Sitka Conservation Society
Jan 25 2012

Ocean Boulevard Wildlife Improvement

Ocean Boulevard second growth thinned to 25×25' spacing, 2011.

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.

Local contractor Todd Miller creating a "gap" at Ocean Boulevard, 2011. Gaps open the forest and mimic old growth characteristics by creating more structural diversity. This stimulates the growth of plants like blueberry and huckleberry, which provide food for deer and other animals in the winter.

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

Thinned young growth from Ocean Boulevard, 2011

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.

Jan 25 2012

The Peril Strait Landscape Opportunities Project

False Island landscape, 2010

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).

Forest Service staff groundtruthing restoration opportunities at False Island, 2010

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.

Jan 13 2012

Action Alert: Make Wild Alaska Salmon a Priority!

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):

Senator Lisa Murkowski
709 Hart Senate Building
Washington, DC 20510
Email to staff:  mckie_campbell@energy.senate.gov
 
Senator Mark Begich
144 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Email to staff:  Bob_Weinstein@begich.senate.gov
Undersecretary Harris Sherman
Department of Natural Resources and the Environment
U.S. Department of Agriculture
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
Washington, D.C.
20250-0003
ttidwell@fs.fed.us
Beth Pendleton
Regional Forester
Alaska Region 10
bpendleton@fs.fed.us

Please send a copy to us at the Sitka Conservation Society offices at andrew@sitkawild.org.    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.

Jan 13 2012

Fishermen at the Capital

The Sitka Conservation Society is working hard during this Forest Service budget preparing season to advocate for a shift of Tongass funding from a disproportionate logging program to a focus that manages our largest National Forest for Salmon.  It is high time that we made this shift because salmon are the lifeblood of our region for our ecosystems, our economy, and our way-of-life.  Now is a critical time to write letters supporting the Tongass’s Fisheries and Watershed program and ensuring that the Forest Service is putting Tongass funding in the programs that benefit our wild, Alaska Salmon and the communities within the Tongass.

You can help by writing a letter, click here to Take Action.

In December, SCS was able to help Matt Lawrie, a local Sitka Troller, travel to Washington, DC to take copies of letters that Fishermen and community members wrote asking for a shift from Forest Service spending on Old Growth Clear-cutting in the Timber program to the Fisheries and Watershed program to restore and protect Tongass Salmon Habitat.  Matt personally delivered the letters to Harris Sherman, the Undersecretary of Natural Resources, Senior Staff at the USDA Rural Development offices, staff from the President’s Management and Budget Office, and spoke personally with the Chief of the Forest Service and delivered the message on the importance of Tongass Salmon.

The meetings were frustrating because everyone acted like they agreed that funding needs to shift from Timber to Salmon, but everyone seemed to point the finger that someone else had to step up and demand the change was made.  It seemed that some of the decision makers that were visited (The Forest Service Chief and the Undersecretary) were genuinely happy that commercial fishermen were visiting DC and speaking up on the budget because they are slowly recognizing the importance of the Tongass National Forest’s role in producing salmon and sustaining a sustainable fishery and sustainable livelihoods and that they agree that this shift needs to be made.

Officials were also glad that commercial fishermen and concerned community members were finally visiting because the timber lobby visits at least twice a year to keep the programs funded that log the Tongass!

We always knew that timber had a big lobby and it is likely why more money is going to cut down the Forests that salmon depend on than restoring the damage that pulp mill clear-cutting has done to the Tongass that needs fixing.

The fact that Matt and the other fishermen visited the same offices as timber shows us that we are doing the right thing.  It was really good that young fishermen stand up and speak too because he represents a new generation on the Tongass that is looking ahead to the future and thinking about sustainable management of Tongass resources— the opposite of what we’ve had with clear-cut logging.

We are going to try to send more fishermen back to Washington in February to advocate for a Forest Service budget that focuses on Salmon and Watershed restoration.  We want to take back at least 200 letters from fishermen in February.  That would be 40 more letters than there are timber jobs in Southeast Alaska (160 timber jobs, over 4000 jobs related to Salmon).

You can help us by writing letters to the regional forester, the undersecretary of Natural Resources, our Alaskan Senators.  Tele Aadsen did a really good blog post that outlines the issue calls fishermen to action.  It is a great post to point people to for motivation:

http://nerkasalmon.wordpress.com/2011/12/14/easy-salmon-advocacy-protecting-the-tongass-part-2/

Jan 02 2012

Students selected for Science Mentor Program

Four Sitka High students were recently selected to participate in the Science Mentor Program. This program pairs students with professional mentors to conduct ecological field studies. From left to right: Program Coordinators Scott Harris, Ashley Bolwerk, and Kent Bovee, Tahnee Curran will be work with Wildlife Biologist Chris Leeseberg at the US Forest Service, Spencer Combs will be working with Fisheries Biologist Troy Tydingco at the AK Dept. of Fish and Game, Justine Webb will be working with Botanist Kitty LaBounty at the University of Alaska Southeast, and Sarah Rasmussen-Rehkops will also be working with Chris Leesburg. The program is funded by the Sitka Conservation Society and the Secure Rural Schools Act.

Jan 02 2012

End of Year Tally – Salmon Outreach Project

In 2011, with funding from the Alaska Sustainable Salmon Fund, we developed the Salmon For All Ages Project. Now that the year has ended, we can tally our success at spreading the word about the value of our Alaska Wild Salmon and Salmon Habitat to people throughout Southeast Alaska. We developed a curriculum resource guide for teachers, conducted teacher training workshops, aired public service announcements, and developed a university-level course in watershed ecology. Some of our 2011 key statistics:

756             potential number of K-12 Southeast Alaska students exposed to the curriculum

1,342          number of PSA’s aired

14                number or radio stations involved

5                  number of teacher workshops conducted in different communities

5                  number of school districts involved

25                number of teachers involved

Click on this link to hear an example of one of our radio PSAs.

 

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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
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