Sitka Conservation Society
Apr 02 2012

Reviving Forest Diversity and Rural Economies

Protecting ecosystem diversity and finding sustainable ways to use the resources around us are two things that SCS cares deeply about, which is why this recent story on PRX - Food and Forests: Reviving Diversity - caught our eye. It chronicles a pretty inspiring model, based on the work of The Watershed Center in Hayfork, California, for catalyzing sustainable economic development around natural resources in rural communities like Sitka.

The first part of this story explores how one rural California community used a restoration economy and sustainable green business model to recover from the loss of 150 jobs and a declining timber industry. It shows how residents learned to work with U.S. Forest Service land managers to manage for biodiversity of the forest, while building upon local skills and the passion for working in the woods that is so deeply ingrained in the community’s social fabric.

To help modernize the workforce, The Watershed Center developed educational and training opportunities that would allow local workers to qualify for new restoration jobs, and supported the tertiary manufacturing of timber products to engage high-value markets and socially responsible investors. Community members also explored ways to utilize non-timber forest products such as naturally-occurring medicinal herbs like yarrow, St. John’s Wort, yerba santa, mullein, and Echinacea. They used the surrounding Trinity National Forest’s chemical-free environment as a high-value marketing tool, and leveraged local indigenous knowledge to help revive natural ecosystem patterns diminished by modern management priorities.

This story is an inspiring example of economic reinvention that demonstrates how we can effectively combine “the preservation and restoration of nature’s original biodiversity with the sustainable harvest and use of resources drawn from it.” In Sitka, we can learn from stories like this as we work toward healthy ecosystems and sustainable economic development in our own landscapes and community.

Mar 09 2012

SCS and partners to restore Sitkoh River this summer

The Sitkoh River currently flows down a logging road and "strands" important pool-forming habitat for rearing juvenile salmon like this piece of wood.

Past logging practices, now disallowed, in the Sitkoh River watershed damaged important spawning and rearing habitat for salmon and steehead trout. For the past 12 years, the river has been flowing down an old logging road. Two years ago, SCS formed a partnership with the US Forest Service, Trout Unlimited, and the Alaska Sustainable Salmon Fund to restore 1.25 miles of the river. Work will start this summer.

This week, SCS and US Forest Service staff are presenting at the Community-Based Watershed Management Symposium in Juneau. We are using the Sitkoh project as an example of how working together can increase the ability to restore more watersheds and ensure healthy fisheries for all Alaskans.

To learn more about the Sitkoh River Restortaion, click here

 

Mar 06 2012

President Obama Quotes SCS’s Favorite Conservation Author, Aldo Leopold

President Obama quoted one of SCS’s favorite authors, Aldo Leopold, during a White House Conference on Conservation on March 3rd.  Specifically, he cited the famous quote “Conservation is a positive exercise of skill and insight, not merely a negative exercise of abstinence and caution.”  Everyday at the Sitka Conservation Society, we are exercising our skills and insights as we work to find ways for Sitka to live within the majesty of the Tongass and thrive, while conserving its resources and ensuring they are there to sustain future generations.

Prior to his address, there was a panel discussion at the White House that discussed topics related to many of the land stewardship issues that SCS is working on.  One member of the panel was Maia Enzer, from the Portland based NGO Sustainable Northwest.  Maia visited Sitka in 2009 and helped us get SCS started on community-based collaborative resource management so that we can ensure that management of our Sitka Community Use Area is done in a way that responds to how we use and depend on those lands.  During her comments at the White House, Maia said, “the backbone of collaborative natural resource management efforts comes from small, rural community based organizations that have networks tin the community that connect to a lot of other communities and people [and] the accomplishments of these small community organizations is what gets to the systematic change.”  

SCS, the small community organization in the Tongass, is the best example in the region of a group that is implementing projects and initiatives on the Tongass with a new vision and using those successes to help change National Forest Policy across the nation.  As we work to connect our local network of neighbors and partners with organizations like Sustainable Northwest that help us tell our story and advocate on policy makers at a national level, we are making long-term change in public lands policy.  Thanks for the all the help and for the props at the White House Maia!!!

We applaud the White House’s attention to conservation and public lands and look forward to more positive policy changes on the Tongass.

Here is a link to video of the President’s address on Conservation:  here  (forward to min 16:55)

Here is a link to the panel discussion:  here  (forward to min 8:40)

Mar 05 2012

Fishermen Travel to Washington, DC to Advocate for Tongass Management that Prioritizes Wild Alaska Salmon

Salmon are the lifeblood of Sitka’s economy, culture, and way-of-life and are a keystone species in the temperate rainforest ecosystems of the Tongass.  Management of the Tongass has long focused on timber and historic logging practices were done in ways that severely damaged salmon runs.  The Forest Service has since learned that stream beds shouldn’t be used as logging roads and that there needs to be buffers between logging and salmon streams.  However, Forest Service management priorities and spending still overwhelmingly focus on timber harvest—even though salmon are really the drivers of the SE Alaska economy and the most valuable resource from the Tongass.

A group of fishermen are traveling to Washington, DC this week to lay out the facts for decision makers in Washington, DC.  They will be delivering a stack of letters from hundreds of people who use and depend on Salmon from the Tongass and ask for a shift in budget priorities in Tongass management.

To take action to help us protect Tongass Salmon, click here.

 

Read the Press Release Below on their visit below:

Fishermen to Forest Service: Grow Jobs, Protect Fish in America’s Salmon ForestGroup Asks Obama Administration, Congress to Strengthen Conservation and Restoration of Salmon and Trout Watersheds in Tongass National Forest

Juneau, A.K. — A group of Alaska commercial fishermen, anglers, guides, naturalists and tour operators are in Washington,
 D.C., this week to advocate for more conservation and restoration of fish habitat in the Tongass National Forest in Southeast Alaska. The group, together with Trout Unlimited, Alaska Program, and Sitka Conservation Society, is meeting with key lawmakers and agency leaders to seek critical changes in the management of America’s largest national forest, a top producer of wild salmon. They want conservation of critical salmon habitat and watershed restoration to become higher priorities for the U.S. Forest Service in Southeast Alaska. The group is also delivering dozens of letters from individual fishermen asking the Forest Service to make salmon a priority in the Tongass.

“Salmon and trout alone are a billion-dollar industry in Southeast Alaska that sustains more than 7,000 jo
The U.S. Forest Service is the lead agency that manages the 17-million-acre Tongass National Forest, part of the world’s largest coastal temperate rain forest that covers most of Southeast Alaska and produces tens of millions of salmon every year. Southeast Alaska commercial salmon fishermen landed nearly 74 million fish during the 2011 season, a harvest worth more than $203 million—the most valuable in the state.bs either directly or indirectly. And yet the Forest Service budget remains squarely focused on timber and road building. It doesn’t make sense given the enormous value of fish

eries in the region,” said Sheila Peterson, a Juneau commercial fisherman and co-owner of a direct marketing seafood business.

Sport fishing is also big business. Salmon and trout anglers in Southeast Alaska spent an estimated $174 million on trips, gear, and related expenses in 2007, according to economic research commissioned by Trout Unlimited. The

 

total economic output related to their purchases that year is estimated at $358.7 million. Salmon and trout angling also supported 2,334 jobs and generated $84.7 million in personal income in 2007. On average, sport anglers catch 900,000 salmon each year in Southeast Alaska. They also catch halibut, steelhead, trout, char, rockfish, lingcod, and other species.

Because of its stunning beauty, the Tongass draws more than 1 million tourists to Southeast Alaska every summer. Many come aboard cruise ships to view the forest’s snowcapped mountains, tidewater glaciers, pristine fjords and abundant marine and terrestrial wildlife, including brown bears, wolves and humpback whales.

Despite the bounty fishing and tourism provide to Southeast Alaska, the Forest Service budget fails to reflect this

economic reality.

The agency spends more than $25 million annually on timber sales and road building in the Tongass – an industry that supports about 200 private-sector jobs, according to the Alaska Department of Labor. At the same time, the Forest Service only invests about $1.5 million each year on watershed restoration. And yet, by the Forest Service’s own estimate, it will cost some $100 million and take 50 years at current investment rates to restore salmon-producing watersheds damaged by past logging. This funding shortfall and backlog needs to be addressed. Salmon watershed restoration will create new jobs and increase salmon productivity. More salmon will provide greater opportunity for commercial, sport, and subsistence harvest as well as additional jobs in the fishing industry.

“We hope the Forest Service will move funding in a new direction. It’s time to change the Forest

Service budget so that more money goes toward

managing the Tongass as the salmon forest it is,” said Jev Shelton, a longtime Juneau commercial fisherman who has served on many fishery boards, including the Pacific Salmon Commission.

For more than four decades, the Forest Service managed the Tongass primarily for old-growth timber produ
“There are fe

w places left in the world where wild salmon still thrive. The Tongass National Forest is one of them but we need to ensure watersheds that were damaged by past timber harvest and road building are restored to their natural conditions. The only way that’s apt to happen in a timely manner is through shifts in the Forest Service budget,” said Mark Kaelke, Trout Unlimited, Southeast Alaska Project Director.ction. But with the closure of the region’s two large pulp mills in the 1990s, the agency has begun to shift toward second-growth timber management, restoring fish-producing watersheds damaged by logging, and supporting other industries such as fishing and tourism. Trout Unlimited, Alaska P
rogram, supports the Forest Service’s transition and would like to see this policy shift reflected in a new Tongass National Forest budget that emphasizes fisheries, watershed protection and h
abitat conservation.

For more information, visit www.americansalmonforest.org,www.tu.org/conservation/alaska/tongass and http://sitkawild.org/

Feb 22 2012

Stewardship in Action: Involving local students in restoration monitoring studies

Deer visiting the exclosure one week after installation!

At SCS, we know that getting people outside and participating in the stewardship of our environment is the single best way to realize our vision of a sustainable community living within the Tongass National Forest. Last summer, SCS, the Sitka Ranger District, and Sitka High School established a long-term monitoring study that will evaluate the efforts made to restore deer habitat in young growth forests in Peril Strait. Students built four “deer exclosures” to support this study. The exclosures will allow us to study the plant growth that occurs without being browsed upon by deer. Students will revisit these study sites each year. Through this project, students are being active participants in ecological restoration and gaining valuable insight in what it takes to be good stewards of our backyard!

 

Feb 18 2012

SCS Receives Grant from The National Forest Foundation to Use Local Wood and Plan Watershed Restoration Projects

The Sitka Conservation Society has been awarded a grant to partner with local organizations to build capacity for the use of Tongass young growth timber, and to create a long-term strategic plan for watershed restoration in the Sitka Community Use Area.  The grant is awarded through the Community Capacity and Land Stewardship Program, a collaborative program of the National Forest Foundation and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The two-phase project will build momentum of the Sitka Collaborative Stewardship Group by partnering with local high schools and community members. With the $20,000 grant, the project will last throughout 2012 and will result in a collaboratively defined Strategic Restoration Priorities List, a Best Management Practices document on partnering with the U.S. Forest Service on restoration projects, and initial efforts to advocate for the highest priority projects.

“The project will combine ecological data with social and economic priorities to create a framework that prioritizes where we need to restore salmon and deer habitat,” Said Scott Harris, SCS Collaborative Restoration Projects Coordinator. “It will also find ways to maximize local benefits to create jobs for local contractors to perform the work needed on the Tongass National Forest, as best for the community as a whole.”

SCS will partner with Sitka High School (SHS) on the young growth component of the project.   Industrial arts students will build furniture and a visitor’s kiosk for Sitka Sound Science Center with young growth timber harvested and milled on Prince of Wales Island.  These projects will take place during the 2012-2013 school year and will be the first time local wood has been used in SHS industrial arts projects in nearly a decade.

“It is exciting to bring local wood back into the classroom. There will be some differences in using young growth than what we usually build with, so it should be a good experiment to see the best ways to use the wood,” said Sitka High School industrial arts teacher, Randy Hughey. “It will also be a great opportunity for the students to learn about the local resources available and how they can support the Sitka economy.”

Based on the experiences at Sitka High, SCS will develop a best practices guide for buying local wood.  The guide will compare the cost of local young growth to imported wood, will detail where and when local wood can be purchased, and will explain properties of local young growth that may be different from conventional lumber.  SCS and SHS will host two educational open houses during the 2012-13 school year for local builders and other community members on the best practices.

Bill Thomason, owner of Alaska Wood Cuts Mill, will sell SCS young growth spruce from a stockpile of timber he acquired under stewardship contract during a 2007 habitat restoration project on Prince of Wales Island.

“We have been cutting and milling second growth here on POW for a few seasons now. It is great wood for a number of purposes, particularly in the construction of log and timber cabins as we are now doing,” he said. “We are really encouraged by the start of its use here in Southeast Alaska.”

“There are a lot of opportunities for using young growth timber from the Tongass, and I hope this experience will not be a one-time thing at the high school,” said Sitka contractor Marcel LaPerriere, owner of Southeast Cedar Homes, which uses wood from local sources. “I believe this is an opportunity to raise awareness and increase the commercial use around the region.”

The second component of the grant will focus on strategic planning for collaborative watershed restoration projects on the Tongass.  In recent years, the U.S. Forest Service, Sitka Conservation Society, Trout Unlimited and other partners have worked together to restore salmon streams damaged by industrial logging practices decades ago.  Despite the work and successful partnerships, projects have proceeded without a community-derived strategic plan.

“There are important watersheds in the Sitka Ranger District that were heavily impacted by logging during the pulp mill days. We know that this has had a negative impact on the number of fish these watersheds produce,” Matt Lawrie, a 2nd generation Sitka salmon troller said. “I’m hopeful that this project will bring together agency staff, fishermen, and locals with knowledge about local watersheds and it will lead to more habitat restoration projects that will increase Coho numbers and create more stability and resiliency for salmon populations.”

 

Feb 10 2012

Sitkoh River Restoration on-track

Check out a cool Google Earth tour and photos of the section of Sitkoh River to be restored! The Sitka Conservation Society is partnering with the Tongass National Forest, Trout Unlimited, and the Alaska Dept. of Fish an Game to restore salmon habitat on a section of Sitkoh River that was damaged by past logging practices. The construction contract has been awarded and we are on-track for completing this work in the Summer of 2012. CLICK HERE FOR THE TOUR!

Feb 10 2012

The Tongass is America’s Salmon Forest


The Tongass produces more salmon than all other National Forests combined.  These salmon are a keystone species in the temperate rainforest ecosystems and hundreds of species depend on them– including humans.  Salmon have been a food source in Southeast Alaska for thousands of years and continue to be the backbone of the economy.  The salmon from the Tongass are a sustainable resource that can continue to sustain communities, livelihoods, and ecosystems well into the future– if we manage the land and waters correctly.  The Forest Service is at a critical cross-roads right now in its “transition” framework as it moves out of Industrial Old Growth Logging and into more diverse and sustainable ways to create benefits from National Forest lands and resources.  Because the Tongass is America’s Salmon Forest,  and because Salmon are so important to all of us, we encourage the Forest Service to shift resources into the Tongass Fisheries and Watershed program and work to protect and restore salmon habitat and our salmon fisheries.

You can help us protect Tongass Salmon by taking action: here

Feb 06 2012

UPDATE 2/6: Boy Scout Troop 40 Adopts the Stikine


In June of 2012, members of Wrangell’s Boy Scout Troop 40 joined forces with the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council (SEACC), the Sitka Conservation Society (SCS), the United States Forest Service and local volunteers to help remove invasive plants from the Stikine-LeConte Wilderness Area.  The objective of the trip was to remove the aggressive reed cannery grass from the banks of the Twin Lakes by hand pulling the plants as well as covering areas with sheets of black plastic.  The group also helped remove an enormous amount of buttercups and dandelions from the lakes’ shoreline.

However, the ultimate goal of the trip was to teach the Boy Scouts what it means to be good stewards of the land and the value of Wilderness areas like the Stikine.  What better way is there to teach this lesson then to spend five days in the Wilderness learning these lessons first hand from the land and from each other?

After five days in the field, Troop 40 decided to adopt the Twin Lakes area as their ongoing stewardship project.  They plan to return in the coming years to continue the work that they’ve started.  It is community dedication like this that the Stikine and other wilderness areas require in order to remain pristine for future generations.

Feb 04 2012

Reflections from the Tongass Salmon Forest Residency

This is a guest post by Bonnie Loshbaugh about her reflections on SCS’s Tongass Salmon Forest Residency.  This unique position was a partnership with the Sitka Ranger District and was tasked with telling the story of the Forest Service’s work restoring salmon habitat in the Tongass.

Be sure to check out the fantastic slide show of Bonnie’s photos at the bottom of this post.

Bonnie Loshbaugh, SCS's Tongass Salmon Forest Resident

I arrived in Sitka in May, after the herring opener had ended and before the salmon season had really gotten fired up, for a six month stint as the Tongass Salmon Forest Resident. The position, a collaboration between the Sitka Conservation Society, The Wilderness Society, and the Forest Service, was a new venture for everyone. For the Forest Service, it was one of the tentative steps the agency is taking towards a transition from a timber-only to a multi-resource management approach for the Tongass National Forest. For the Sitka Conservation Society and The Wilderness Society, it was part of a long term shift by environmental organizations towards collaborating rather than fighting with the Forest Service in Southeast Alaska. For me, a newly minted master of marine affairs, the residency was an opportunity to position myself at the crossroads of public policy and science, practice my science writing abilities, to return to my home state, and—I’ll be honest—to eat a lot of fish.

In Sitka, I got a room in the Forest Service bunkhouse and started a crash course in island life, Forest Service safety training, NGO-agency collaboration, and NGO-NGO collaboration, with a refresher on small town Alaska. Growing up on the Kenai Peninsula, I already knew a great deal about salmon as food. Now I started learning about salmon as an economic driver, natural resource, cultural underpinning, keystone species in the coastal temperate rainforest, and salmon as the life work and primary focus of many of the people I had the honor of working with during my time in Sitka.

During the summer field season, I went with the fisheries and watershed staff on quick projects—a day trip by boat to Nakwasina to help add large wood to a salmon stream—and long projects—and eight day stint at a remote camp on Tenakee Inlet with a crew using explosives to decommission an old logging road. Although I was mainly in Sitka, I also visited Prince of Wales Island and the restoration sites at the Harris River and worked up a briefing sheet that was used during USDA Undersecretary Harris Sherman’s visit to the same sites. By the fall, I had a large amount of information and photos which I worked up into several brochures for the Forest Service, and also a Tongass Salmon Factsheet, and a longer Factbook.

My main contacts at the Forest Service were Greg Killinger, the Fisheries Watershed and Soils Staff Officer for the Tongass, and Jon Martin, the Tongass Transition Framework Coordinator, both of whom made the connections for me to work with and ask questions of the top fisheries folk on the Tongass, as well the rank and file staff on the ground carrying out restoration and research work. The residency gave me a chance to learn about salmon on the Tongass, and to immediately turn that information around for public distribution. Along the way, it also allowed me to see how a federal agency works, a particularly enlightening experience since I have mainly worked for non-profits in the past. While collaboration is not always the easy way, the joint creation of the Tongass Salmon Forest Residency is a recognition that it is the best way to manage our resources, and I hope to see, and participate in, many more such collaborations in the future.

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