A harvest of around 300,000 board feet off the False Island road system near Sitkoh Bay and Chicagof Road System is being proposed by the Forest Service, but it is not just the sale that is being offered—this proposal is also offering up a new approach on harvesting timberand managing the Tongass to benefit people and our forests on a local scale.
Last summer, right as the Sitkoh restoration project was underway, I met the Forest Service staff responsible for laying out the three small False Island Timber sales. These sales, which ended up bearing the names the Ray, RayRay, and High Road timber sales, are a relatively new forest management approach for the Tongass because they are designed with small mills in mind, select trees of high quality and value, and incorporate collaboration with community organizations and stakeholders.
Incorporated within this planning are future sales that offer second growth spruce and alder, which is the timber of the future on the Tongass. The Sitka Conservation Society sees sales like this as apart of the Forest Service’s commitment to implementing their 2010 Transition Framework. Focusing on small timber sales will increase local capacity for working and building with local wood while turning away from export oriented resource extraction. A focus like this catalyzes the Tongass National Forest’s transition from a history of unsustainable actions towards a more sustainable future.
This sale is just a start. It is not enough in itself. There is still much to be done and there are still many timber sales being offered that are part of the old way of doing things. The Forest Service needs to move faster in their transition and begin investing in the programs and activities that are prioritized by the public, bring value to the region, and don’t have negative environmental consequences.
Below are the comments that SCS submitted on this timber sale.
Here is a link to an article I wrote about my summer experience on False Island with the Forest Service timber crew:
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!
SCS’s short documentary Restoring America’s Salmon Forest was selected to show at the Alaska Forum on the Environment Film Festival on Friday, February 8, 2013 in Anchorage. The film focuses on a multi-agency effort to increase salmon returns on the Sitkoh River in Southeast Alaska’s Chichagof Island, by improving the spawning and rearing habitat and redirecting a river that was heavily damaged by logging operations in the 1970s.
In the heyday of the Southeast Alaska timber industry, little regard was paid to the needs of salmon. Streams were frequently blocked and diverted, with streams in 70 major watersheds remaining that way decades later. Salmon surpassed timber in economic importance in Southeast Alaska more than two decades ago, but only in the last few years has the Forest Service finally made a serious effort to repair damaged streams. Currently over 7,000 jobs in Southeast Alaska are tied to the fishing industry, compared to about 200 in the timber industry. The Forest Service spends about three times as much on timber related projects as fisheries and restoration projects each year on the Tongass.
While salmon are responsible for 10 times as many jobs in Southeast Alaska as timber, and are also an important food source and a critical part of our cultural identity, the Forest Service still puts timber over salmon in its budget priorities. Recent Forest Service budgets have dedicated in the range of $22 million a year to timber and road building, compared to less than $2 million a year to restoring salmon streams damaged by past logging, despite a $100 million backlog of restoration projects.
Logging damages watersheds by diverting streams, blocking fish passage, and eliminating crucial spawning and rearing habitat structures. Restoration increases salmon returns by removing debris, redirecting streams, stabilizing banks to prevent erosion, and even thinning dense second-growth forest. We believe it simply makes sense to go back and repair habitat if you are responsible for its damage.
Please contact your representatives in Washington to tell them the ways you depend on Tongass salmon, and tell them you support managing the Tongass for salmon and permanently protecting important salmon producing watersheds. Tell them it is time to redirect funds from the bloated timber budget to the salmon restoration budget, and finally transitioning away from the culture of old-growth timber to sustainable practices recognizing all resources and opportunities.
What to say:
Check out the talking points in this post for some ideas of what you might include in your letters or calls.
Contact:Undersecretary Robert Bonnie
Department of Natural Resources and the Environment
U.S. Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Ave., S.W.
Washington, DC 20250
Email: firstname.lastname@example.orgSenator Lisa Murkowski
709 Hart Senate Building
Washington, DC 20510
Email: email@example.comSenator Mark Begich
825C Hart Senate Building
Washington, DC 20510
If you have questions, contact the Sitka Conservation Society at 747-7509 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Produced by Bethany Goodrich, a summer staffer at the Sitka Conservation Society, “Restoring Alaska’s Salmon Forest” provides a brief look at how a restoration project looks on the ground and what such a project can accomplish in terms of salmon returns.
“Aint no power like the power of the people ‘cause the power of the people don’t stop!” We as a community have great potential to create the change we want to see in the world because this change is initiated by something we all have—our voice. We have the ability to envision things differently, contemplate the steps necessary to enact our vision, and then put those steps into action through our words, community involvement, and passion. These efforts typically don’t have to start with a large group of people because change can begin with an individual, and that individual could be you.
When I met local Sitkan Paul Rioux and experienced his determination to raise awareness about genetically engineered salmon, I was seeing firsthand the power of voice and the importance of standing up for your beliefs. For Paul, organizing a rally that would protest genetically engineered salmon was one of those ways to stand up. “I saw that there were rallies going on in other parts of the country, and I decided that it would be nice to do one here,” Paul said. Through Paul’s actions, over 130 people came to the rally, which was then publicized by Senator Murkowski, Senator Begich, and Representative Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins. Four days after the event, the Food and Drug Administration announced they were going to extend the period to comment on genetically engineered salmon by 60 days, with the new date being April 26th, 2013. I’m certain that Sitka’s activism helped spur this extension.
To make this happen, we started small. We gained support from fishing organizations like the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association (ALFA) and the Alaska Troller’s Association (ATA), who passed the message on to their members; we held sign-making parties at the SCS office, Blatchley Middle School, and Ventures; flyers were created, posted, and handed out, featuring both information on the rally and how to submit a comment to the FDA opposing genetically engineered salmon; Raven Radio had us on their Morning Interview, where myself, Paul, and David Wilcox, a Blatchley middle school student running across the country in protest of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), discussed the negative impacts of genetically engineered salmon; both the Mudflats blog and Fish Radio with Laine Welch hosted information on the rally to raise awareness to their subscribers that the FDA was considering approving genetically engineered salmon; and the day of the event, the local news station, the Sitka Sentinel, and Raven Radio came out to document the event, which made it on the front page of the paper. Days after the rally, Sitka’s Assembly also approved, on a 7-0 vote, a resolution stating the city’s opposition to frankenfish.
Technology more than ever can be used to organize our social networks, tell our stories to folks that live in communities all over the country, and enforce our opinion to decision makers to listen to their constituents. This can happen with any issue that we find ourselves passionate about, and for Paul that issue was the health of our wild salmon from the Tongass.
It is right here in our community that we can create the world we want to see through our actions, but this can only happen through an engaged, active citizenry. Far too often I encounter folks who are somewhat cynical to the democratic process, folks that have lost faith in the power of their voice. But in the end, if no one takes action, nothing gets done.
What kind of world do you want to live in? For us at the Sitka Conservation Society, we want the management of the Tongass to benefit the communities that depend upon its natural resources while supporting the habitats of the salmon, black tail-deer, and bears that roam wildly about. Sitkans like Paul Rioux remind us that our voice is a catalyst for change, and by speaking and standing up for what you believe in, we can continuously create the world we want to live in. Let us stand up together, generate the renewable energy of people power, and work towards that future some say is a dream but can be a reality if we work towards it.
If you haven’t submitted a comment opposing Frankenfish, please go to http://www.regulations.gov/#!submitComment;D=FDA-2011-N-0899-0685. For the required field “Organization Name,” you can put “Citizen” and for the category, you can put “Individual Consumer.” Do it right now, it only takes a few minutes!
Bob Christensen, original member of SCS’s Groundtruthing Project team, recently completed a comprehensive review of forest restoration methods for The Wilderness Society. This very readable work provides a thorough background of the why, how, and where of restoring forest habitats in the Tongass National Forest. It also describes a concise method for prioritizing restoration locations based on ecological, social, and economic criteria. We used this work to inform the prioritization we conducted for the Sitka Community Use Area. Efforts like this are critical to our understanding and ever-constant learning about how to restore fish and wildlife habitat in Southeast Alaska.
You can view Bob’s report below or download an 8 Mb version by clicking on this link.
This expedition is part of Sitka Conservation Society’s Community Wilderness Stewardship Project. The Project, begun in 2009, is a partnership between SCS and the Tongass National Forest Service to collect base-line data on the ecological conditions and human impacts to designated Wilderness areas. The Tongass NF in Southeast Alaska is the nation’s largest National Forest totaling 17 million acres with almost 6 million acres of designated Wilderness Area (also the largest total Wilderness area of any National Forest). Almost all of this land is only accessible by boat or on foot. Because most Tongass Wilderness Areas are so difficult to access, Forest Service Wilderness rangers rarely, if ever, have the ability to monitor areas which require technical skills, lots of time, or difficult logistics for access. SCS augments and fills in the gaps in data by targeting these areas.
For the 2013 project, the SCS Wilderness crew will work with Craig and Thorne Bay Ranger Districts to conduct a monitoring expedition to a set of outercoast islands adjacent to Prince of Wales Island including Coronation Is., Warren Is., the Spanish Is., and the Maurelle Is.
Adam Andis, is the Communications Director for SCS. He has managed the Wilderness Stewardship Program since 2011. Andis first started paddling on a National Outdor Leadership School expedition in Prince William Sound. He guided kayak trips all over Southeast Alaska for Spirit Walker Expeditions before moving to Sitka to work for SCS. Andis is a Level 4 ACA Instructor, a Leave-No-Trace Master Educator, and Wilderness First Responder. He is also on the board of directors of the National Wilderness Stewardship Alliance and has a passion for Wilderness preservation and protection.
Rob Avery, has been paddling since he was a teenager (and that was a long time ago!) racing sprint and marathon in Junior K1. Originally from the UK, Rob now lives in the Pacific Northwest where he manages distribution for Valley & North Shore kayaks. He is also the regional rep for Snap Dragon, Level Six and other fun paddlesports stuff under his Active Paddles business, and also runs Kayak Kraft coaching service. Rob is an ACA Level 5 Instructor, Level 4 BCU coach, 5 star BCU paddler, Wilderness First Responder, Leave-No-Trace Instructor and no stranger to Alaska where is has spend many windy and rainy days paddling in the SE, central, Kodiak and the Aleutian Islands.
Paul Norwood, was born and raised in Paris, and has lived in Alaska since 1999. He spent a few years fishing and working in canneries, then did odd jobs in the interior of the state. Finally, he went to Sitka where he studied liberal arts and Spanish at UAS and worked as a tour guide on wildlife watching cruises. He has been on the Sitka Mountain Rescue team for several years, completed a year of Americorps service at the Sitka Sound Science Center, did an internship with the Peruvian Ministry of the Environment and a stint on a trail crew in southern Patagonia, and participated with numerous organizations on small projects ranging from traditional gardening to mapping invasive species. Paul has Emergency Medical Technician certification.
Dates and Duration: We are planning 16 days for the trip (11 field days, 2 travel days, and 2 weather days). The trip will begin June 16th and the crew will return to Sitka on July 2nd.
Route: The crew will pack boats in the small fishing village of Port Alexander. The crux of the trip will be the 12.5 nm open-water crossing of Chatham Strait to Kuiu Island. From there, the crew will paddle south to Cape Decision and stay at the Cape Decision Lighthouse. On to the Spanish Island and Coronation Island where the crew will monitor recreation sites and record visitor use data, survey for invasive plants, conduct owl broadcast surveys, swab toads for fungal infections, and a litany of other research goals. From Coronation, the team will cross to Warren, then down to the Maurelles to meet up with Craig Ranger District staff and Youth Conservation Corps to help out in the field. Back at the final destination in Craig, the crew will lead a kayak skills and rescue class for the Ranger District staff and community members in Craig. The trip will wrap up with an adventure in ferry hopping from Craig to Ketchikan and finally back to Sitka.
Pre-trip: send kayaks to Port Alexander on mailboat
June 16: Fly in small plane to Port Alexander, cross Chatham Strait to Kuiu Island.
June 17: Paddle along Kuiu to The Spanish Islands and Coronation.
June 18: Survey Coronation I.
June 22: Paddle to Warren island and survey.
June 25: Paddle to Maurelle Island group.
June 26: Meet the Craig Wilderness Rangers and Youth Conservation Corps in the Maurelles to help with projects
June 27: Survey Maurelle Islands
June 28: Paddle to Craig
June 29: Teach kayak skills and rescue training for Craig community.
June 30: Catch InnerIsland ferry to Ketchikan
July 1: catch Alaska Marine Ferry to Sitka.
July 2: Return to Sitka, compile data, sort and clean gear, then drink some cold beers
For more information, please contact Andis at email@example.com or (907) 747-7509.
This past week, I checked an usual piece of luggage with me on the plane down to Albuquerque: a box of frozen Marten, Ermine, and River Otter skulls, femurs, and intestinal parasites. I was delivering my parcel to Steve O. MacDonald and Dr. Joe Cook (who literally wrote the book on Alaskan mammals) and Jonathan Dunnum, the collections manager at the University of New Mexico Museum of Southwest Biology as part of the ISLES (Island Surveys to Locate Endemic Species) project. ISLES is attempting to create a Tongass-wide catalog of mammal species to use in future research. SCS has been collecting vole in alpine areas of Chichagof and Baranof Island for the past 3 years as part of the Wilderness Project. But it’s not just scientists and researchers who are involved.
“Trappers and hunters are clearly stakeholders in the maintenance of sustainably harvestable wildlife populations in SE Alaska and typically have the best local knowledgeable about the animals they are interested in.”
ISLES relies on trappers and hunters to do what they do best and provide specimens of furbearers and big game animals to help create an archive of mammal species throughout Southeast Alaska. The samples will be included with non-game species collected by biologists and field crews, in the archive at the University of New Mexico and will be a valuable resource for management by providing a baseline of for future studies. Check out the ISLES site to learn more about the project and to learn how you can help by collecting and contributing samples.
ISLES is a progressive type of project because it recognizes the need to involve the folks who are actually on the ground. Its a new breed of conservation biology that we are likely to see a lot more of in the future if budgets for agencies and funds for research grants decrease. Budget realities are one impetus for projects like this, but it is also just common sense. The hunters, trappers, fishermen and women, recreationists, and other folks who spend countless hours in the field already have a more intuitive understanding of the environment and the most familiarity with conditions in the field. These folks are also those with the most invested in research that promotes conservation of the very resources they rely on.
If you would like to collect specimens for the ISLES Project contact:Jon Martin Assistant Professor of Biology
Department of Natural Sciences
University of Alaska Southeast-Sitka
1332 Seward St. Sitka, AK 99835
All of us at SCS are excited about this hybridization of science and in situ, on-the-ground data collection. Soon, we will be compiling all of the citizen science initiatives that Sitkans can take part in on our Citizen Science page. Be sure to check back as we populate that page to see how you can get involved.
US Forest Service
Alaska Department of Fish and Game
US Fish and Wildlife Service
University of Alaska Southeast
Sitka High School
Sitka Conservation Society
Notorious for having bikes chained along its railway, the Sitka Sound Science center is upgrading its parking for those traveling on wheels. The Construction Tech class at Sitka High, under the instruction of Randy Hughey, is building a bike shelter for the Science center made of young growth Sitka spruce and old growth red cedar from Prince of Wales Island. The 6,000 board feet of this Alaskan wood was milled by Mel Cooke of Last Chance Enterprises out of Thorne Bay. From Cooke’s perspective, the logs are very easy to work with – very symmetrical, very little taper, and mostly comes out straight. “I enjoy cutting it, it cuts real easy, and the wood looks really good– beautiful boards” says Mel.
Back at Sitka High, the students have already begun applying a preservative treatment to the future deck of the bike shelter to protect the wood. The bike shelter will also rest on top of skids so that water can drain out of the shelter instead of forming pools that will rot the wood. The deck of the shelter is made of Yellow Cedar and Sitka Spruce. The framing and roof deck will be made of rough sawn Sitka Spruce and the structure will be sided and roofed with Red Cedar.
The timber framing of the bike shed is made possible thanks to Daniel Sheehan, a recent Alaska transplant from Massachusetts. Dan showed up at the SCS alder nightstand open house at Sitka High and met Randy Hughey. They discovered a mutual love of classic pegged mortise and tenon timber framing. Dan has worked for four years for Ted Benson Timber Framing in the Northeast United States and volunteered to help teach Randy and the students how to timber frame.
This bike shelter will serve both as a useable space for bikes but also a testament that young growth wood can be used in construction and carpentry fields. It also demonstrates that building with local wood builds community, relationships, and sustains the knowledge of carpentry for future generations.
Funding for this project was provided by the National Forest Foundation as part of an ongoing effort to support sustainable timber harvest and local markets in the Tongass National Forest. The purpose is to invigorate markets for Tongass young-growth timber products, particularly in Southeast Alaska, by exploring their performance in a variety of interior and exterior applications. By sharing practical information, broadening the knowledge base, and connecting local producers with consumers, the Sitka Conservation Society hopes to help builders, woodworkers, resource managers and others make more informed decisions about using Tongass young-growth.