Sitka Conservation Society
May 13 2014

Sail West Chichagof and support SCS

Chichagof Island – the name alone can quicken the pulse of anybody from Sitka.

Home to the 265,000 acre West Chichagof-Yakobi Wilderness, it has a coastline only 8 miles shorter than all of the Hawaiian Islands together!

Shee Kaax (Chichagof Island) is the fifth largest island in the United States and the 109th largest island in the world, (In case you were wondering, the island of Bali is number 108) with a coastline that measures 742 miles long. It is 2080 square miles. It’s big AND wild – and you need to see it.

SCS is delighted to once again team up with SCS members Blain and Monique Anderson of Sound Sailing to offer members a once-in-a-lifetime trip to experience (and help protect) this island from the comfort and excitement of a big and beautiful sailboat.

SCS members now have the opportunity for an unbelievable adventure AND can support the Sitka Conservation Society at the same time.  When you book a trip to West Chichagof on the S/V Bob, Sound Sailing will donate a portion of the fare to SCS to help fight for Wilderness protection for this critical wildlife habitat.


 Highlights from the last two summers included watching and photographing Alaskan brown bears as they fished for salmon in the streams and on the beaches, experiencing whales breaching and hearing them trumpet their thundering songs.

Ben Hamilton shoots footage for The Meaning of Wild aboard the S/V Bob.

We had Dall’s porpoise fire across our bows and play with us on crystal waters. We hoisted white sails through Inian Pass and rode the powerful currents to George Island where we hiked the abandoned WW2 fortifications and peered at the open Pacific from towering cliffs.  We photographed elfin orchids and visited unique quaint Elfin Cove – a boardwalk fishing village with a great story. We hiked the primordial forests and kayaked through pristine waters.

Capt. Blain told us, “SCS members are more than welcome aboard any trip we run this summer, including Juneau to Glacier Bay, Haines to Juneau, Sitka to Petersburg, and many other trips. Active members are eligible for a 10% discount on any trip we sail”. When asked “Why SCS members? “, Blain stated, “We enjoy hanging out and exploring with them. They love to explore, hike, and kayak, and can be easily entertained in a muskeg.”

“Seriously, we want to give back to SCS for their strong advocacy of wild places in Southeast Alaska, and as a company dependant on unspoiled and intact landscapes and ecosystems, we strongly support the mission of SCS,” said Blain.

All of their trips feature our Alaskan Wilderness Areas on Chichagof, Admiralty, and Baranof islands as well as mainland and lesser known island Wilderness Areas. These incredible trips culminate in the end-of-the-season outer coast trip. This “round Chichagof” trip lets SCS members have the opportunity for an unbelievable adventure AND supports the Sitka Conservation Society at the same time. Blain and Monique have offered to make a sizeable donation of the proceeds from this trip!

Their sailboat – S/V BOB – is a 50-foot sloop with 4 large queen-sized berths that  sleeps 6, plus the two Andersons, very comfortably. They carry all the trappings to make any trip amazing, including shrimp and crab pots, fishing poles for salmon and halibut, kayaks to explore the quiet bays and anchorages, and a well-appointed galley with meals and beverages customized to your requests.

Both Blain and Monique are great cooks, and they specialize in artfully prepared freshly caught seafood dishes and homemade desserts. Special diets are no problem for them, and they can happily adjust ingredients to accommodate nearly any food preferences.

For more information on Sound Sailing, the boats, or the other trip offerings this season, please check out www.soundsailing.com, or call Capt. Blain at (907) 887-9446. But call soon, trips are quickly filling up.

Mar 04 2014

DC Environmental Film Festival

We are very excited to announce that The Meaning of Wild has been accepted to the DC Environmental Film Festival!

Please join us for the event March 20th at 6:30pm at the Yates Auditorium (address below).

Washington, D.C. Premiere The Meaning of Wild is a documentary film that takes viewers on a journey through one of our nation’s most wild and pristine landscapes – The Tongass National Forest of Southeast Alaska. The film follows wildlife cameraman Ben Hamilton as he travels by boat, plane, kayak and foot to capture and share the true value of Wilderness. Along the journey Ben encounters bears, calving glaciers, ancient forest, and harsh seas but it’s the characters he meets along the way that bring true insight to his mission. Filmed in stunning HD,The Meaning of Wild, highlights never before captured landscapes while provoking reflection about their importance to us all. Ultimately The Meaning of Wild celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act and seeks to share these national treasures and inspire the next generation of wilderness advocates.

Introduced by Peggy O’Dell, Deputy Director for Operations, National Park Service. Discussion with filmmakers Ben Hamilton and J.J. Kelley follows screening.

Shown with YOSEMITE: A GATHERING OF SPIRIT (Ken Burns)

Background: Sitka Conservation Society has been partnering with the USDA Forest Service for over 5 years to monitor and steward Wilderness areas in the Tongass.  Part of SCS’s mission is to educate and inspire community members to take care of their local public lands through projects like the Meaning of Wild.

This film was made possible through support from the Forest Service, Sitka Conservation Society, and the contributions of over 100 community members all of whom we would like to thank for making this film a reality.

Ticket/Reservation Info:

FREE. No reservations required.

U.S. Department of the Interior
Yates Auditorium
1849 C St., NW
(Metro: Farragut West)

Feb 15 2014

Protect West Chichagof

Designating land as Wilderness is the ultimate step to ensuring its protection in the long-term.  Wilderness designation protects critical habitat from mining, logging, and development while still allowing people to use the land for hunting, fishing, subsistence gathering, recreating, and even making a living from guiding and operating tours.

Wilderness was integral to SCS’s formation and we’ve maintained that commitment to Wilderness ever since.  You can see the whole story of SCS’s formation in the short documentary Echoes of the Tongass.  But the short story is that in the 1960s large, industrial pulp mills were clear-cutting huge swaths of the Tongass with no end in sight.  A small group formed in Sitka to fight the rampant logging surrounding their home.  They saw the recent passage of the Wilderness Act in 1964 as a way for them to protect at least some of the Tongass.  They drafted a proposal to designate the western third of Chichagof Island as Wilderness because of its diverse habitats, intact old-growth forests, and pristine wildlife habitats.  It took 13 years of effort, but in 1980, the West Chichagof Wilderness became the first citizen initiated wilderness in Alaska.

Original proposal for West Chichagof Wilderness

Through the politics of the designation process, the extractive interest groups for the timber and mining lobby managed to carve large sections of some of the best habitat out of the designated land.  Some of those excluded parcels like Ushk Bay and Poison Cove are currently being managed for logging.  As the Forest Service puts it, these areas are managed for “Intense Development” which means they “Manage the area for industrial wood production…and maximum long-term timber production.”

These areas were excluded because they are the best, most iconic old-growth rainforests in the world and provide habitat for important species like the coastal brown bear, Sitka deer, and pacific salmon.  Unfortunately, that also means that they are the areas where clear-cut logging is cheapest and easiest.

Area excluded from Wilderness proposal

Ushk Bay, currently managed for “industrial wood production”

Poison Cove, currently managed for “industrial wood production”

But, since the 60s, the pulp mills have closed their doors.  Nowadays, the timber industry only employs about 200 jobs.  Our economy in Southeast Alaska has shifted to tourism and fishing which employ 10,200 and 8,000 jobs and contribute almost $2 Billion to the economy annually.  Wilderness designation directly benefits tourism and fishing because it preserves both the habitat, which salmon need for spawning, and  viewsheds the tourists flock to Alaska to see.

This year the Wilderness Act is 50 years old and we think it is a perfect time to finish the job our founders began almost a half century ago to designate ALL of West Chichagof as Wilderness.  Please join us by sending a note of your support to our senators using the form below.


Ask Senators Begich and Murkowski to Fulfill Wilderness Designation in West Chichagof













Dear Senator,

[signature]


Share this with your friends:

 
 

Feb 12 2014

The Meaning of Wild, March 9th in Sitka

SCS will present the Sitka premiere of The Meaning of Wild Sunday, March 9, 2014 from 6-8pm at the Sitka Performing Arts Center.  Tickets $7 available at Old Harbor Books (2/14/2014). Free for kids 10 and under.

The film will be accompanied by a selection of wilderness-themed short films,  a photography exhibit and silent auction, and door prizes.

 

The Films:

Meaning of Wild (25:00)

Film by Ben Hamilton, Pioneer Videography

The Meaning of Wild takes viewers on a journey through one of our nation’s most wild and pristine landscapes – The Tongass National Forest of Southeast Alaska.  The film follows wildlife cameraman Ben Hamilton as he travels by boat, plane, kayak and foot to capture and share the true value of Wilderness.   Along the journey Ben encounters bears, calving glaciers, ancient forest, and harsh seas but it’s the characters he meets along the way that bring true insight to his mission. The film highlights never before captured landscapes while provoking reflection about their importance to us all. Ultimately The Meaning of Wild celebrates the fiftieth anniversary of the Wilderness Act and seeks to share these national treasures and inspire the next generation of wilderness advocates.  Visit the Meaning of Wild website.

Background: Sitka Conservation Society has been partnering with the USDA Forest Service for over 5 years to monitor and steward Wilderness areas in the Tongass.  Part of SCS’s mission is to educate and inspire community members to take care of their local public lands through projects like the Meaning of Wild.

This film was made possible through support from the Forest Service, Sitka Conservation Society, and the contributions of over 100 community members all of whom we would like to thank for making this film a reality.

Big Bear Country (26:11)

Film by Ben Hamilton, Pioneer Videography

Follow wildlife biologist Jon Martin, big game guide Kevin Johnson, conservationist Andrew Thoms and filmmaker Ben Hamilton as they travel by foot and packraft through the rich habitats of West Chichagof Wilderness.  The team seeks out the coastal brown bear, a keystone species, to unravel the importance of protecting large tracks of intact habitat for wildlife population.  Their journey takes them through the Lisianski-Hoonah Sound corridor, an area proposed but ultimately removed from the original citizen-intiated Wilderness proposal and a prime wildlife area, and over the Goulding Lakes, within the Wilderness boundary.  Prepare yourself—you’re about to enter into Big Bear Country.

Running Wild (4:00)

Film by Alexander Crook

Getting out into wilderness, feeling the moss underfoot, legs pumping uphill, breathing clean air, and taking a minute to reflect at the top of a climb—these are the things that inspire backcountry trailrunner Nick Ponzetti to travel to designated Wilderness areas.  Follow Nick on a run through the heart of Wilderness to find out how his love of running has inspired a passion for protecting wild places.

Tongass Wilderness, Our Wilderness (1:06)

Film by Adam Andis

This short film, shot in South Baranof Wilderness area shows how designated Wilderness is integral to us all.

 

 

Exhibit:

The Wilderness of Southeast Alaska

Photos by Adam Andis

Photographer Adam Andis has been exploring the remote Wilderness areas of Southeast Alaska for the past 8 years as a private kayak guide and manager of the Sitka Community Wilderness Stewardship Project.  This collection of photos includes 24 images depicting the raw beauty of 14 Wilderness Areas in the Tongass.  Prints will be available to purchase through silent auction at the event with a portion of the proceeds being donated to SCS.

 

Door Prizes:

Attendees can enter their ticket stubs into a drawing for a number of great door prizes donated by local businesses including:

2 REI Flash Packs from REI Anchorage

Coupon for Whale Watching tour from Aquatic Alaska Adventures

Gifts from Sound Sailing

2 copies of The Meaning of Wild DVD

 

Dec 11 2013

Stop “Clear-Cutting” Wilderness and Recreation budgets

Tell Senators Begich and Murkowski: Don't let the Forest Service Clear-Cut the Wilderness and Recreation Budget













Dear Senator,

[signature]


Share this with your friends:

 
 

On the day before Halloween, the US Forest Service announced they were going to reduce the already insufficient $1.1 million dollar Wilderness and Recreation budget for the entire Tongass National Forest by over half a million dollars.

This is “budgetary clear-cutting” with the Forest Service already proposing the closure of 12 cabins alongside a reduction in the staff positions responsible for maintaining trails, keeping cabins stocked and safe, and processing the permits for guides and tour operators.

Cabin closures and loss of Wilderness and Recreation staff overall signifies a lack of prioritization of the tourism and recreation industries here in the Tongass National Forest. The tourism industry alone racks in $1 Billion annually with thousands of visitors coming every year to experience the wilderness of Southeast Alaska.

The Forest Service is not fulfilling its promise of the Tongass Transition. The Transition is a framework the agency adopted in 2010 aimed at creating jobs in sectors like recreation and tourism while moving away from Southeast’s outdated timber management program.  For instance, next year the Forest Service has estimates that just one timber sale will COST taxpayers $15.6 Million (that’s over 25 times the entire Wilderness and Rec budget).  The Transition (were it to be enacted) would dictate that sustainable and profitable programs like Recreation and Wilderness would take precedence over such wasteful timber projects.

The Forest Service enacted the Transition three years ago.  Now we want them to take action to save our recreation and tourism opportunities from these budgetary reductions. We need to support what sustains our livelihoods here in the Tongass rather than reduce them year after year.

Contact Senator Begich and Senator Murkowski. Ask them to encourage the Forest Service to take action on the Tongass Transition by reallocating their budgets to make Wilderness and Recreation a priority and to push for more federal funding for the Forest Service.  Email, while important, are not as effective as written letters.  If you would like help drafting a letter, contact SCS at info@sitkawild.org or call (907) 747-7509.

Nov 19 2013

Running Wild

Running Wild from Sitka Conservation Society on Vimeo.

Fellow runners, hikers, and outdoor enthusiasts,
 
Pretty incredible wilderness to explore, eh? I wish I could share it with everyone. However, the management of these incredible places is changing–and there is something you can do about it.
 
Right now, the Chief of the Forest Service Tom Tidwell needs to hear from you about your interests in the Tongass National Forest, the largest remaining temperate rainforest in the world.
 
 The Forest Service is shifting to a new mentality where timber is not on the top of their list when it comes to assessing the Tongass.
 
This shift is called the Tongass Transition, and this transition will focus on keeping the Tongass wild and make sure that the people, wildlife, and salmon can continue to run for generations to come.
 
This is where you come in.
 
Open up a blank email, address it to ttidwell@fs.fed.us and make the subject “I support the Tongass Transition.” Tell Chief Tidwell that you want your Tongass National Forest to remain wild and intact, and you believe in the Tongass Transition.
 
Click here for some sample letters and stats you can incorporate in your email. The most important thing to include in your support for the Tongass Transition is what protecting the world’s largest remaining temperate rainforest means to you.
 
In 5 minutes you’ll be done, and in decades to come the Tongass will still continue to be a wild, epic alternative to those paved streets we’re used to.
 
Keep the Tongass and salmon running,
 
Nick Ponzetti

 

Aug 22 2013

VIDEO: Sitka, Gateway to the Tongass

Film maker Ben Hamilton has captured the essence of the Sitka Community Use Area in this video. In just two minutes find out what makes the Tongass so remarkable:

The Tongass National Forest is the largest forest in the National Forest System. Weighing in at 17 million acres, it encompasses almost the entire Southeast Alaska Panhandle. The Southeast is sprinkled with small towns that have built economies around the resources that the Tongass provides. As a community, Sitka is no different, and is intrinsically connected to the Tongass National Forest.  We rely on its resources and all management decisions have repercussions that resonate within the community socially, economically and ecologically.  Once a typical timber pulp town, the community now concentrates on the other assets and experiences the Tongass has to offer. At SCS we focus on an area of the Tongass known as the SCUA, Sitka Community Use Area.  Ecosystems are never constrained by manmade boundaries, but the SCUA encompasses what Sitkans consider to be their backyard. The SCUA is important to Sitka for jobs, recreation, subsistence, renewable energy, economic development, clean air, clean water, cultural and traditional uses, and our overall quality of life.

SCS is optimistic with USDA Secretary Vilsack’s recent announcement, reiterating a commitment to the Transition Framework, that there will also be renewed focus on all of the assets the Tongass has to offer.  For us, this commitment means prioritizing the health of the forest and supporting local businesses that rely on the Tongass to keep our community afloat. A diverse Forest Service budget that focuses on watershed health, fisheries, recreation and the visitor industry is paramount to preserve the core aspects of a new economy for Sitka and other communities in the Southeast.  SCS continues to support and highlight projects that clearly demonstrate attention to the Transition in ways that are lacking in other programs and projects on the Tongass.

Jul 24 2013

Announcing: Benefit Sailing Trip to West Chichagof

Explore West Chichagof Wilderness

with Sitka Conservation Society and Sound Sailing

Join us to explore the spectacular and wild coast of West Chichagof-Yakobi Island Wilderness aboard a comfortable 50’ sailing yacht!  And help raise funds for Sitka Conservation Society!

We will be travelling from Juneau to Sitka aboard the modern, fast, and roomy S/V BOB with Blain & Monique Anderson of Sound Sailing. Proud SCS members and US Coast Guard licensed and insured sailors; they are offering berths to SCS members for an incredible opportunity to experience the very best of Southeast Alaska. Past participants have encountered orcas, humpback and grey whales, innumerable birds, brown bears, and much more. We will also have knowledgeable and engaging SCS staff member(s) aboard to enrich our understanding of this special place.

Dates: August 24-30, 2013

Cost: $2575 per person (price includes all fare aboard and expenses).

Sound Sailing is proud to donate a substantial portion of trip proceeds to SCS.

To book your berth, or for more information contact Adam at SCS at adam@sitkawild.org, or Sound Sailing at (907) 887-9446. Or go to: www.soundsailing.com.

Book your spot now! Space is limited to just 6 lucky passengers.

May 02 2013

Backwoods Lecture: 300 Years of Wilderness

Ever wonder where the idea of wilderness came from?

Follow the first explorers of Alaska, like Georg Steller, the German naturalist aboard the S/V Gabriel with Vitus Bering upon the first “discovery” of Alaska’s coast or the Episcopal priest Hudson Struck who made the first ascent of Denali, as they struggle to frame their experiences in this wild lands.  Look through John Muir’s eyes during his adventures in Glacier Bay.  Travel with Mardy and Olaus Murie’s to the interior rivers.  Explore the Brooks Range with Bob Marshall.  We will see how these writers formed the idea of wilderness, and how the wilderness inspired their writing.

This lecture will be presented by Adam Andis and is part of the Backwoods and Water Lecture Series.  Andis wrote his undergraduate thesis on wilderness in Alaskan nature writing.  He now manages the Wilderness Stewardship Program at Sitka Conservation Society.  He has a degree in Environmental Studies with emphasis in Wilderness Philosophy and is a founding board member of the National Wilderness Stewardship Alliance.

Sunday, May 12th from 5:00 to 6:00 pm at the Kettleson Library.

Feb 08 2013

Expedition: Outer Island Survey

This expedition is part of Sitka Conservation Society’s Community Wilderness Stewardship Project.  The Project, begun in 2009, is a partnership between SCS and the Tongass National Forest Service to collect base-line data on the ecological conditions and human impacts to designated Wilderness areas.  The Tongass NF in Southeast Alaska is the nation’s largest National Forest totaling 17 million acres with almost 6 million acres of designated Wilderness Area (also the largest total Wilderness area of any National Forest).  Almost all of this land is only accessible by boat or on foot.  Because most Tongass Wilderness Areas are so difficult to access, Forest Service Wilderness rangers rarely, if ever, have the ability to monitor areas which require technical skills, lots of time, or difficult logistics for access.  SCS augments and fills in the gaps in data by targeting these areas.

For the 2013 project, the SCS Wilderness crew will work with Craig and Thorne Bay Ranger Districts to conduct a monitoring expedition to a set of outercoast islands adjacent to Prince of Wales Island including Coronation Is., Warren Is., the Spanish Is., and the Maurelle Is.

The Team:

Adam Andis, is the Communications Director for SCS.  He has managed the Wilderness Stewardship Program since 2011.  Andis first started paddling on a National Outdor Leadership School expedition in Prince William Sound.  He guided kayak trips all over Southeast Alaska for Spirit Walker Expeditions before moving to Sitka to work for SCS.  Andis is a Level 4 ACA Instructor, a Leave-No-Trace Master Educator, and Wilderness First Responder.  He is also on the board of directors of the National Wilderness Stewardship Alliance and has a passion for Wilderness preservation and protection.

 

Rob Avery, has been paddling since he was a teenager (and that was a long time ago!) racing sprint and marathon in Junior K1. Originally from the UK, Rob now lives in the Pacific Northwest where he manages distribution for Valley & North Shore kayaks.  He is also the regional rep for Snap Dragon, Level Six and other fun paddlesports stuff under his Active Paddles business, and also runs Kayak Kraft coaching service.  Rob is an ACA Level 5 Instructor, Level 4 BCU coach, 5 star BCU paddler, Wilderness First Responder, Leave-No-Trace Instructor and no stranger to Alaska where is has spend many windy and rainy days paddling in the SE, central, Kodiak and the Aleutian Islands.

Cris Lewis,

 

 

 

 

Paul Norwood, was born and raised in Paris, and has lived in Alaska since 1999.  He spent a few years fishing and working in canneries, then did odd jobs in the interior of the state. Finally, he went to Sitka where he studied liberal arts and Spanish at UAS and worked as a tour guide on wildlife watching cruises. He has been on the Sitka Mountain Rescue team for several years, completed a year of Americorps service at the Sitka Sound Science Center, did an internship with the Peruvian Ministry of the Environment and a stint on a trail crew in southern Patagonia, and participated with numerous organizations on small projects ranging from traditional gardening to mapping invasive species.  Paul has Emergency Medical Technician certification.

Dates and Duration:  We are planning 16 days for the trip (11 field days, 2 travel days, and 2 weather days).  The trip will begin June 16th and the crew will return to Sitka on July 2nd.

Overview map of Southeast Alaska

Route:  The crew will pack boats in the small fishing village of Port Alexander.  The crux of the trip will be the 12.5 nm open-water crossing of Chatham Strait to Kuiu Island.  From there, the crew will paddle south to Cape Decision and stay at the Cape Decision Lighthouse.  On to the Spanish Island and Coronation Island where the crew will monitor recreation sites and record visitor use data, survey for invasive plants, conduct owl broadcast surveys, swab toads for fungal infections, and a litany of other research goals.  From Coronation, the team will cross to Warren, then down to the Maurelles to meet up with Craig Ranger District staff and Youth Conservation Corps to help out in the field.  Back at the final destination in Craig, the crew will lead a kayak skills and rescue class for the Ranger District staff and community members in Craig.  The trip will wrap up with an adventure in ferry hopping from Craig to Ketchikan and finally back to Sitka.

 

Route map, distance between dots are indicated.

Itinerary:

Pre-trip: send kayaks to Port Alexander on mailboat

June 16: Fly in small plane to Port Alexander, cross Chatham Strait to Kuiu Island.

June 17: Paddle along Kuiu to The Spanish Islands and Coronation.

June 18: Survey Coronation I.

June 22: Paddle to Warren island and survey.

June 25: Paddle to Maurelle Island group.

Place names

June 26: Meet the Craig Wilderness Rangers and Youth Conservation Corps in the Maurelles to help with projects

June 27: Survey Maurelle Islands

June 28: Paddle to Craig

June 29: Teach kayak skills and rescue training for Craig community.

June 30: Catch InnerIsland ferry to Ketchikan

July 1: catch Alaska Marine Ferry to Sitka.

Red dots indicate potential camps for each day

July 2: Return to Sitka, compile data, sort and clean gear, then drink some cold beers

 

 

For more information, please contact Andis at adam@sitkawild.org or (907) 747-7509.

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