Sitkans have been following the threat of the privatization of the very popular Redoubt Lake Falls Sockeye Fishing site over the past years with growing alarm. There is a pending transfer of the site to the Sealaska Corporation through a vague 14(h)(1) ANSCA provision that allows selection of “cultural sites.” The obvious intent of that legislation was to protect sites with petroglyphs, pictographs, totem poles, etc. However, Sealaska has worked to expand selection criteria very liberally and select sites that were summer fish camps or other transient seasonal sites. Of course, the places that were fished in the past are still fished today. The result of this liberal interpretation is that sites are being privatized that are extremely important fishing and access areas that are used and depend by hundreds of Southeast Alaskans and visitors today.
Beyond the fact that the potential transfer of cultural and historic sites is not to tribal governments or clans, but to a for-profit Corporate Entity, one of the most alarming developments is the fact that Sealaska is selecting virtually all of the known subsistence Sockeye Salmon runs across the Sitka Community Use Area. Here is a link to a map that we made a few years ago that shows those sites: here . It is inconceivable to us that legislation that would give a corporation strategic parcels of public lands that control access to Sockeye Salmon streams is even a thought in Congress.
We have heard that there negotiations going on in Washington, DC right now that are choosing the sites that Sealaska would obtain through the Sealaska Legislation. It is extremely important that people who use sites that are in danger of being privatized let Forest Service and Congressional staff in Washington, DC know how important these sites are. Here is a link to a letter that SCS just sent that includes a listing of the sites: here . Feel free to use that letter as a guide.
If you want help writing a letter, please get in touch with us and we will help.
If you have a letter outlining how you use the sites, send them to Mike Odle’s email at Michael.Odle@osec.usda.gov
These inholdings could seriously change the face of the Tongass and the way the public can access and use public lands. Make your voice heard now to ensure that we can continue to use and enjoy these sites.
As citizens across the country watch the antics of the 112th Congress, we are all left wondering, “where is the leadership we need to take on the challenges we are facing in the world? When are we going to take care of our environment? When are we going to move away from fossil fuels to renewable energy? When are we going to invest in local economies rather than giving massive subsidies and tax-breaks to global corporations? When is Congress going to actually put aside partisan differences and do something meaningful?”
It surely isn’t happening right now. In fact, the House of Representatives just introduced a bill that shows the worst of Congress and it could have huge implications on SE Alaska and critical public lands across the country. They have cynically named the bill the “Conservation and Economic Growth Act.” It should probably be called, “The- Worst Bills For The Environment in Congress Wrapped Into One Act of 2012.” The bill is a lands omnibus bill and pulls together some of the worst bills currently in Congress. It includes such cynically titled acts such as the “Grazing Improvement Act of 2012” which allow grazing to continue on lands where cows shouldn’t even be roaming and puts grazing permits outside of environment review. It also includes the beautifully named “Preserve Access to Cape Hatteras National Seashore Act” which sounds good, but in reality is meant to open miles of critical beach habitat for piping plovers to ATVs, Dune Buggies, and other off road vehicles. Good luck plovers!
For Southeast Alaska, this bill is awful because our Representative Don Young has inserted the Sealaska Legislation which would privatize close to 100,000 acres of ecologically critical Tongass Lands. The version of the bill that Representative Young has introduced is much worse than the bad version of the bill being debated in the Senate. This version would create an even more widespread pox of in-holdings throughout the Sitka Community Use Area in areas that Sitkans routinely use and enjoy. If this bill passes, the nightmare we are facing with the corporate privatization of Redoubt Lake Falls is just the beginning.
If you dislike these developments as much as us, please take action. We don’t think that calls to Representative Young will help (you can try, his number is 202-225-5765). However, his goal seems to be to privatize and give away as much of the Tongass as possible. If you are in the lower 48, you should call your Congress members and tell them that HR2578 is awful and they should not support it. If you are in Alaska, please consider writing a letter to the editor letting everyone else in the community know how bad this bill is and that its introduction is a travesty (give us a call if you want some ideas or help).
As we watch our Congress and elected leaders flounder, we are reminded that in a democracy, we share responsibility and need to take action to create the society and the environment we want. Voicing concerns over the misdirection of Congress, especially on bills like this one, is one way we can engage and make change.
Here is a link to a letter that SCS submitted opposing the legislation: here
Here is a link to a Radio Story on the legislation: here
Here is a link to a copy of the legislation: here
It is getting to be that time of the year when Sitkans begin to digtheir dipnets out of the shed and get them ready for the return of Sockeye at Redoubt Lake. Luckily, it is still in public hands this year and we can still fish there. We hope that will be the case forever and it will be in public hands and have public access. Here’s some background on this issue. Read more →
In the Tongass, people live with the land. We are constantly learning from it–learning how to build communities that are part of the landscape rather than a place away from it. In this blog we want to share with you some of those lessons we’ve learned and the experience of learning them first hand.
If you are not automatically redirected to the blog page, click here.
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
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.
Background: The Alaska Congressional Delegation has introduced bills in the House and Senate that would take tens of thousands of acres of prime Tongass lands and privatize them by passing them over to the Sealaska Corporation. The Sitka Conservation Society opposes this legislation and sees it as a threat to the Tongass and to the ways that we use and depend on the lands and waters around us.
Beyond the over 80,000 acres of prime forest land that they are trying to take that will surely be clear-cut, they are trying to take land in ways that could be even more destructive. One of the worst aspects of the legislation is that it would give Sealaska the opportunity to select over 3600 acres of land in small parcels throughout the Tongass as in-holdings within the National Forest. We are already seeing what this means as Sealaska is working to privatize the important fishing site at Redoubt Lake. Here they can strategically select only 10 acres and virtually “control” the entire watershed. It is frightening what they could do if they had thousands more acres to select. We already know that they are planning on cherry-picking the best sites. Around Sitka, we already know that they want to select sites in all the sockeye producing watersheds and sites in important use areas like Jamboree Bay and Port Banks.
Most chilling is that Sealaska is mixing the issue of race and culture into their own corporate goals. They are cynically calling the 3600 acres “cultural sites.” While it is true that there are important sites that were used throughout history by Native Alaskans, they should not be privatized by a corporation with the mandate to make profit. They sites should stay in public hands, be protected by the Antiquities act, and be collaboratively managed by the clans who have the closest ties to them.
Further, sites that were important in the past because of their fish runs and hunting access are still important for the same reasons today. They should not be privatized. They should be honored by their continual traditional uses and their public ownership.
Take Action: You can take action by writing letters to Congress and to the Forest Service Chief telling them to oppose the Sealaska Legislation.
Please write to Chief Tidwell:Tom Tidwell Chief of USDA Forest Service US Forest Service
1400 Independence Ave., SW
Please also write you congressmen. If you live in Alaska, write to:
Washington, DC 20510 Email to staff: Bob_Weinstein@begich.senate.gov Representative Don Young
2314 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Background: Earlier this month, the head of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s Wildlife Conservation Division, Corey Rossi, resigned after being charged with 12 violations related to illegal bear hunting. Rossi was controversial and divisive in his position in the agency, marring ADF&G’s respectability as a science-based organization.
Take Action: Rossi’s resignation opens up a new opportunity for Governor Parnell to learn from past mistakes and appoint a new candidate for the position who is honest, experienced, respected, and above all, qualified.
Please consider emailing the Governor to encourage him to select a qualified candidate. Click here to go to the Governor’s contact page.
Sitka Conservation Society’s letter is posted below. Feel free to use the points addressed to develop your own message to Gov. Parnell.
Dear Governor Parnell,
We were disappointed to hear about the charges brought against former head of the Division of Wildlife Conservation, Corey Rossi. Rossi, who resigned after he was charged with wildlife violations, was obviously not fit to hold authority over laws he himself could not abide by. This case points out how the Alaska Department of Fish and Game has lost credibility as a science based wildlife organization, and was instead headed by a big game guiding business owner who used his position to perpetuate the profits of himself and his colleagues, apparently sometimes illegally.
The Sitka Conservation Society would like to ask you to appoint a new leader for Rossi’s position that will not make the same mistakes.
Specifically, we encourage you to appoint someone who:
- Is honest, respected and, above all, qualified
- At minimum, holds a Master’s degree in wildlife biology or a closely related field
- Has at least 10-15 years of experience in wildlife management
- Has a proven track record of basing decisions from science and not personal agenda.
Our members of the Sitka Conservation Society hunt, fish, and trap for subsistence and to maintain their livelihood. We hope that you will recognize the importance of appointing a leader who will take Alaska’s people and wildlife into account over his or her own agenda
We look forward to the qualified candidate you appoint to make needed changes to the Alaska Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Make Management and Protection of Wild Alaska Salmon a Priority in the Tongass National Forest!
Check out the example letters at the bottom of the post for inspiration.
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 ($23 million) 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: firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
Feel free to use the ideas in these example letters to write you own.
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: