Sitka Conservation Society
Jun 10 2014

Understanding the Tongass Transition

Understanding ‘The Tongass Transition’: What It Means for Our Backyard

Maybe you’ve seen or heard some of these terms being thrown around our website, news publications, in conversations or radio pieces: the Tongass Transition, the Tongass Land Management Plan, Second Growth, Young Growth, Old Growth, Tongass Advisory Committee. Maybe not.

Either way, lets look at what the Tongass Transition means for our public lands and how it will impact our 17 million acre backyard. Lets dissect some of this jargon.


Defining the Tongass National Forest: Where the Transition is Taking Place

Southeast Alaska is broken into private land, state land, native corporation property and many small, rural communities. The Tongass National Forest encompasses the great majority of land and includes forest, alpine, mountains, coastline, , glaciers, estuaries, rivers and streams. These lands are managed very differently compared with national parks like Glacier Bay. While both are ‘public lands’, National Forests are managed for multiple uses. You can fish here, hunt, camp, log timber, harvest mushrooms, and start a business based on the extraction or admiration of, natural resources. That being said, you can’t just do whatever you want in National Forests. These public lands are managed for ecological integrity and public use by the US Forest Service. Our 17 million acre backyard is chopped up into different subsections with differing land use designations that determine where timber can be extracted, where wilderness is maintained, where ‘modifications’ can occur and what types of projects and interventions can happen here.

The Tongass Transition Framework refers to a shift in management of these public lands. In 2011, the framework was first announced by leaders in the Department of Agriculture, the federal agency that houses the United States Forest Service. The goal of the management shift being to transition focus from old growth clear cutting to young growth management and a more holistic approach to governing these lands that integrates all non-timber harvest economic values that the Tongass generates. To understand the significance of this from an ecological standpoint let’s visit the forest.

Old Growth, Second Growth, Young Growth : A Very Brief Ecology

The differences between ‘old-growth’ and ‘young-growth’ are important and a little background in forest succession will help you see why. First off, the term ‘stand’ is often used to describe a tract of forest with similar characteristics. The characteristics of our old-growth stands include mature, ancient trees, represented primarily by Sitka Spruce, Western Hemlock and Alaska Yellow Cedar. Of these trees, the Alaska Yellow Cedar are especially ancient: some may be as old as 3000 years. When these trees were saplings, the Ancient Egyptian empire was just coming to a close. So it’s no surprise that it takes time for a forest to show old growth characteristics- hence ‘old’ growth.

These stands are critical for wildlife who depend on the specific characteristics of this forest structure.  For example, during harsh winters Sitka Black Tailed Deer depend on the lush understory and protection from snowpack that the old-growth canopy provides. Also, old-growth stands that are adjacent to salmon rivers facilitate fish production. When standing, these trees regulate stream temperature, dissolved oxygen levels and their ancient roots prevent erosion of stream banks. When they die and crash into the water, their trunks and root wads create pools and make habitat for salmon to spawn and smolts to rest from rushing currents. These forest stands are ecologically important for sustaining healthy populations of wildlife, regulating clean water, fresh air, sequestering carbon etc. These stands are also economically significant and currently represent the bulk focus of timber harvesting on the Tongass.

When large expanses of old-growth stands are clear-cut, the characteristics of the forest are dramatically altered. As the trees begin to grow back in unison, they pack together densely in competition for sunlight. The top canopies of these even aged trees close and overlap so tightly that plants thriving on the forest floor (e.g. forbs, berry bushes, ferns, and shrubs) don’t receive sunlight and eventually die. Wildlife (and humans) struggle to navigate through the dense trees and slash (woody material left behind during the harvest that clutters the forest floor). Although not worthless, these stands are considerably less valuable for wildlife due to an eventual lack of understory plants for forage and the limits to motion the forest structure creates. These trees have often been called second-growth because they are the ‘second’ group of trees established in an area, after the initial clearcut. They are more accurately called young-growth because they can be cut again and again and a ’third’ and ‘fourth’ growth of trees would follow. If you hike off the trails in Southeast Alaska, the difference between stands is intuitive: you can take a nice stroll through old growth, you need to bushwack through early second growth. Thinning second-growth stands, or removing a percentage of the trees, can help wildlife while providing timber. This is the timber source the Transition intends to move to.

Why Do We Need A Transition?

A healthy forest landscape includes a mixture of forest stands in varying stages of succession. Disturbances happen naturally (think landslide and blowdown) and forest succession is an inevitable process. The ecological issues lie in the extent and sheer magnitude of past clearcuts that left behind an unnatural mosaic of forest succession and salmon streams devoid of large trees. Over the course of 60 years the Forest Service and private native corporations sold and harvested  almost 1 millions acres of our rainforest. We crushed the majority of this wood into dissolving pulp and barged it, and eventually the economic stimulation it brought, away. This has left behind vast acreage of second growth, impaired landscapes and streams and, rural communities that desperately need sustainable economic stimulation.

Image showing a mosaic of trees in varying stages of sucession

The reasons for the Transition however, extend beyond ecological needs. The reasons are vast and also social, economic, political, ideological. Unsustainable timber liquidation is a story retold across the globe- the world is running out of ancient trees and old-growth forests. We want to protect our remaining stands because healthy ecosystems provide clean water, air, atmosphere and energy. We also want to protect old-growth forests so our children can inherit these spectacular landscapes. We want to recreate here and we need healthy wildlife populations to continue to hunt deer, harvest plants and fish. We want to maintain our national heritage and the quality of life in Southeast Alaska we cherish. Old growth is a big part of a healthy environment and healthy communities. Practically and economically, a continued sole dependence on old-growth lumber can not be sustained long-term. Although wood is technically a ‘renewable’ resource, without careful management and patience, 300 year old spruce and hemlock trees can not realistically support industry if the harvest of these trees is not done with silvicultural tenets in mind like sustained yield, appropriate harvest scale for regeneration and rotation, and long term stand management and planning.

We are lucky in the Tongass because we still have considerable areas of virtually untouched forest, healthy salmon habitat and a variety of natural resources that, if managed carefully, can sustain diverse and vibrant economies in Southeast Alaska long term. We still have time to make this work and exploring uses for second growth is a good start.

The Big Picture: What is the Transition Really About

While a wholesale halt to all old-growth harvesting is both unrealistic and unnecessary, changes to our timber policy are integral. We need policies that value this globally rare commodity for what it really is: precious. We need to harvest carefully, selectively and manufacture and utilize this lumber in a way that maximizes stable jobs in the Southeast, respects the resource, and uses it responsibly.

Simultaneously, we need to, in the words of a local miller,  “Stick our heads in the young growth and see what is there’’. How can we utilize this timber source, improve habitat for wildlife, create jobs, innovate and make markets for this wood? Young growth trees have not been packing on the growth rings and woody layers for hundreds of years like old-growth trees so the characteristics of the wood differs from ancient spruce and hemlock. However, there are plenty of valuable uses for these wood products and the Sitka Conservation Society has already spearheaded a number of successful projects that demonstrate the value of young-growth.

Recreation and Tourism support over 8,000 jobs in the region and contribute just under 1 billion annually to the Southeast’s economy. One in ten jobs in Southeast Alaska are supported by salmon produced from the Tongass National Forest.

The agency is also transitioning from a narrow focus on timber to the reality that the Tongass National Forest provides ample resources beyond wood. How can we maintain these other resources and stimulate additional economic opportunity around them? In the words of the same miller, “If we depend on just fishing, just mining or just timber- we are going to deplete one or the other.”

So the Tongass Transition is not just about pursuing smaller trees and leaving the old ones behind, its about establishing a more balanced and holistic management regime that values this land and its residents long term

. Investigating the best use of, and sustained management of our timber resources is part of it. Rebuilding the health of habitat damaged by past logging is part. Understanding how these resources will be impacted by climate change and preparing is a piece. Recognizing the significance of recreation and tourism to our economy is a big chunk of it too.

The Transition in Practice: The Tongass Advisory Committee

Accomplishing this transition is no easy task. Southeast Alaska is a unique place where a single agency is responsible for the vast majority of land in a region that depends on the natural resources it provides. We need a healthy and stable supply of natural resources for our economy, our subsistence, for clean water, fresh air and energy production. We need our forest to keep producing salmon, the key economic driver and cultural lifeblood in the region, and we need to protect all of this from overharvest and climate change. That is certainly not an easy task and a massive amount of responsibility for an agency with limited resources. To the great benefit of all, the Forest Service has been strengthening its capacity for collaboration and partnership building and this is where our final terms enter the story- the ‘TAC’ and ‘TLMP’.

The members of the TAC were selected and announced in May. The ‘Tongass Advisory Committee’ is an official Federal Advisory Committee that includes conservationists, industry representatives, native interests, and other stakeholder leaders. The team of fifteen will participate in a series of meetings and discussions led by a professional and highly experienced facilitator and mediator. In 2015, the group will provide guidance to the Forest Service, make recommendations, and propose alternatives to amend the Tongass Land Management Plan (TLMP). TLMP is basically a constitution for how our 17 million acre backyard should be managed. It is a dynamic document that needs to be amended and updated when our values, economies, and resources shift. With respect to timber specifically, this document outlines where and how lumber can be harvested, how forest stands are ‘upkept’, thinned and managed for future harvesting and what regulations and rules must be upheld to protect wildlife. TLMP is the ‘go-to’ document for forest management and adjustments and amendments to the plan will have lasting and important impacts on our forest.

The Sitka Conservation Society is pleased that our executive director, Andrew Thoms, will be standing on the TAC committee and providing support and guidance alongside a variety of stakeholders.  

SCS is working in the field, on the forest and in rural communities to flesh out our vision, inform our objectives and prepare recommendations for TAC. We will continue to share our findings, our vision and seek input from our community so that we can best represent our collective vision.

So again, what is the Transition?

Simply put, the Tongass Transition is about maximizing local benefits to our communities while minimizing negative impacts to the ecological integrity of the forest we depend on and love.

The Transition is about responsibility and caring for a landscape that can provide resources while maintaining its full compliment of ecological diversity- something that is increasingly rare across the globe. The Transition is a refusal to repeat history. The Transition is about being proactive rather than reactive and TAC and the future amendment process is about giving voice back to variety stakeholders who love and depend on our 17-million acre backyard.

Follow along with SCS as we work in the forest and with communities to realize the Tongass Transition. Let us know your thoughts and input and reach out to us by email [info@sitkawild.org] or shout out to our twitter account and show us how you enjoy the Tongass or tell us how you want to see America’s largest national forest managed: @sitka_wild . .
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

May 27 2014

SCS Summer Boat Cruises

Celebrating Wilderness 

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

Birds of Sitka Sound

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

Intertidal life of Kruzof Island

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

Sedge Meadows and Salmon of Nakwasina Passage

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

Salmon of Sitka Sound

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

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

 

Tour Details

Boarding begins at 5:15pm from the Crescent Harbor Loading Dock.
Hot drinks are complimentary.
Binoculars are available on board.
Snacks can be purchased or you can bring your own.
May 23 2014

Fish Need Trees, Too

SCS Board Member, Brendan Jones recently published an article in the New Your Times: “Fish Need Trees, too.” detailing the Forest Service’s poor management of resources in Southeast Alaska,  putting giant, ecologically destructive clear-cuts over protecting habitat for salmon–the backbone of the Southeat Alaskan economy.

Brendan writes:

This year, though, the fishing fleet in southeast Alaska will work under the shadow of an announcement by the United States Forest Service that it intends to approve the Big Thorne timber sale, which would allow the logging industry to harvest about 6,200 acres of remnant old-growth trees in Tongass National Forest, the world’s largest remaining temperate rain forest. It would be the most destructive old-growth cut in the forest in the past 20 years.

You can help.

Sign the Petition below: Tell Alaska’s senators to put pressure on the Forest Service to prioritize our salmon and stop support out-dated logging projects.

Write a Letter: Ask the Forest Service and Senators to make better decisions about our public lands and start judging success by counting the number of jobs and economic gains of salmon production rather than the number of board feet.

Donate: We are a small organization fighting to protect a very large forest.  We rely on our members and supporters.


Remind the Forest Service that Fish Need Trees, too!













Greetings,

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Share this with your friends:

 
 

Your message will be delivered to Senators Begich and Muskowski, Undersecretary Robert Bonnie, Chief of the Forest Service Tm Tidwell, and Regional Forester Beth Pendleton.

May 23 2014

Wilderness Volunteers Needed: Summer 2014

Interested in volunteering with the Community Wilderness Stewardship Project?  This year we’ll have a number of opportunities for you to get into the field with SCS staff and USFS Wilderness Rangers to help collect monitoring data, remove invasive weeds, and enjoy our amazing Wilderness areas.

Below are the trips and dates with spots available for volunteers.  To volunteer, fill out the forms and safety information here, and email them to adam@sitkawild.org and mike@sitkawild.org.

 

Baird Islands – 5 days – June 16 to June 20 – 1 volunteer

Have you ever wanted to explore the wilds of West Chichagof?  SCS is looking for one volunteer to accompany an expedition to the Baird Islands in West Chichagof Wilderness.  The volunteer will assist SCS and Forest Service staff monitory visitor use, conduct invasive plant surveys, and act as a volunteer Wilderness Ranger. Logistics for the trip will include skiff travel to and from the Baird Islands and kayaking and camping while in the field.

 

Cordova Bay – 6 days – June 24 to June 29* – 1-2 volunteers

*Final dates still to be determined.
Cordova Bay on Prince of Wales Island is inside of the South Prince of Wales Wilderness Area.  For this expedition, SCS staff and volunteers will be dropped off in the bay by float plane with folding kayaks.  After assembling the kayaks, the crew will survey the bay for invasive plants and monitor visitor use patterns.  Return to Sitka will be by float plane.

 

White Sulfur – 8 days – July 15 to July 22nd – 4-5 volunteers

In partnership with the Sitka Ranger District Trail Maintenance crew, volunteers will travel to White Sulfur hotsprings, a popular destination in West Chichagof-Yakobi Wilderness area.  Task will include assisting with trail work, recording visitor use, and inventorying and naturalizing campsites.  Travel to and from the field site will be by boat.

 

Rakof Islands – 5days – July 7 to July 11 – 1 volunteer

Each summer the Tongass National Forest select Artists in Residence to join Wilderness Rangers in the field.  Volunteers on this trip will join USFS Rangers and the Artist in Residence in the Rakof Islands of South Baranof Wilderness area.  The crew will be transported by boat to the field site and continue by kayak before a boat trip back to Sitka.

 

Slocum Arm – 7 days – Jul 22 to July 29 – 2 volunteers

Working with Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation and SCS, volunteers will travel to West Chichagof-Yakobi Wilderness Area to install long-term stream monitoring stations.  The crew will be transported to and from the field site by boat and then use kayaks to access monitoring sites.

 

Other trips throughout the summer.

As the summer progresses, we will be developing a number of other expeditions with exciting volunteer opportunities.  Stay up to date on all of the announcements by signing up for our e-newsletter.

May 22 2014

i’m gonna tell you about some salmon

In an effort to build community around Fish to Schools we’ve invited you to give a testimonial about the program. We’ve heard from the generous fishermen who donate to the program, to parents, to teachers, and students. The beauty in working with the schools is that everyone can be involved. Regardless of income, students can order the finest quality fish in the world, caught right here in the Sitka Sound. It’s environmentally and economically responsible. And it tastes really good.

This is the latest Fish to Schools promo we produced through KCAW, Raven Radio. I hope it puts a smile on your face. Alexandra was a wonderful interview, enjoy.

Click the link to listen: Alexandra PSA

 

May 13 2014

Alaska Way of Life 4-H Summer Programs

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

Cloverbud Adventure: Tuesdays, 10 – 11:30am

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

Cloverbud Gardening: Fridays, 9-10am

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4-H Summer 2014

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

May 13 2014

Sail West Chichagof and support SCS

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Apr 29 2014

Youth Eco-Challenge

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

Photo: James Poulson

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

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

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

 

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

Ranger Ryan Carpenter

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

Apr 28 2014

2014 Parade of Species

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

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

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

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

 

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