Sitka Conservation Society
Apr 26 2013

Summer Boat Tours – Back by Popular Demand

See new places, new perspectives and learn more about this wild place we live in!

Whether you are a born and bred Sitkan, or a recent transplant to the Tongass, the SCS Summer Boat Tour series offers an excellent opportunity to get out to explore and learn more about Sitka Sound and the Tongass. There will be six tours  throughout the summer, each about 2.5 hours.

These tours are for you! And we want to hear your ideas on topics and tours you would like see as a part of our Boat Tours this summer.  Visit our Facebook page, call our office (747-7509) or email Erin with your ideas.

Check back soon for updates on tour topics and tickets!

Apr 25 2013

Parade of Species 2013


Thanks to everyone who participated in the 2013 Parade of Species!  The costumes were creative, the activities were fun, and march was a truly WILD time!

We hope that you will remember to celebrate Earth Day every day and help us here at the Sitka Conservation Society to protect the natural environment of the Tongass and promote sustainable communities in Southeast!


Best Costume Winners:

Best Use of Recycled Materials

Silas Ferguson




Most Realistic Costume

Grace Clifton




Most Creative Costume

Finnan Kelly




Best Local Animal

Lena Keilman




Photos from the 2013 Parade of Species

We would especially like to thanks the following folks for helping to make this year’s parade such a huge success:

Costume Contest Judges

Judges: Steve Ash, Rita Mounayar, Heather Riggs, Pat Kehoe

Activities and booths by: The US Forest Service, Alaska Department of Fish and Game, The National Park Service, Sitka Global Warming Group, Sitka Local Food Network, the Science Center, The Kayaani Commission, Jud Kirkness, Fish to Schools, 4H Alaska way-of-life, and Community Schools

Prizes and donations from: Harry Race, Ben Franklin, Lakeside, True Value, Botanikaand Allen Marine

Volunteers: Coral Pendell, Garrett Bauer, Josh Houston, Wendy Alderson

And everyone who made costumes, cheered on the marchers, and celebrated Earth Day with the Parade of Species!

Apr 23 2013

Science Sharing Night Monday, April 29th, 7:00 pm, UAS

Want to learn more about the genetics of Alaska yellow cedar or intertidal beetles, marine mammal bioacoustics, winter song bird hangouts, the effects of forest thinning on deer habitat, and stream chemistry?

The Second Annual Sitka Science Sharing Night from 7-8:30 p.m. on Monday, April 29, at the University of Alaska Southeast Sitka Campus Room 229 will highlight the work by several student scientists from Sitka schools, including projects conducted through the Science Mentoring program. During the past school year, these students have been active stewards of our local forest, freshwater and marine ecosystems by developing and conducting their own research studies.

The Sitka Science Sharing Night gives these students a chance to share with the general public about their projects. It will be set up just like a poster session at a scientific conference, and the students will be available to share their work and answer questions.

This event features students from Sitka High School, Mt. Edgecumbe High School, Blatchley Middle School, and Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School. Student projects are funded by the Sitka Charitable Trust, the National Forest Foundation, and the Bio-Prep Program at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

The Sitka Science Sharing Night is a joint project of the Sitka Conservation Society, Sitka Sound Science Center, UAS Sitka Campus, Sitka School District, and Mt. Edgecumbe High School. For more information, contact Kitty LaBounty at 738-0174 or Scott Harris at

Apr 16 2013

Gavan Forest: The Natural History

Check out this in-depth natural history of the Gavan Forest in Sitka, put together by naturalist Richard Carstensen.  Download the report HERE.

Apr 12 2013

Sealaska Bill: A Threat to Public Lands

Take action to protect your public lands HERE.

The following letter was submitted to the Sitka Sentinel by SCS.

Dear Editor:

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:

                                                  Andrew Thoms

                                                  Executive Director

                                                  Sitka Conservation Society


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

Michigan- Senator Debbie Stabenow  (202)224-4822

Colorado- Senator Mark Udall (202) 224-5941

New Mexico- Senator Mark Heinrich (202) 224-5521

Minnesota- Senator Al Franken (202) 224-5641




Apr 09 2013

Take Action: Salmon, Water, Alaskans need your help

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.

Talking Points

  • 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.   465-3873   465-4947   465-2828   465-4925   465-3707

Mar 21 2013

Mapping Tongass Forest Assets

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.

Learn more about the myriad values throughout Sitka by visiting our map of the Sitka Community Use Area (SCUA), or check out the briefing sheets.

Mar 15 2013

Students at Blatchley Love Local Fish Lunches

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:

Listen to what students to Blatchley said about the local fish lunches!

“I like it because it takes amazing, it’s fresh, and it comes from our local fishermen that spend time and

money to go get it for us”

“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”


Mar 11 2013

Sealaska Continues to Pursue a “Constellation of In-holdings” Across important areas on the Tongass

Senator Lisa Murkowski has reintroduced the Sealaska Lands Legislation, with the new version of the bill containing five selections in the Sitka area, some of which are in crucial subsistence and recreation areas.

The Sitka-area selections are 15.7 acres at Kalinin Bay, 10.6 acres at North Arm, 9 acres at Fick Cove, 10.3 acres at Lake Eva,  and 13.5 acres at Deep Bay.


Background: Murkowski’s legislation, known as S.340, is the fourth version of the Sealaska Lands Legislation to be introduced in the last eight years.  Like the three previous versions, the primary focus of this Legislation is to allow the Sealaska Corporation to make land selections outside the boundaries it agreed upon following the passage of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act.  The Legislation would lead to the privatization of over 70,000 acres of the Tongass and grant Sealaska access to substantially more old growth forest than if it made its selections within the previously agreed upon boundaries.

In fairness to Murkowski and Sealaska, the latest version of the Legislation is a significant improvement on prior versions of the Legislation, with the addition of timber stream buffers, removal of proposed “Natives Futures” development sites from the Sitka area, and the inclusion of new provisions for subsistence access in cultural and historic sites.

Most of the development lands in the Legislation are on Prince of Wales Island, and all of the Sitka-area selections are deceptively-labeled “cemetery and historic” sites.  From the time the first version of the Legislation was introduced, the Sitka Conservation Society has held the position that we do not oppose Native management of important Native cultural and historic sites.  Our problem has been that from our experience and review of agency practices concerning previous historic site applications, including that at Redoubt Falls near Sitka, the law is so loosely interpreted by the federal agencies tasked with determining what qualifies as a cemetery/historical site that virtually anything can be considered “historic.”  Indeed, we have seen little evidence to the historic value of most of the sites selected by Sealaska.

Under the new Legislation, Sealaska has selected 76 “cemetery and historic” sites around Southeast Alaska.  For years we have said that the Tongass National Forest is large, but its greatest resources are concentrated in small areas like the mouths of streams and in safe anchorages.  Thus, some of the spots with the richest resources in the Tongass might only take up a few acres.  Many of Sealaska’s proposed cemetery/historic sites selections are small in terms of acres, but the effect of making these spots private inholdings can be very “large” such as when they are located at “choke points” of access or cover the entire mouth of a stream.  It might only takes two acres at the mouth of a stream to, in effect, control the whole stream.

SCS have told Senators Begich and Murkowski that we oppose the Sealaska Legislation, and we encourage you to do the same. SCS — Sealaska Murkowski letter to view the letter expressing our concerns.  Please contact them and explain how you and your family use and rely on the parcels selected in the Legislation.


 The latest version of the Sealaska Lands Bill includes six cemetery and historic sites in the Sitka area.  While some of these sites may contain important cultural artifacts, at this time we have seen little evidence and we would like to see a lot more.  From past experience, most notably our work on Sealaska’s pending selection of Redoubt Falls near Sitka, the standards for what qualifies as “historic” are extremely broad.  Actual archeological evidence is not needed, and often sites are deemed historic by second hand oral accounts.  Furthermore, from our experience, the agencies tasked with enforcing these loose standards are generally unwilling to raise objections or apply the law to its full extent.

 As noted, we have been given little information about the historic significance of the Sitka-area sites.  About all we know is the site locations as listed here:

- Kalinin Bay Village (site 119).  This is a tourism spot and is used for hunting and fishing.  As recently as the 1960s, it was used as a fish camp, which included a store and diesel generating plant.

- Lake Eva Village (site 120).  This includes trail access.

- Deep Bay Village (site 181).  This area is widely used for hunting and fishing.  The 1975 field investigation found no evidence of occupation.

- North Arm Village (site 187).  This is a popular hunting, fishing and guided bear hunting location. The 1975 field investigation states: “This could possibly have been a village.”

- Fick Cove Village (site 185).  This is a popular hunting and subsistence area.  The 1975 field investigation revealed the ruins of two cabins which may have been trapper cabins.

Take Action: If you or your family use these sites, please contact Senators Begich and Murkowski and tell them you do not want to lose access to public lands.

Senator Begich

111 Russell Senate Office Building

Washington, DC 20510

fax. (202) 224 – 2354

Toll-free line: (877) 501 – 6275

Email Senator Begich HERE

Senator Murkowski

Email Senator Murkowski HERE


Mar 11 2013

Kalinin Bay Site Selected in Latest Sealaska Bill

Sealaska Corporation selected the Kalinin Bay Village Site in the latest version of the Sealaska  bill.  The Kalinin Bay site is 15.7 acres, making it the 5th largest historic site selection in Southeast.  The popular Sea Lion Cove Trail begins at the head of Kalinin Bay and continues over to the west side of Kruzof Island.  It is not known what impacts there may be on trail access, if the Sealaska bill passes.

In earlier versions of the bill, Sealaska selected Kalinin Bay as an “enterprise site” which would have allowed tourism activities and created a Sealaska controlled  “access zone” in a fifteen mile radius of the site. Although Kalinan Bay has been selected under a different designation in the current bill, there may be allowances for tourism type activities.

For more information on the current Selalaska bill, and how you can help CLICK HERE.




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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!
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  • Encouraging Local Natural Resource Stewardship on the Tongass: Kennel Creek
  • Teaching the Alaska way of Life: 4-H in Sitka
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