we took to the water at Swan Lake and Herring Cove.

This summer’s hiking club learned how to interact with the Tongass in new ways. We learned foraging skills and how to properly harvest spruce tips and berries. We collected leaves and flowers and created plant presses to preserve them. The kids learned flora and fauna of the muskeg before gathering labrador tea leaves. For our final hike, we learned how to use a compass and GPS to find treasure hidden in the forest. Even after learning all these new skills, we made time to hike seven different trails in Sitka.

25 kids participated in these three Alaska Way of Life 4H clubs over the summer with ages ranging from 5 to 12. These clubs were a great way to get outdoors and understand more about the amazing wilderness we live in. Look for more Alaska Way of Life 4H programs in the future!  For more information or to sign up for 4H email

Enjoy photos from the summer programs! For the full album, visit our facebook page.

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”

Jul 17 2013

Video: Second Growth Structures in the Tongass National Forest

Alaska Conservation Foundation supported intern Alex Crook  created this video that tells the story of SCS’s 2nd growth bike shelter project.

On July 3rd, 2013, Agriculture Secretary Vilsack announced a commitment to conserving the remaining old growth temperate rainforests on the Tongass National Forest.  He stated that this will be accomplished by transitioning timber harvest out of old growth harvest and shift to 2nd growth forest resources.  This announcement comes on the heels of announcements by President Obama regarding the need to take action on climate change and to conserve, restore, and protect forest resources as a carbon bank to mitigate climate change.   The Sitka Conservation Society applauds this announcement and feels that the time is past due for conserving what remains of our globally rare temperate rainforest, old-growth ecosystems.

As part of the Sitka Conservation Society’s efforts, we have partnered with the Forest Service, PNW Research Labs, Sitka High School, local carpenters and millers,  the National Forest Foundation, and many more, to determine effective and sustainable applications of Tongass 2nd growth resources that promotes conservation of the Tongass while also providing opportunities to use Tongass wood products.  With support from the National Forest Foundation’s Community Capacity and Land Stewardship Program,   SCS has initiated projects with local partners that build community assets using locally milled timber products. These projects promote sustainable harvesting of second growth timber and micro timber sales that support small, local mills. SCS tries to design projects that provide vocational opportunities for the harvest, milling, processing, and utilization of these local timber products. One such project partnered with the local high school construction course to build a bike shelter. The shelter serves as a demonstration project that will be set up in a highly visible location and educate Sitkans and visitors on the story of the Tongass and second growth timber.

Jul 15 2013

July Green Drinks – Tuesday, July 16th

Jul 12 2013

Field Science Opportunities!

Join us in the field to collect ecological monitoring data and learn about our projects! SCS is part of the Southeast Alaska Long-term Monitoring Network, which integrates citizen science with long-term monitoring of the environment. There are multiple opportunities to join SCS on our field projects this summer. Check this link to learn more.

Jul 08 2013

Cabin Culture

“I love how Fred’s Creek comes into focus.” My dad is talking about the way the blurred contours of Kruzof Island have shifted into misty green coastline, and, as we motor into the anchorage, the warm honey timber of the cabin appears out of the trees. It’s the Fourth of July and my dad, our dog, and I are pulling up to the beach, ready to relax around a campfire with our plethora of nose flutes and a cooler full of black cod collars.

Over the years I’ve found that it’s not just the shore that comes into focus when we pack up the boat and head out of town for the weekend. There is a clarity that comes with camping in Southeast Alaska. A repeated realization; remembering again and again why we live here. It’s probably different for everybody, but for me it’s the ability to walk out my door and into the heart of the Tongass whenever I feel like it. There are so many mountains I haven’t climbed yet, and miles of water left to travel. Every day holds that celebrated promise of adventure. There is something about Southeast Alaska that gets to me, and it’s not just the wilderness; I think it’s the people. It’s amazing what a little isolation and rainforest can do for a community. I feel so lucky to share my love of this place with a whole 14 miles of small town hospitality and charm. That “love thy neighbor” goodwill I’ve grown up with also comes into focus when we get to Fred’s Creek. Later, my stomach full of black cod collars grilled over the campfire, I’ll begin to think of it as “cabin culture.”

Cabin culture, unlike the better known “cabin fever,” does not have me itching to get out and gallop full speed into the nearest wide open alpine. Cabin culture is what keeps us grounded. It is the silent nod of freshly chopped wood piled next to the stove. It is the knowing smile of the cabin floor swept clean of sand and the sticky table wiped down and tidily tucked over its benches. It is the conspiratorial wink of a new rope swing tied up to replace a retired buoy. Cabin culture is our shared respect for the next boat load of escapees that will land on this beach and eat dinner around this fire. It’s our quiet understanding of our common love of living with the land here in Southeast Alaska, and I think it deserves to be recognized every once in a while.

As my dad pulls off the beach to tie our boat to the buoy, a full and brilliant rainbow breaks out, stretching from one end of Sitka Sound to the other. It hangs above the water where a few minutes earlier we had driven through a sheet of rain. Now, drying out under the warm sunshine of a textbook suckerhole, I lift my camera and bring the moment into focus.

Jul 03 2013

Meet the Media Interns

Every summer the Sitka Conservation Society lures a handful of unsuspecting, environmentally minded, intrepid folk into the Tongass. They come from all over the world, hoping to experience Alaska. Little do they know that upon arrival they will be introduced to a wilderness so vast they could not hope to grasp it in one summer, and a town so welcoming that they will be taken into stranger’s homes and offered homemade rhubarb crisp. This summer our media interns are a mix of local and imported young people who love storytelling and adventure.

Alex Crook flew to Alaska straight from Cambodia, where he has spent the past 10 months working as a photojournalist and freelance photographer. So far he has accomplished his subsistence goals by catching his first King and making his first salmonberry pie. Alex’s other goals include using photography to give a face to the alternative energy movement in Southeast Alaska. (photo by Gleb Mikhalev)

Berett Wilber, Crater Ridge on Kruzof

Berett Wilber grew up fishing with her family and photographing her Southeast Alaska home. Berett’s focus this summer will be collecting stories from locals about the places they love. She’s interested in how the people of Southeast benefit from conservation in the Tongass. (photo by Gleb Mikhalev)

Caitlin Woolsey, another lifelong Sitkan, is excited to be back on the trails. She hopes to spend the summer hiking and writing stories that illustrate the importance of a well-preserved Tongass in the lives of Sitkans and Alaskans in general. (photo by Alex Crook)

Gleb Mikhalev has lived all over, from the midwest, to Russia, British Columbia, and New York City, and he says Sitkans are some of the most welcoming people he’s ever met. Last summer Gleb crossed the Atlantic Ocean in a 32 ft. steel sailboat. This summer he’s found his way to the Pacific, and hopes to spend the summer getting to know the people of Southeast Alaska. (photo by Alex Crook)

Kari Paustian was born and raised in Sitka and has spent the last few summers working on the Forest Service Trail Crew. This summer she will be the SCS liaison with the Forest Service, managing projects and writing stories on restoration in the Tongass. (photo by Alex Crook)

Lione Clare, another Sitkan, joins the intern team as a photographer. She has loved growing up in Sitka, and feels lucky to have had the opportunity to explore and get to know her environment. She wants to work to conserve the Tongass by documenting the beauty that she sees all around her and sharing it with others. (photo by Ray Pfortner)

By the end of the summer, the interns hope to cover a variety of stories, from subsistence living on Prince of Wales to the Blue Lake Dam construction here in Sitka. Stay tuned for this team’s photos, stories, and films about living with the land and building community here in the Tongass.

Jul 02 2013

Building a Local Bike Shelter, It Takes a Village

Dan Sheehan works on the shelter’s timber frame

As you may recall from a previous post by Ray, a bike shelter is being built locally, using Tongass wood and will be landing at the Sitka Sound Science Center soon.  I say landing, because it has been constructed at Sitka High School and will actually be transported courtesy of a sizeable fork lift and truck, thanks to S&S contractors, and placed at its final home.

The shelter is a beautiful timber framed structure made of young growth Sitka spruce and old growth red cedar. Timber framing is a traditional style of building that uses non-dimensional lumber, that is, no 2”x4”s or other standard timber sizes are used in the construction of the frame. Instead, timber framed construction uses large, squared timbers and relies on carefully designed and fitted joints using wooden pegs to hold the frame in place. Not only is the bike shelter a much needed asset, it is charming in its execution thanks to the vision of Randy Hughey and newly transplanted Dan Sheehan. Randy, who has just retired after 30 years, has been running the Sitka High Construction and Industrial Arts courses, and Dan is an experienced timber framer. The two partnered up for this project and have since poured countless hours of their personal time into the construction of the shelter along with the help of SHS students and local volunteers.

The shelter will temporarily have four U-shape racks, until the final rack is designed and installed. Mike Litman, of Precision Boatworks, will be designing the racks for the shelter.  The structure joins a growing network of bike shelters around Sitka, including one being built for Pacific High School by Pat Hughes (UAS) and Pacific High students.  This shelter will serve as a demonstration project, highlighting the importance of local products, local craftsmanship and knowledge, the strength of community and contributing to local economy.  SCS was able to fund this project through the Community Capacity and Land Stewardship (CCLS) program with the National Forest Foundation (NFF).  The goal is to share local knowledge, connect local processors with local builders, and influence resource managers to make decisions on the Tongass that benefit local communities. A sustainably managed forest will support a more resilient community.

Volunteers assist Randy Hughey with shingles on the roof

Look for the Shelter to arrive later this summer!
Special thanks to the ‘Village’ that made it possible:
Randy Hughey
Dan Sheehan
SHS Contruction Students
Lisa Busch, Lon Garrison and the SSSC
S&S Contractors
Mike Litman, Precision Boatworks
Parks and Recreation, City and Borough of Sitka
Mel Cooke & Bill Thompson
National Forest Foundation, CCLS program
SCS members
The Sitka Community

Jun 27 2013

Summer Boat Tours: West Chichagof-Yakobi Wilderness Area

The summer boat tour adventure continues to the

West Chichagof-Yakobi Wilderness on Tuesday July 23rd. 

The West Chichagof-Yakobi Wilderness Area is near and dear to our hearts here at SCS, as the central focus of our founding as an organization.  Thirty-three years after its federal designation as a Wilderness Area, West Chichagof-Yakobi Wilderness is still a place treasured by many Alaskans.  Come with as we explore just some of the many reasons that this Wilderness is such a special place.

Guest speakers from the US Forest Service and the Sitka Conservation Society will guide us through the dramatic beginnings of the West Chichagof-Yakobi Wilderness Area, what makes a wilderness a Wilderness, why these places are so important, and more.

This special tour will take place on Tuesday July 23rd, from 5:30 to 9:30pm.  TIckets can be purchased from Old Harbor Books 201 Lincoln Street for $45 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. Please call 747-7509 for more information or email

See you on the boat!

Jun 11 2013

Summer Boat Tours: The History of Sitka Sound

Mark your calendars! The next tour in our Summer Boat Tours series will be exploring the History of Sitka Sound on Thursday June 27th.

We’ll be exploring the islands, forests and waters of Sitka Sound and learning about the rich history of this amazing place: how it has shaped the lives of those who’ve called Sitka home, and how Sitka Sound has been shaped in turn.

Guest speakers from the Sitka Historical Society, the Sitka Maritime Heritage Society, as well as local Sitkans with a love of history and unique knowledge of this amazing place will help bring the days of Sitka’s yesteryear to life.

Boarding for the tour will begin at 5:15pm from Crescent Harbor Shelter, departing at 5:30pm, and returning home at 8pm.  Tickets can be purchased at Old Harbor Books for $35.

Any questions? Call 747-7509 or email

See you on the boat!

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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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