Take action to protect your public lands HERE.
The following letter was submitted to the Sitka Sentinel by SCS.
The current version of the Sealaska legislation is scheduled for a hearing on April 25th in the Senate Public Lands Subcommittee. This Sealaska bill is a threat to the public lands of the Tongass and to the ways that Sitkans use the Tongass. This legislation would transfer lands on the Tongass to Sealaska that are outside of the original boxes where they were allowed to select lands. The legislation would affect us in Sitka because the corporation is asking for in-holdings throughout the Sitka Ranger District that are some of the most valuable areas for access and use. The bill would allow the corporation to select in-holdings in North-Arm/Hoonah Sound, Kalinin Bay, Fick Cove, Lake Eva, Wrangell Island off Biorka, Port Banks, and many others. On Prince of Wales Island, the corporation has cherry-picked the lands that have the highest concentration of the remaining economically valuable cedar trees, the oldest and fastest growing second growth, and the timber stands that have the most investment made by taxpayer dollars in roads, culverts, and forest thinning.
The in-holding selections might seem familiar topic. The corporation is selecting them in the same process they are using for Redoubt Lake. It is claiming that fishing access areas are eligible for selection under authorities that were meant for cemeteries. In the case of Redoubt Lake that means that one of the most important sites for public use and subsistence on the Sitka Ranger District could be privatized and owned by a corporation that has a for-profit mandate and is run by a board of directors that has created its own closed circle of power (remember when Sitkans tried to get elected to that board). The CEO of Sealaska came to Sitka a few weeks ago and made many promises about public access. That all sounded good, but how long is he going to be around? None of the agreements they proposed are legally binding. What happens when their board of directors decides that they don’t want to allow everyone to fish there anymore? What happens when they decide that they “are obliged to make profit for their shareholders” and the best way to do that could be to capitalize on the asset of Redoubt Lake and build a lodge on the island between the two falls? Promises made today don’t necessarily stand the test of time when lands are not in public hands and are not managed by a publically accountable entity.
For all of the above reasons, SCS will be telling members of the Senate Public Lands Subcommittee that the Sealaska Legislation is not good for the Tongass and not good for Southeast Alaska. Information on how to contact members of that committee can be found on the SCS website: www.sitkawild.org.
Update: Sealaska Corporation’s CEO recently issued a response to the above editorial. He also complained about the photos below. He called them “unethical,” “mysterious,” “misinformation.”
Of course our photos of Redoubt Falls with no trespassing signs are fabricated, that is because (thankfully) this area is still in public hands where everyone, including Sealaska shareholders, have equal rights to utilize this place. The photos we didn’t need to fabricate are the images of Sealaska Corp’s logging practices on land they currently own on Dall Island. (Watch this Google Earth tour to see for yourself.*) But don’t take our word for it; take a look at the short video Hoonah’s Legacy, showing the massive clearcuts logged by Sealaska Corp that scarred that community’s landscape. Or, visit the Sealaska Shareholders Underground’s Facebook page to hear about shareholders who disagree with the Corporation, but who have so far been suppressed by Sealaska and prevented from allowing any new voices onto the Sealaska board of directors.
Based on history and the facts, it is hard to see how allowing a profit-driven corporation like Sealaska to take away public lands from Alaskans would be “good for Sitkans, the Tongass and for Southeast Alaska.” If you agree, please consider writing a Letter to the Editor of your local paper and share this information with your friends and community.
* This is a Google Earth tour (.kmz file). You must have Google Earth installed on your computer to view the tour.
Please encourage your friends and relatives living in states listed below to call their Senator.
Key Senate Public Lands Subcommittee Members:
Oregon- Senator Ron Wyden (202) 224-5244
Washington- Senator Maria Cantwell (202) 224-3441
Colorado- Senator Mark Udall (202) 224-5941
New Mexico- Senator Mark Heinrich (202) 224-5521
Minnesota- Senator Al Franken (202) 224-5641
Salmon, water, and the Alaskans who depend on them need your help!
Background: Right now, the Alaska State Senate is debating whether or not they should make it more difficult for Alaskans to protect the water in their backyards for salmon habitat. HB77, the In-Stream Water Reservations Bill, would convolute an already convoluted public process, eliminating the requirement for public comment periods. It would also give the Department of Natural Resources Commissioner the authority to issue General Permits for industrial operations if the commissioner determines the project will not cause “significant or irreparable harm” to Alaskans and issue permits that would directly and negatively impact salmon habitat if the commissioner determines it is in the “best interest of Alaska.”
As a reminder, the Department of Natural Resources no longer values future generations—they eliminated “future generations” from their mission statement last year.
Additionally, HB77 intends to revoke certain rights from Alaskan individuals, organizations, and tribes, and gives the government of Alaska authority on whether or not salmon and water are as important as industrial development. In other words, this bill protects Outside interests at the expense of local Alaskans. For an example of DNR siding against Alaskans in favor of Outside interests, and why this bill is relevant to all Alaskans, click here.
- Alaskans need more opportunities to preserve salmon and our unique way of life, not fewer
- HB77 protects the right for Outside interests to take water out of salmon streams while making it more difficult for Alaskans to keep water in salmon streams
- The bill gives DNR discretion to negatively impact salmon habitat if it is in the “Best Interest” of the State of Alaska
- It eliminates the requirement for DNR to open public comment periods on “Best Interest Findings”
- 95% of public testimony opposed HB77, including fishing organizations, Alaska Native Tribal councils, city councils, fishermen, hunters, and every day residents
Take Action: Time is running out on the Legislature. To add your voice to this issue, act now!
Alaska’s fish and water need you to stand up and take action immediately. There are two ways you can help: You can write a My Turn in the Juneau Empire, or you can contact the Alaska State Senate Coastal Caucus and let them know you oppose HB77, a bill that revokes certain rights from Alaskans, eliminates the requirement for public comment periods at DNR, and gives DNR discretion to impact salmon habitat for the benefit of Outside companies.
Position Title: Entrepreneurial Capacity Development and Local Business Catalyst
Host Organizations: Sitka Conservation Society www.sitkawild.org
Duration: 8 months with the potential for expansion based on performance and outcomes
Pay Range: $2,500 – 4,000/ month DOE
Background: Rural economies across the United States, and especially in Southeast Alaska, have tended to trend in a negative direction over the past several decades. This decline is often characterized by struggling locally owned businesses, abandoned downtown storefronts, and a lack of entrepreneurial capacity and business start-up activity. There has, however, been an increase in hope for rural communities over the past several years as the movement towards “Living Local/Buy Local”, certification of origin, and local investment has gained interest. The focus on supporting local businesses and local business development has the potential to revive downtown districts, increase local capital flow and local sales tax revenue, create jobs and employment, and generally build a more resilient rural economy.
The Sitka Conservation Society (SCS) is seeking a highly motivated, self-starter to work with community partners and identify needs and opportunities in the community. The candidate’s main focus will be to develop programs that stimulate and empower the community and establish projects that focus on living and buying locally.
Duties to include: The position will work under the supervision of Sitka Conservation Society staff and community partners to implement projects and programs that serves to build entrepreneurial capacity and catalyze local business development. The position will generally focus on the segment of the population between high-school and young adults (up to age 35) to provide learning opportunities, mentorship connections, skill building activities, business start-up support, etc. Specific program focus will vary based on candidates experience, background, and ability. Programs could include coordinating business skills classes, setting up mentorship programs, coordinating High-school Business start-up clubs, working directly with entrepreneurs on specific business development needs, etc.
- Demonstrated background and skills in business
- Interest, abilities, and skills in instruction, capacity building, mentorship, leadership, etc.
- Ability to work with people of diverse backgrounds, skills, abilities, and cultures
- Interest and background in sustainability issues, rural community development, “localism,” etc.
- Pertinent work experience and educational background
- Professional skills pertinent to the position
To Apply: Please send a cover letter and resume highlighting pertinent professional or academic experience, and two references to Andrew Thoms, Executive Director at Sitka Conservation Society (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The Tongass National Forest is valuable for more than old growth timber clear-cutting: it’s the source of near limitless value to both residents and visitors, if used sustainably.
Energy production, recreation, tourism, hunting, fishing, education and subsistence resources all rely on the continued health of the Tongass in order to continue bringing thousands of dollars and hundreds of jobs to Sitka. As Sitka continues to grow, physically and economically, it’s essential that we recognize the wide swath of valuable assets present in and around Sitka.
Southeast Alaska offers a cornucopia of possibilities for making a living from (and living off of) the land, rivers and sea. Wilderness areas offer adventure and solitude rarely matched elsewhere in the US, large tracts of remote and robust ecosystems provide habitat for large populations of deer, bear, mountain goat, and more, world class salmon fisheries provides the best wild salmon and some of the best sport-fishing,
The Tongass National Forest, and Sitka, are more than just tourist destinations, more than just timber value, more than just salmon fishing: the sum is greater than its parts. If we plan future expansion and development with all these invaluable assets in mind, Sitka has the potential to grow more prosperous, and more sustainable.
Over the last several weeks, Fish to Schools has been teaching 7th graders at Blatchley Middle School about salmon’s journey from the stream to our plates. The students learned about salmon management, gutting and filleting salmon, how local processors operate, how to smoke salmon, and more. After learning this process, the students had incredible things to say about the local fish lunches they eat at school. Listen and read what these insightful students said:
“I like it because it takes amazing, it’s fresh, and it comes from our local fishermen that spend time and
“I like it because it’s healthy and it’s nice that the fishermen do this for our school”
“It tastes really really good, and it’s a good chance for people to try new things”
“I eat it because it’s a way of saying thank you to the fishermen who catch the fish”
“Because it’s healthy and good for you, and you feel good after you eat it”
“It supports our economy and it tastes good”
Last weekend, SCS organized a work party to replace a broken bridge behind Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School. The bridge is used by students who monitor the stream and its surrounding habitat, but it recently sustained serious damage due to rot and falling trees, and became too unsafe for classroom use.
Requests were made to several organizations and agencies but every one of them lacked either the time, the money or the workers needed to perform the work. SCS turned out to be the perfect catalyst for drawing resources from around the community and turning them into an effective bridge-building team.
- Spenard Builders’ Supply paid for about half of the material, and delivered them almost immediately.
- Sitka Trails Work covered the rest of the expenses, and provided tools, a truck, and invaluable expertise.
- Science teacher Rebecca Himschoot and her crew of Keet Gooshi Heen parent volunteers contributed their labor and tools. They also set up an impromptu class on the physics of levers.
- Carpenter Mike Venetti directed the project and designed the bridge.
- Sitka Community Schools and the Sitka Conservation Society contributed volunteer labor.
The Cutthroat Creek “steam team” students can now go back to hanging over the railings to measure stream flow with tennis balls and yardsticks. This is just one of many environmental education programs that the Sitka Conservation Society supports in and out of local schools from the elementary to the high school level.
Ask anyone where the best salmon is caught, and they’ll answer: Alaska.
Ask an Alaskan where the best salmon is caught, and they’ll answer: Southeast.
The Wild Salmon fisheries of Southeast Alaska provides nearly 30% of the global supply of wild salmon. The 57,000 plus miles of rivers, streams, and creeks throughout the Tongass National Forest provides unparalleled spawning habitat for all five species of salmon: pink, chum, coho, sockeye and king. Neighboring rivers in British Columbia and in Southcentral Alaska, as well as the salmon released each year from hatcheries throughout Southeast, also contribute to the robust fisheries we have here.
But just how many salmon caught each year are true Tongass Salmon: spawned and raised in waterways within the Tongass National Forest?
Ron Medel, the Tongass Fisheries Program Manager, found out just that. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game keeps a close eye on salmon throughout the state, and each year produce an estimate regarding how many landed fish come from hatcheries versus wild stocks. Fisheries data from British Columbia’s portions of the Stikine, Taku and other salmon streams were also considered and factored out of the Southeast total harvest. Combining all this data, utilizing the power of spreadsheets and some elbow grease… Medel extrapolated that about 79% of the annual harvest in Southeast Alaska are from wild salmon that originated from the Tongass National Forest.
Even though the Tongass forest is such an important element in the Southeast Alaska salmon harvest, the US Forest Service has not allocated its funding and attention to the restoration and continued health of salmon spawning habitat within the forest. Only a small portion of their budget – only about $7 million out of the nearly $63 million budget – is spent on the fisheries and watershed program which directly impacts fisheries conditions and restores salmon habitat (timber harvest and road building receive $20 million). The health of the streams and watersheds that produce nearly $1 BILLION each year through commercial, sport and subsistence salmon harvesting is receiving so little support from the US Forest Service – what sort of salmon fishery would we have in Southeast Alaska if the Forest Service put more of their budget to supporting salmon and restoring all of the damage that was done by the historic clear-cut logging?
Wild, Tongass-raised salmon may make up 79% of the salmon caught in Southeast Alaska each year, but those salmon forests, waterways, fisheries and markets need our support, our time, our energy, our concern in order to continue.
Take action to encourage the Forest Service to put more support into stream restoration and watershed health! Your input is needed now to help Congress and the Forest Service prioritize where the American public wants to invest our tax dollars in public land management!
Sunday, March 10th, Kettleson Library
Get your hiking boots and sneakers ready and plan your next trip on Sitka’s trails. Carin Farley from the National Park Service and Deborah Lyons from Sitka Trail Works will be sharing the latest work on the Sitka trail system.Learn more about the efforts of various agencies, non-profits, and volunteers to create a world class trail system in Sitka. This is a good chance to learn about how you can get involved and help as Sitka continues to work to complete our trail plan.
Bring your unwanted outdoor gear to the Sitka Gear Swap at Kettleson Library from 3:00 to 4:30 pm, before the Trails of Sitka Talk.There will be tables set up, both inside and outside of library, to display your gear.