This winter, students from Sitka High’s Field Science Class worked with the Sitka Ranger District to target wildlife habitat restoration activities. We mapped occurrences of Vaccinium species (Blueberry) and other deer forage plants in young growth forests. We then used data analysis and mapping technologies to identify potential locations where the Forest Service can create canopy gaps. Gaps provide more light to the forest floor and encourage the growth of plants deer eat to survive snowy winters.
BACKGROUND: Clear-cut logging of the forests near False Island between 1967 and 1972 led to fast-paced, even-aged growth of new conifers, shrubs and herbaceous plants that is today causing serious problems for deer and other wildlife. After about 25 years of growth in a previously clear-cut area, conifers become so thick that understory shrubs and herbs are shaded out, virtually eliminating vital deer forage for over 100 years. Restorative thinning of the kind completed during the Ocean Boulevard project can help maintain a more open canopy and better habitat for the deer and other wildlife that local communities depend on for subsistence.
Ocean Boulevard was the first of an ongoing series of projects in the False Island landscape aimed at addressing a wide range of resource opportunities related to subsistence, ecosystem restoration, and recreation. Ocean Boulevard benefited from early collaboration with community stakeholders that went above and beyond the traditional U.S. Forest Service process (learn more here). Related projects include the Sitkoh River Restoration and Peril Landscape Opportunities Project.
STATS: In 2011, local contractor TM Construction thinned 334 acres of young growth forest with treatments that included 25 x 25 foot spacing and canopy gaps. Many of the downed trees were removed by ground-based equipment and either stored in a sort-yard for future sale, or tagged for in-stream use in the Sitkoh River Restoration Project that will be completed in 2012; others were cut into smaller pieces and left to decay in the forest.
INNOVATIONS: The U.S. Forest Service took an experimental approach with Ocean Boulevard, using it to test the costs and logistics involved in removing and storing downed trees after thinning. Better understanding these costs will help the Forest Service and community more realistically assess future opportunities to use “restoration byproducts” from the Sitka Ranger District for biomass, lumber, and other timber products.
FUNDING AND SUPPORT:Ocean Boulevard was funded by the America Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, and
was the first U.S. Forest Service project to involve input from the Sitka Collaborative Stewardship Group (SCSG).
Check out our briefing sheet to learn more about community input on the Ocean Boulevard Project: Ocean Boulevard Briefing Sheet.
BACKGROUND: The Peril Project is a collaborative stewardship initiative designed to improve wildlife habitat and recreational access within the False Island/Peril Strait landscape. Planning for Peril officially began in 2010, but the “landscape-scale” project concept is rooted in three efforts that began as far back as 2006: the U.S. Forest Service False Island Integrated Resource Management Plan (IRMP) planning group, the Sitkoh River and Creek Watershed Inventory and Restoration Plan (2009) and the Sitka Collaborative Stewardship Group (2009).
The Ocean Boulevard Wildlife Improvement Project, completed in 2011, was the first project to transpire from these collaborative efforts to improve the False Island landscape. The Sitkoh River Restoration was the second, and will be completed in 2012.
The Sitka Collaborative Stewardship Group, which was originally formed to develop community-based stewardship opportunities related to Tongass management, organized two public meetings in 2010 to share information and gather collaborative input on Peril. These meetings were attended by a wide range of community stakeholders, and resulted in stewardship suggestions that can be read here (May 2010) and here (December 2010).
Click here for a copy of the 2011 Peril Project Environmental Assessment (EA).
STATS: As proposed in the Peril Project EA, work will include 2,122 acres of thinning in both upland and riparian areas; opening approximately 1.75 miles of closed road to off-highway vehicles (OHVs); constructing a 0.41-mile foot trail to the East Sitkoh Lake cabin; and placing large woody debris in 2.2 miles of Sitkoh Lake inlet streams to restore fish habitat. Work on the ground will begin in summer 2012.
INNOVATIONS: Peril is one of the first projects in the Sitka Ranger District in which collaborative input from the Sitka Collaborative Stewardship Group and other community partners has been prioritized. The goal is to better integrate community priorities into Forest Service planning efforts in the SCUA, and SCS will continue to engage in similar opportunities with the Forest Service and community partners.
Peril is also the first landscape-scale project to be undertaken in the Sitka Ranger District, meaning that multiple resource opportunities are being addressed within a single large landscape. By focusing on a wide range of opportunities and looking at ways to achieve multiple goals at once, the Forest Service is saving time and taxpayer money while providing more benefits to the local community.
FUNDING AND SUPPORT: All funding to-date for the Peril Project comes from the U.S. Forest Service. The project has received input and support from the Sitka Collaborative Stewardship Group since 2010.
Make Management and Protection of Wild Alaska Salmon a Priority in the Tongass National Forest!
Background: 5 species of Pacific Salmon spawn in the Tongass National Forest. For thousands of years, those salmon have played a key role for the peoples and cultures that make their home on the Tongass. Today, the connections and traditions between communities and salmon is still one of the most important associations that we have with the natural environment of the Tongass.
Take Action: Management of the Tongass National Forest is currently at a critical crossroads. As we begin to move beyond the ill-fated, industrial logging phase of Tongass Management, the region and the Forest Service is striving to define a new paradigm for Tongass Land Management. The decision makers who govern the Tongass need to hear from you now that management for Wild Alaska Salmon is the most important use of the Tongass National Forest.
You Can Help Now: by writing letters to Alaska State Senators, the Undersecretary of the Department of Agriculture, and the Alaska Regional Forester telling why Salmon are important for SE Alaska and how our dependence on the lands and the waters of the Tongass revolves around Salmon.
Here are some of the important points that you can highlight:
- Salmon are the backbone of the economy of SE Alaska
- The economic value and the jobs created by commercial harvest of Salmon is much greater than the economic value of the Timber industry—even though more money and resources are spent on the timber program ($30million) than salmon management and restoration ($1.5 Million).
- Salmon are important for both the local seafood industry, the SE Alaskan visitor industry, and rural communities who depend on subsistence fishing
- Subsistence harvest of salmon on the Tongass is one of the most important protein sources for SE Alaskans— outline how subsistence caught salmon are important for you
- Forest Service management of subsistence fisheries (such as Redoubt Lake) have enormous benefits for Sitka and other SE Alaskan Communities– expanding this program is critical
- Salmon Habitat Restoration Projects—such as the work being done in the Starrigavan Valley and Sitkoh River in Sitka—are the most important efforts currently being conducted by the Forest Service on the Tongass. This work should be continued and expanded.
- The success of Tongass Management should no longer be tied to “million-board feet of timber produced” but rather should be measured on the successful rehabilitation, enhancement, and continuance of Wild Salmon Runs on the Tongass
- Continued and expanded research and investigation on Alaskan Salmon is a huge priority to assess how we will manage salmon in the face of climate change
What to do: write a letter, send it out to decision makers, pass it along to SCS so we can help make all our voices heard, and continue to get involved.
Send Letters to (email is fine):
Washington, DC 20510 Email to staff: Bob_Weinstein@begich.senate.gov
1400 Independence Ave., S.W.
Washington, DC 20250 Email: Harris.Sherman@usda.gov Tom Tidwell Chief of USDA Forest Service US Forest Service
1400 Independence Ave., SW
Please send a copy to us at the Sitka Conservation Society offices at email@example.com. We will keep track of the letters that are received by decision makers and work on getting them delivered in person by a fisherman to decision makers in Washington, DC.
This is a test post about the Starrigavan Restoration Project.