Sitka Conservation Society
May 02 2013

Science Mentor Program accepting applications for next school year

The Science Mentor Program is accepting applications for the 2013/2014 school year. This is the third year of this highly popular and successful program. Last year, students studied wintering songbirds in Sitka and conducted genetic research on the decline of Alaska yellow cedar. Students from any of Sitka’s 3 high schools are encouraged to apply. We will also have an informational meeting at Sitka High School, May 7, 1145am to 1220pm. Follow the links below for a program description and application. Contact Scott Harris at for more information.



Program Description link

Application link


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

Feb 25 2013

A better, safer bridge for young scientists!

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.


Jan 28 2013

Guide to Tongass Young Growth Timber

This school year, SCS partnered with the Sitka High School Construction Tech program to explore and demonstrate ways that young-growth red alder and Sitka spruce from the Tongass can be used in building and woodworking. The projects that resulted are profiled, along with others from throughout the region, in “Alaskan Grown: A Guide to Tongass Young Growth Timber and its Uses,” published by SCS this month.

DOWNLOAD a version for printing.

Whether you are a builder, woodworker, consumer, or simply interested in the growing conversation around Tongass young-growth timber, the guide profiles projects throughout the region and shares practical insights about the quality and performance of local young-growth in a variety of applications. It also discusses basic challenges and opportunities surrounding the eventual U.S. Forest Service transition to young-growth timber harvest on the Tongass, which was announced in 2010.

Funding for this guide was provided by the U.S. Forest Service and 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, we hope to help builders, woodworkers, resource managers and others make more informed decisions about using Tongass young-growth.

Check out the guide to learn more about:

  • Why Tongass young-growth is important right now
  • What the most common species are, and how they can be used
  • Where Tongass young growth is being used, including in the Sitka High School construction tech program, U.S. Forest Service public recreation cabins, and private homes
  • When experts predict economic harvest of young-growth will be possible on the Tongass
  • What it will take to start shaping a sustainable local young-growth industry with the opportunities we have today

We know there is significant interest in the use of young growth, and we believe Southeast Alaska communities can sustain small young-growth timber operations that support local expertise and sustainable economic development. Harvesters, processors, builders, and consumers throughout the region are interested in realizing this vision. We hope that this guide will be one small step toward expanding and informing this conversation.

Jan 08 2013

The Next Restoration Opportunity – Kruzof Island

On January 16, 2013 at 6:30pm at Centennial Hall, Sitkans can share their ideas and priorities with the Forest Service regarding the future management of Kruzof Island. Over the next few years, multiple habitat restoration, timber management, and recreational developments and maintenance can occur on Kruzof Island. The community survey we conducted also identified the Central Kruzof – Iris Meadows area as the #3 priority for future restoration work. As part of this process, we sent a small crew to Kruzof Island to ground-truth these opportunities. You can read their report here….





Click on this link to to download a hi-res (approx. 50Mb) version of this document

Dec 20 2012

Second-growth in High School Wood Shop

Since the Forest Service first announced its Tongass Transition Framework in early 2010, the Sitka Conservation Society has both partnered with the agency and sought models to demonstrate ways Tongass second growth timber can be used locally and sustainably.  We know there is a significant interest in the use of local wood, and we believe Southeast Alaska communities can sustain small second-growth timber operations and mills. Local builders are interested in realizing this vision. However the Forest Service still needs a little convincing to move away from a dependence on unsustainable old growth logging.  With the help of a National Forest Foundation grant, we recently donated 1,800 board feet of local young growth Pacific red alder to the Sitka High School industrial arts department for students to use in building night stands.  Our hope is if students can successfully use this local wood in their first-ever carpentry projects – and perhaps discover a few of its quirks – local builders and the Forest Service will take note, and give more consideration to local second growth.  To learn more about the Sitka High industrial arts classes’ use of local alder, listen to this article by KCAW radio.

Sitka High School Alder Project Briefing Sheet_Press Quality

Dec 05 2012

Take Action: Tell the Forest Service to follow through

Background: The US Forest Service has adopted the Tongass Transition Framework, a program intended to shift forest management away from the out-dated and ill-fated old growth logging paradigm toward management that support multiple uses of the forest, including recreation, restoration, subsistence, and second-growth management.  This is an encouraging recognition of the region’s important natural resources, but the figures don’t match the Forest Service’s transition plan.  Check out the figures here.

For example, the Forest Service still spends over $22 million a year on logging and road building, but only $6 million on recreation and tourism and $8 million on restoration and watershed.  Our fishing industry relies on healthy watersheds and restoring damaged salmon stream.  Our tourism industry relies on recreational facilities and wildplaces for visitors to get the Alaska experience.  It just so happens that these are also the two biggest industries in Southeast, together supporting over 15,000 jobs and providing just under $2 BILLION to the local economy.  Logging on the other hand only supports 200 jobs.

Take Action: Please ask the Forest Service to follow through with their Transition Framework and put their money where their mouth is.  Write to the Undersecretary of Natural Resources, Harris Sherman.


Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell
U.S. Dept. of Agriculture
1400 Independence Ave. S.W.
Washington, D.C.

Please also send a copy to SCS at so we can hand-deliver all of your letters to the Undersecretary himself in Washington, DC.

Some key point to include in your letter:

  • Tourism and fishing are the two largest economic drivers in Southeast Alaska.
  • Logging and road building cost tax payers $22.1M annually, while the Forest Service only spends $6.1 M annually on tourism and $8.1M annually on fisheries and watershed management.  BUT, the timber industry only supports 200 jobs— tourism supports 10,200 and fishing supports 7,200.
  • The Forest Service has adopted the Tongass Transition Framework, a program to transition from timber harvesting in roadless areas and old-growth forests to long-term stewardship contracts and young growth management.  This is an encouraging recognition of the need to protect the region’s natural resources and fundamental economic drivers: tourism and fishing, BUT the Forest Service needs to reflect this transition in their budget.
  • Be sure to include your personal connection to the Tongass, it’s forests and natural resources.
  • Also, be sure to include how you rely on the Tongass—for subsistence, recreation, business, etc.

Example: Here’s an example letter I wrote.  Feel free to use this as a template:

Your Address Here
Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell
U.S. Dept. of Agriculture
1400 Independence Ave. S.W.
Washington, D.C.
Dear Chief Tidwell:
I am writing out of concern for my home.  I live in Sitka, Alaska, a small fishing community in Southeast Alaska surrounded by the Tongass National Forest.  Our entire economy revolves around our natural resources.  I have been a guide for many years with a sea kayak tourism company.  When my clients, or really anyone, come up to see Alaska they want to see three things: bears, forests, and salmon.  Luckily for me as a guide, if you find one of them, you’ll find the others.  For instance, if you find a salmon stream, you’d better be on the look-out for a bear; if you want to find a good salmon stream, go to the healthiest, oldest forest; and if you want to find a stand of big healthy trees, follow the salmon and bears.
Just as the bears, salmon, and tress are connected, so too are our industries: tourism, fishing, and timber.  In Sitka, we’ve already seen that poor logging practices kill our fishing industry by destroying the spawning-streams, the birthplaces of our salmon populations.  Without standing forests and salmon fishing, tourism wanes in response. 
Recently, though, we have also seen that if all of these industries are balanced, our communities benefit as a whole.  Small-scale logging, responsible fishing, and eco-friendly tourism have been growing at increasing rates and are the model for a new future for the Tongass.  In Southeast, we are trying to build a sustainable future, and we are succeeding.
My concern for my home stems from your agency’s spending priorities.  Like any healthy and productive systems, our economy and your budget need to be proportionate and well-balanced.  So, why does your agency spend just $6.1 million on recreation and tourism and $8.1 million on fisheries, but about $25 million annually on timber and road-building?  That is certainly not a balance, and considering that fishing is our largest industry and tourism is the second in line, it is nowhere near proportionate.
As the Forest Service, you say that your job is “caring for the land and serving people.”  To care for the land and serve people in Southeast (and anyone who values these wild places) please redistribute your budget priorities to reflect the real situation on the Tongass.  Imagine if we invested $25 million in salmon habitat restoration and recreation instead of timber.  In four years, we will have completed all of the restoration projects needed on the Tongass.  Compare that to the 50 years it will take at current rates.  Speaking for all of us in Southeast Alaska, we cannot wait 50 years.
Thank you for your consideration.
Adam Andis

Nov 24 2012

Have You Seen This Bird?






Attention all bird enthusiasts and nature-lovers! 97 birds with various sorts of colored leg bands have been spotted in Sitka. We need your help in recording sightings of these birds!

The weekend before Thanksgiving, certified bird bander Gwen Baluss, Sitka High student Naquoia Bautista, and many volunteers banded Juncos, Chickadees, and Sparrows. Naquoia is participating in the Science Mentor Program. She will be conducting a study of the habits of wintering songbirds in Sitka. Her project relies on local bird enthusiasts and folks with bird-feeders to look out for her color-banded birds. If you would like to help, download and print the observation form here. You can also record observations on the internet at this link. If you have questions, contact Scott Harris at or call 738-4091.

Nov 13 2012

Starrigavan Stream Team 2012

It’s November and the salmon eggs are all nestled in their gravel beds, but we can still dream of next year’s Blatchley Stream Team by watching this very cool video! Each May, over 100 Blatchley 7th Graders participate in Stream Team, where they help restore fish habitat and monitor stream health. This annual event is eagerly anticipated by the students as well as the organizers, which includes the US Forest Service, Sitka School District, Sitka Conservation Society, National Park Service, Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game, Corps of Engineers, and US Fish and Wildlife Service.

Nov 13 2012

2012 Science Mentor Program students selected

Three Sitka High School students were recently chosen to participate in the Science Mentor Program for the 2012-2013 school year. Program Coordinator Scott Harris and UAS Professor Kitty LaBounty stand with students Kaya Duguay, Naquoia Bautista, and Melea Roman. Kaya and Melea will be working on a cedar genetics study and Naquoia will be working on a winter songbird study.

Follow Us
Get Updates
Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for our Newsletter and updates

Take Action Now
Take Action

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!
  • Kayaking Kootznoowoo: Report on SCS’s Final Wilderness Trip
  • Encouraging Local Natural Resource Stewardship on the Tongass: Kennel Creek
  • Teaching the Alaska way of Life: 4-H in Sitka
Get Involved
Get Involved