Designating land as Wilderness is the ultimate step to ensuring its protection in the long-term. Wilderness designation protects critical habitat from mining, logging, and development while still allowing people to use the land for hunting, fishing, subsistence gathering, recreating, and even making a living from guiding and operating tours.
Wilderness was integral to SCS’s formation and we’ve maintained that commitment to Wilderness ever since. You can see the whole story of SCS’s formation in the short documentary Echoes of the Tongass. But the short story is that in the 1960s large, industrial pulp mills were clear-cutting huge swaths of the Tongass with no end in sight. A small group formed in Sitka to fight the rampant logging surrounding their home. They saw the recent passage of the Wilderness Act in 1964 as a way for them to protect at least some of the Tongass. They drafted a proposal to designate the western third of Chichagof Island as Wilderness because of its diverse habitats, intact old-growth forests, and pristine wildlife habitats. It took 13 years of effort, but in 1980, the West Chichagof Wilderness became the first citizen initiated wilderness in Alaska.
Through the politics of the designation process, the extractive interest groups for the timber and mining lobby managed to carve large sections of some of the best habitat out of the designated land. Some of those excluded parcels like Ushk Bay and Poison Cove are currently being managed for logging. As the Forest Service puts it, these areas are managed for “Intense Development” which means they “Manage the area for industrial wood production…and maximum long-term timber production.”
These areas were excluded because they are the best, most iconic old-growth rainforests in the world and provide habitat for important species like the coastal brown bear, Sitka deer, and pacific salmon. Unfortunately, that also means that they are the areas where clear-cut logging is cheapest and easiest.
But, since the 60s, the pulp mills have closed their doors. Nowadays, the timber industry only employs about 200 jobs. Our economy in Southeast Alaska has shifted to tourism and fishing which employ 10,200 and 8,000 jobs and contribute almost $2 Billion to the economy annually. Wilderness designation directly benefits tourism and fishing because it preserves both the habitat, which salmon need for spawning, and viewsheds the tourists flock to Alaska to see.
This year the Wilderness Act is 50 years old and we think it is a perfect time to finish the job our founders began almost a half century ago to designate ALL of West Chichagof as Wilderness. Please join us by sending a note of your support to our senators using the form below.
Ask Senators Begich and Murkowski to Fulfill Wilderness Designation in West Chichagof
SCS will present the Sitka premiere of The Meaning of Wild Sunday, March 9, 2014 from 6-8pm at the Sitka Performing Arts Center. Tickets $7 available at Old Harbor Books (2/14/2014). Free for kids 10 and under.
The film will be accompanied by a selection of wilderness-themed short films, a photography exhibit and silent auction, and door prizes.
Meaning of Wild (25:00)
Film by Ben Hamilton, Pioneer Videography
The Meaning of Wild takes viewers on a journey through one of our nation’s most wild and pristine landscapes – The Tongass National Forest of Southeast Alaska. The film follows wildlife cameraman Ben Hamilton as he travels by boat, plane, kayak and foot to capture and share the true value of Wilderness. Along the journey Ben encounters bears, calving glaciers, ancient forest, and harsh seas but it’s the characters he meets along the way that bring true insight to his mission. The film highlights never before captured landscapes while provoking reflection about their importance to us all. Ultimately The Meaning of Wild celebrates the fiftieth anniversary of the Wilderness Act and seeks to share these national treasures and inspire the next generation of wilderness advocates. Visit the Meaning of Wild website.
Background: Sitka Conservation Society has been partnering with the USDA Forest Service for over 5 years to monitor and steward Wilderness areas in the Tongass. Part of SCS’s mission is to educate and inspire community members to take care of their local public lands through projects like the Meaning of Wild.
This film was made possible through support from the Forest Service, Sitka Conservation Society, and the contributions of over 100 community members all of whom we would like to thank for making this film a reality.
Big Bear Country (26:11)
Film by Ben Hamilton, Pioneer Videography
Follow wildlife biologist Jon Martin, big game guide Kevin Johnson, conservationist Andrew Thoms and filmmaker Ben Hamilton as they travel by foot and packraft through the rich habitats of West Chichagof Wilderness. The team seeks out the coastal brown bear, a keystone species, to unravel the importance of protecting large tracks of intact habitat for wildlife population. Their journey takes them through the Lisianski-Hoonah Sound corridor, an area proposed but ultimately removed from the original citizen-intiated Wilderness proposal and a prime wildlife area, and over the Goulding Lakes, within the Wilderness boundary. Prepare yourself—you’re about to enter into Big Bear Country.
Running Wild (4:00)
Film by Alexander Crook
Getting out into wilderness, feeling the moss underfoot, legs pumping uphill, breathing clean air, and taking a minute to reflect at the top of a climb—these are the things that inspire backcountry trailrunner Nick Ponzetti to travel to designated Wilderness areas. Follow Nick on a run through the heart of Wilderness to find out how his love of running has inspired a passion for protecting wild places.
Film by Adam Andis
This short film, shot in South Baranof Wilderness area shows how designated Wilderness is integral to us all.
Photos by Adam Andis
Photographer Adam Andis has been exploring the remote Wilderness areas of Southeast Alaska for the past 8 years as a private kayak guide and manager of the Sitka Community Wilderness Stewardship Project. This collection of photos includes 24 images depicting the raw beauty of 14 Wilderness Areas in the Tongass. Prints will be available to purchase through silent auction at the event with a portion of the proceeds being donated to SCS.
Attendees can enter their ticket stubs into a drawing for a number of great door prizes donated by local businesses including:
2 REI Flash Packs from REI Anchorage
Coupon for Whale Watching tour from Aquatic Alaska Adventures
Gifts from Sound Sailing
2 copies of The Meaning of Wild DVD
Want to get involved with 4H? 4H is a positive youth development program to get youth civically engaged and apply leadership skills at a young age.
Our 4H Adventure Series starts February 18!! This series will be Tuesdays through May from 4:15 – 5:45pm for ages 8 to 13. Skills we will explore are: map and compass navigation, using survival kits, GPS and geocaching, fire building, shelters, knots, water purification, Leave No Trace Wilderness ethics, bear awareness, and other skills to prepare for an overnight trip!
New 4H members are encouraged to join! Please share with friends who may be interested.
Attendees must be 4H members. Please complete the registration forms before the 18th. Copies are available at the Sitka Conservation Society.
Registration is open for this series by e-mailing Mary or Tracy or by calling SCS at 747-7509.
Get outside and explore!
The Sitka Conservation Society is seeking an applicant to support the Sitka Community Wilderness Stewardship Project. The Wilderness Intern will assist SCS’s Wilderness Project manager to coordinate and lead monitoring expeditions during the 2014 summer field season.
If interested, please review the position description below and submit a resume and cover letter to Adam Andis at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Position Title: SCS Wilderness Project Internship
Host Organizations: Sitka Conservation Society
Location: Sitka, Alaska
Duration: 14 weeks, starting in May 2014. Specific start and end dates to be determined by intern and SCS
Compensation: $ 4664 plus travel
Benefits: Intern will receive no health or dental benefits. Intern is responsible for housing. SCS will provide appropriate training for fieldwork in Southeast Alaska.
Organization: The Sitka Conservation Society (SCS) is a grassroots, membership-based organization dedicated to the conservation of the Tongass Temperate Rainforest and the protection of Sitka’s quality of life. We have been active in Sitka, Alaska for over 45 years as a dynamic and concerned group of citizens who have an invested interest in their surrounding natural environment and the future well-being of their community. We are based in the small coastal town of Sitka, Alaska, located on the rugged outer west coast of Baranof Island. Surrounded by the towering trees of the Tongass National Rainforest, the community has successfully transformed from an industrial past and the closure of a local pulp mill to a new economy featuring a diversity of employers and small businesses.
Background: The Tongass National Forest 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). The Sitka Ranger District alone encompasses over 1.6 million acres of countless islands, glaciated peaks and old growth forests. In 2009, SCS partnered with the Sitka Ranger District (SRD) to ensure the two Wilderness areas near Sitka (the West Chichagof Yakobi and South Baranof Wilderness Areas) meet a minimum management standard by conducting stewardship and monitoring activities and recruiting volunteers. We will be continuing this project into its fifth year and extending the project to ranger districts throughout the Tongass National Forest.
Direction and Purpose:
In this position you will be expected to assist in organizing the logistics of field trips. Trips can range from just a few nights to three weeks. Backcountry field logistics include float plane and boat transport to and from field sites; kayaking, backpacking, and packrafting on location; camping and living in bear country; field communications via satellite phone, VHF radio, and SPOT transmitters. You will be co-leading trips with SCS Staff. Depending on experience, you may have the opportunity to lead short trips of volunteers on your own.
Working with SCS Staff, this intern position will assist in the following duties:
- ·collection of field data
- ·coordinating logistics and volunteers for field surveys
- ·plan and conduct outreach activities including preparing presentation and sharing materials on Wilderness and Leave No Trace with outfitters/guides and other Forest users.
- prepare and submit an intern summary report and portfolio of all produced materials, and other compiled outputs to the Forest Service and SCS before conclusion of the residency, including digital photos of your work experience and recreational activities in Alaska. Reports are crucial means for SCS to report on the project’s success.
- ·Graduate or currently enrolled in Recreation Management, Outdoor Education, Environmental Studies or other related environmental field
- ·Current Wilderness First Responder certification (by start date of position)
- ·Outdoor skills including Leave-no-Trace camping, multi-day backpacking
- Sea kayaking skills and experience
- ·Ability to work in a team while also independently problem-solve in sometimes difficult field conditions.
- ·Ability to communicate effectively and present issues to the lay-public in a way that is educational, inspirational, and lasting
The ideal candidate will also have:
- ·Experience living or working in Southeast Alaska
- ·Pertinent work experience
- ·Outdoor leadership experience such as NOLS or Outward Bound
- ·Ability to work under challenging field conditions that require flexibility and a positive attitude
- ·Proven attention to detail including field data collection
- ·Experience camping in bear country
- ·Advanced sea-kayaking skills including surf zone and ability to perform rolls and rescues
- Sea kayak certification from American Canoe Association or British Canoe Union
Fiscal Support: SCS will provide a stipend of $4,664 for this 14 week position. SCS will also provide up to $1,000 to cover the lowest cost airfare from the resident’s current location to Sitka. Airfare will be reimbursed upon submittal of receipts to SCS.
With respect to agency/organization policy and safety, intern agrees to:
- ·Adhere to the policies and direction of SCS, including safety-related requirements and training, including those related to remote travel and field work.
- ·Work closely with the SCS Wilderness Project Coordinator to update him/her on accomplishments and ensure that any questions, concerns or needs are addressed.
- ·Be a good representative of SCS at all times during your internship.
- ·Arrange course credits with your university if applicable.
With respect to general logistics, resident agrees to:
- Seek lowest possible round trip airfare or ferry trip and book as soon as possible and before May 1st, working in conjunction with SCS whenever possible;
- Provide SCS with travel itinerary as soon as flight is booked and before arriving in Alaska. Please email itinerary to Adam Andis at email@example.com..
- Reimburse SCS for the cost of travel if you leave the intern position before the end of your assignment.
- Have fun and enjoy the experience in Sitka!
May 20-June 1: SCS and Forest Service trainings; get oriented and set up in offices; begin researching and getting up-to-speed on background info (Outfitter/Guide Use Areas, patterns of use on the Tongass National Forest (subsistence, commercial fishing, guided, recreation), Wilderness Character monitoring, Wilderness issues).
June 4 – August 17: Participate in field trips and assist in coordinating future trips, contact Outfitter and Guides to distribute educational materials, assist SCS in other Wilderness stewardship activities.
By August 20-24: Prepare final report including any outreach or media products, trip reports, and written summary of experience to SCS. Work with Wilderness Project Coordinator on final reports.
To apply please submit a cover letter and resume that includes relevant skills and experiences including documentation of trips in remote settings to Adam Andis: firstname.lastname@example.org
Application will close March 31, 2014.
Last week, after much anticipation, SCS was able to get the Young Growth bike shelter installed at the Sitka Sound Science Center. If you haven’t had a chance to check it out, we encourage you to do so. It’s the product of multiple community partnerships and hard work. This summer SCS produced a video about the bike shelter and it features time lapse footage of the shelter going up and an interview with Randy Hughey, the instructor at Sitka High who designed the shelter along with local craftsman Dan Sheehan.
To celebrate, we will be holding a small dedication celebration on Tuesday, January 28th, at 3:00 PM. If you are interested in a bike ride, meet up at Totem Square at 2:45 for a quick ride down to the shelter. We will be thanking people who have helped along the way and have some light refreshments.
We can’t thank all of these great people enough for their help with this project!
National Forest Foundation, CCLS program
Randy Hughey and Dan Sheehan
Sitka Sound Science Center
Chris Pearson and Coastal Excavation
City of Sitka Parks and Recreation
Mike Litman – Precision Boatworks
US Forest Service
Good Faith Lumber
Keith Landers H & L salvage
Baranof Island Brewing Company
SCS members, staff, interns and volunteers
House Bill 77, or the “Silencing Alaskans’ Act,” is up for vote in the state senate this legislative term. The passage of this bill would cut Alaskans out of permitting decisions for any project on state lands, particularly projects that could destroy salmon habitat. The bill would give only the unelected Department of Natural Resources Commissioner power to approve permits without having to notify the public of potential impacts unless the impacts are deemed by the Commissioner as “significant and irreparable.” HB 77 also omits citizens, non-profits, and tribes from being able to apply for in-stream water flow reservations that protect fish and wildlife habitat, or be used for recreation and parks, navigation and transportation, and sanitation and water quality.
As of now, the average citizen can apply for an in stream water flow reservation to protect important salmon streams in their community. This will go away however if HB 77 is approved.
This is where you come in. If you are in Senator Stedman’s district, give him a call and let him know you appreciate him standing up for the voice of Alaskans by opposing HB 77. The Senator’s phone number is 907-465-3873.
Want to take it a step further? Get in touch with me and we’ll work together to represent Southeast’s disapproval of HB 77. The bill goes out on the Senate’s floor this session, so we gotta act fast. Call 907-747-7509 and ask for Ray.
Although we often associate our National Forests with trees and silviculturalists, BY FAR, the most valuable resource that the Tongass National Forest provides is in the production of all 5 species of wild Pacific salmon. Managing salmon habitat and the fish populations within the forest is one of the key roles of National Forest Service staff in Alaska. The Tongass National Forest is the largest National Forest in the United States. Its 17 million acres is home to 32 communities that use and very much depend on the resources that this forest provides.
On this National Forest, fisheries and watershed staff are probably the most critical positions on the entire Forest and are responsible for the keystone species in the temperate rainforest ecosystem—Salmon–a $1 Billion per year commercial fishery that serves up delicious salmon to people around the nation and the world, not to mention subsistence harvests that feed thousands of rural community members in Alaska. These staff also carry the legacy of thousands of years of sustainable management on their shoulders.
Like nothing else, salmon have shaped the cultures and the lifestyle of the peoples and communities of Southeast Alaska. The Tlingit and Haida people who have called the Tongass home for thousands of years, have learned and adapted to the natural cycles of salmon. Deeply held cultural beliefs have formed unique practices for “taking care of” and ensuring the continuance of salmon runs. As documented by Anthropologist Thomas Thornton in his book, Being and Place Among the Tlingit, “the head’s of localized clan house groups, known as yitsati, keeper of the house, were charged with coordinating the harvest and management of resource areas” like the sockeye salmon streams and other important salmon runs.
The staff of the Fisheries and Watershed program has integrated Alaska Native organizations, individuals, and beliefs into salmon and fisheries management programs on the Tongass and have hired talented Alaska Native individuals as staff in the USDA National Forest Service. Through the efforts of the Fisheries and Watershed program and its staff, a variety of formal agreements, joint programs, and multi-party projects that manage and protect our valuable salmon resources have been developed. The programs on the Tongass are case-studies for the rest of the world where lands and resources are owned by the public while being managed through the collaborative efforts of professional resource managers in government agencies, local peoples with intimate place-based knowledge, and involve multi-party stakeholders who use and depend on the resource.
The Tongass is America’s Salmon Rainforest and the Forest Service’s Fisheries Resource Monitoring Program is a stellar example of how we manage a National Forest to produce and provide salmon for people across the entire country as well as the people who call this forest their home.
One of the things that struck me instantly when I moved to Sitka was the number of jarred foods I saw on people’s shelves. I moved up from Oregon where canning foods was either considered “trendy” or outdated–it was a lost art. But here, it’s an art that is practiced every year. In fact, according to the 2013 Sitka Food Assessment, 77% of Sitkans preserved or processed food in the last 12 months.
1 in every 3 Sitkans jar up food every year! And while that is an impressive number, it’s one we want to increase. In the case of an emergency shelf-stable foods are incredibly important. Canning foods is a way to build our individual and community food resiliency.
And it’s another way to connect to the Tongass. Knowing the seasons through food harvest forms a relationship to the natural world, a dependency even. It’s sustenance and subsistence—it’s a way of life. Many foragers even have secret spots for berries, wild greens, or mushrooms. There’s a sense of ownership for these treasured places and they invite stewardship.
Every year hundreds of pounds of berries hang off their branches and freezer bags are filled with future muffins, smoothies, and pies in mind. And while these gems are absolutely delicious frozen, they are quite yummy canned into jams, jellies, syrups, and juice.
The Sitka Conservation Society offered a food preservation class this winter, turning frozen huckleberries into jam, jelly, and fruit leather. If you’re interested in a canning class, call the Sitka Conservation Society at 747.7509 or email email@example.com. If we get enough interest we’d be happy to organize another class for our members!
Photo Credit: Christine Davenport