Wilderness: A glimpse at the American experience
While studying visitor use in wilderness areas is an everyday part of my job, I’ve found that explaining what makes a wilderness area different from a large grouping of trees has become the largest secondary part of my work experience.
So what does make the land outside of town in wilderness or something else entirely? By stating wilderness areas in America are lands designated by congress for recreation would be correct, but the concept gets more muddled when breaking it all down. The take home message for wilderness areas is that they are lands designated for the American people to use. The language in the wilderness act tells us that wilderness exists for the enjoyment of the public and with regulations in hopes future generations have the chance for like experiences.
Recognizing these wilderness areas are places set aside which harbor some of the best natural landscapes in the world is a must. For instance, the wilderness areas near Sitka Alaska harbor old growth stands that rise up dramatically forming awe inspiring landscapes that are both magical to witness and imperative for a whole host of specie’s survival. For arguments sake I’ll point out the one such species, marbled murrelets, which are unique sea birds requiring old growth tree stands for nesting.
So, having distinguished that these special places require careful considerations, what types of restrictions attempt to help lessen human impacts? The big restrictions mostly revolve around having no mechanized use, specifically things like helicopters, chainsaws, or even bicycles. The purpose behind these restrictions is to allow the American people real opportunities for wilderness solitude in unspoiled natural areas.
Additionally wilderness lands are not specifically designed for entrepreneurs to exploit as other larger tracks of federal land encompass a variety of use options such as timber harvesting. However, with delicate use wilderness guides help transport people into places otherwise not available to the average citizen.
The central theme of the American wilderness experience is providing a place where a person can travel and feel like the natural world still exists. The small restrictions on use help ensure these beautifully wild places will continue to exist at the same capacities in the future. Additionally, the price of experiencing truly natural places is invaluable and having wilderness remain pristine during these days of ever shrinking wild lands is vital for the American experience.
Recapping, wilderness is an area of federally designated land, set aside for the American public to enjoy in the most natural ways possible. There are restrictions on use to ensure future generations have the opportunity to continue to enjoy these places without man’s overwhelming influences. For most of us that means the perfect place for viewing a bear with cubs, finding the perfect place for an outdoor adventure, seeing the pictures our friends and loved ones share with us from magical places, or simply knowing that the natural environment witnessed today will exist tomorrow.
This summer I have the great opportunity of interning with the Sitka Conservation Society and the United States Forest Service’s Sitka Ranger District. I am excited for getting on with my duties revolving around visitor use studies in the Tongass National Forest and sharing my experiences.
So without further ado let me officially introduce my blog spot; I will share my travels into the Tongass National Forest’s officially designated Wilderness and national forest lands, which yes indeed differs from a patch of unoccupied trees outside of town. With this glimpse into my summer I hope to paint pictures of interesting experiences with the people, land, and wildlife.
Let’s get started with some background:
I have had the great fortune of residing in a variety of places throughout the country including Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana, Maine, California, and Alaska. Moreover, I’ve rambled into some of the most beautiful spots in America on road trips, vacations, and pure itchy feet adventures. Throughout my life I have been attracted to the wilder places, and at a certain point I found a need to help positively impact these most special places. In a nutshell this is how I find myself in my last semester studying Recreation Management at The University of Maine Machias and visitor use in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest for the summer.
Thank you for following me through my travels and please remember the places I will discuss exist only in the visitor use capacities they currently hold due to previous public support and require public participation to remain at the current levels.
The Sitka Conservation Society field crews are doing remote field work throughout the Tongass this summer. Our field work this summer includes salmon-habitat restoration work at Sitkoh River and Sitkoh Lake, ecosystem conservation and connectivity work in Hoonah Sound, invasive plant removal in Wilderness Areas, helping teach a visiting University course on Alaska’s Forests, Fisheries and Wilderness, and much more. On some of the trips, there are opportunities to jump on some of our flights or transport to get out to remote locations. We hope that SCS members can take advantage of these opportunities and get out to know and experience our Tongass backyard!
1) Kayak Drop Off at False Island in Peril Straits, July 13th, $150: Have you ever wanted to paddle the coast of the infamous Deadman’s Reach, watch for bubble-net feeding whales off Povorotni Island, walk through the majestic stands of Sitka Spruce in Ushk Bay, and ride the tidal currents through Segius Narrows? Next weekend could be your chance to do it!!! SCS is taking an Allen Marine transport boat that will be picking up a University Class at False Island on July 13th at 9am. We have room for a total of 9 kayaks and camping gear (can be double Kayaks). Reserve your spot on this transport and Kayak drop-off for $150 by contacting email@example.com or 747-7509 (fee helps pay for transport to the site. You are responsible for your own expedition, gear, etc. We will drop you off at the False Island dock)
2) Peril Strait Boat Cruise Ride-Along, July 13th, $45: The trip from Sitka North through Peril Straits is a maze of twisting waterways, islands, mountains, treacherous tidal currents, and beautiful bays and coves. Ride along with SCS on an Allen Marine Boat for a pick-up at False Island. The boat will leave at 9am and will return at approximately 1pm. Bring your charts and see if you can follow-along with the route through the passage that separates Baranof and Chichagof Islands! There are only 2 spots available on this trip so if you are interested in this opportunity to travel through Peril Straits, get your tickets now at SCS Offices.
3) Float Plane Drop-off at Goulding Harbor in the West Chichagof Wilderness Area July 30th or 31st ($150/person): Goulding Harbor is one of the most spectacular nooks in the West Chichagof Wilderness Areas. Its unique shoreline is dimpled and littered with islets and coves and the long sloping beaches make for great brown bear habitat. Two trail-heads depart from Goulding Harbor. One leads to White Sulfur Springs and the other follows an old mining rail-road to the Goulding Lakes. It is an amazing place for a wild and remote Wilderness Adventure. SCS has scheduled a float plane pick-up at Goulding Harbor for a crew that will be coming in from a Wilderness expedition. If you would like to take advantage of a float-plane drop off to explore the Goulding Harbor Area, this is your chance. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org (747-7509) for more information (This is a drop-off only. Participants are responsible for their own travel plans and arrangements after drop-off).
Keep watching for more opportunities to get out and explore the Tongass. SCS already has boat cruises scheduled and there may be more opportunities to piggy-back for travel to remote Wilderness Areas!
Saturday, June 9 and Sunday, June 10, 2012, 10am-5pm
ACA instructors Adam Andis and Darrin Kelly will teach all of the skills you need to be a safe and confident paddler, so that you can get out and enjoy our coastal wilderness areas and volunteer with the Sitka Community Wilderness Stewardship Project to collect needed baseline data. The class will include kayak skills for beginning to advanced paddlers, self and assisted rescue training, and Wilderness monitoring training, including an invasive plant ID lesson from Kitty LaBounty.
This two day course is open only to current SCS members so be sure to join or renew your membership when you sign up. Space is very limited, so sign up early!
To sign up or for more information, contact SCS at 747-7509.
Cost is $75 for the 2-day course (drysuits included). Kayak rental is $35 per day through Latitude Adventures. A 10% will be offered to participants who provide their own drysuit.
Skills Course Agenda:
1000 Introduction (15 min)
- Intros- instructors, SCS, Wilderness Project
- Site logistics- food, water, hot drinks, bathroom, changing area
- outline course expectations
- safety briefing- PFD always on in water, helmets, hypothermia risk & mitigation, paying attention to each other and instructors)
- liability release
1015 On Shore Presentations (55 min)
- Equipment orientation – drysuits later
- Personal clothing and gear
- PFD’s, wetsuits, spray skirts
- Safety equipment
- Basic boat design and kayak terminology
- Boat fit and adjustment
- Boat/body weld
- Foot brace adjustment
- Spray skirt attachment/release
- Dry land “wet exit” drill
- Paddle orientation and use
- basic paddle technique
1110 Break (5 min)
1115 Launching & Landing (30min)
- The paddling environment: wind, waves, weather, water (overview)
- Carrying kayak to and from water
- Entry/exit of kayak from shore or dock
- Boat stability, “hip wiggle,”
- Allow students a few minutes to paddle around and get oriented with their kayak
1145 Basic Strokes & Skills (60 min)
- Rafting up
- Sweep stroke (forward/reverse/pivot in place)
- Forward Stroke
- Reverse stroke and stopping
- Draw stroke
High and low braces (hip snap/boat lean/lower body control) – discussion, not practice
1245 Lunch (30 min)
- risk management triangle
1315 Rescues (3 hr 15 min)
- hi and low brace
- t-rescue demo (2 instructors)
- stirrup demonstration
- assisted rescue variations (stirrup, swamping the kayak)
- students practice
- paddle-float demo
- students practice
- paddle-float re-entry and roll (if time available)
- advanced bracing- sculling
- all-in practice
1630 Wrap up (20 min)
- get out of dry suits
1650 Debrief (10 min)
- tomorrow’s itinerary
1000 Monitoring Training (1hr 50 min)
- Plant ID Training (Kitty LaBounty) (40 min)
- Solitude Monitoring (20 min)
- History of Wilderness/Wilderness Character (10 min)
- LNT and Rec. Site (40)
1150 Paddling Environment (extended) (50 min)
- Tides- theory and practice
- Basic navigation
1240 Lunch (45 min)
- Expectations for the day
- Prepare to get on the water- get dressed, personal gear and snacks, fill water bottles
1325 Practice and tour (3 hr 5 min)
- Skills and limitations (next steps)
- staying together
- boat traffic
- skills- stroke refinement, edging, running draws
- continued LNT training and practice
- Communication- equipment and protocol
- Boat traffic/Rules of the Road
- “What’s in my PFD?” and “What’s in my cockpit?”
1630 Return and Debrief (30 min)
- Return gear
- Thanks and continue to stay involved in SCS Wilderness Project
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.
CALVIN CAVE is named for Jack Calvin one of the original founders of the Sitka Conservation Society who helped to protect West Chichagof as a Wilderness area. The following report and map were produced by Kevin Allred with the Tongass Cave Project. Kevin joined the SCS Wilderness crew on a trip to West Chichagof in the summer of 2011. See videos of the trip here.
DESCRIPTION: Calvin Cave was discovered on June 19, 2011 by Kevin Allred, and the Sitka Conservation Society Wilderness crew: Adam Andis, Tomas Ward, and Ben Hamilton, while searching for caves as part of the Sitka Community Wilderness Stewardship Project. The cave is located at the lower edge of a large muskeg which provides acidic waters where it flows onto the band of Whitestripe Marble of Triassic age. After a meandering stream slot, the small stream enters the cave, which is a winding narrow crack downcut into the marble. Down the slope are a series of sinkholes which indicate the downstream course of the underground stream. After about 60 feet the cave ends in too tight constrictions at the bottom of the first of these sinkholes, and daylight is seen in several places. There is an excellent example of the underside of a “sealed” sinkhole with its characteristic humus plug here. The cave was surveyed by Kevin Allred and Tom Ward. Its vertical surveyed depth is 10 feet and it has 63.8 feet of surveyed passage. The resurgence of this cave stream is not known, but is probably somewhere adjacent or under the nearby gorge of Marble Creek.
BIOLOGY: Fungus gnat webs were noted throughout the cave, but no insects were seen. No bones were seen.
MANAGEMENT RECOMMENDATIONS: Due to its remoteness, Calvin Cave is not likely to be negatively impacted by visitation. It is protected from logging under Wilderness Area regulation.
Interested in volunteering with the Community Wilderness Stewardship Project? Here are a couple of ways to get your hands dirty protecting you local Wilderness Areas:
Heading out into the Wilds on your own? If you are planning to get out hunting, hiking, fishing, paddling, etc. in a designated Tongass Wilderness Area (like West Chichagof-Yakobi or South Baranof) please consider downloading, printing, and filling out our Encounter Monitoring Form (PDF). Recording how, when and where folks are using our Wilderness Areas can give us a base-line to chart increases or decreases in human impact. Just follow the instructions on the form and record the boats, planes, people, and human impacts you find. Then, return the forms to us.
Want to join the SCS Wilderness Crew on a trip? Occasionally, we have extra room for volunteers to join the Wilderness Crew on research expeditions. If you would like to add your name to the list of volunteers we contact when such opportunities arise, fill out the Volunteer Form and Medical History Form below and return it to email@example.com. Also, be sure to take the short (10-15 min) course which allows volunteers to ride in Forest Service aircraft (most of our trips involve small plane flights) and watch the Boat Safety Video. Please keep in mind that only current SCS members can join a Wilderness trip, so make sure you join or renew your membership!
Volunteer Form (MS Word)
Volunteer Form (PDF)
USFS Flight Protocols: A-102: USFS Alaska Region Fixed Wing Safety Course * see instructions at the bottom of this post.
Volunteer Gear Checklist (MS Word) If you will be attending a trip, be sure to check out this gear checklist.
* Aviation Training Instructions
1. Go to this link and register as a user: https://www.iat.gov/Training/
2. Once registered, make note of your user name and password and log-in to the website.
3. Go to the “On-Line Courses” list and scroll down to USFS ALASKA/REGION 10 SPECIFIC COURSES. Click on “A-102: USFS Alaska Region Fixed Wing Safety”
4. Complete the course. At the end, click on the link to take a short quiz. After passing the quiz, you will receive an email from “IAT Admin” that includes some instructions for locating your completion certificate. Please email an electronic copy of your certificate to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Sitka Community Wilderness Stewardship Project seeks to connect communities with their local Wilderness areas by facilitating volunteer stewardship and monitoring. Over the past three years, the project has been an overwhelming success and will be continuing in to 2012 and 2013.
This is the Final Report for the 2011 Community Wilderness Stewardship Project. Components of the Data Report for the 2011 project can be found below.
Can’t see the report? Down load the pdf here: Wilderness Project 2011 Final Report
2011 Data Report
* Data is primarily for Sitka Ranger District. Data for other ranger districts can be found in the in reports specific to each Wilderness Area in thefull project file below.
Wilderness Stewardship Project 2011 – Full Project File- The full project file contains all photos, reports, data, radio interviews, videos, and products from the 2011 project. (This is a large file–3.5 Gb)
The Sitka Conservation Society is seeking an applicant to support the Sitka Community Wilderness Stewardship Project. The Wilderness Intern will assist SCS’s Wilderness Project manager to coordinate and lead monitoring expeditions during the 2012 summer field season.
If interested, please review the position description below and submit a resume and cover letter to Adam Andis at email@example.com.
This position is now closed.
Position Title: SCS Wilderness Project Internship
Host Organizations: Sitka Conservation Society
Location: Sitka, Alaska
Duration: 14 weeks, starting in May 2013. Specific start and end dates to be determined by intern and SCS
Compensation: $ 4664 plus travel
Benefits: Intern will receive no health or dental benefits. Intern is responsible for housing (SCS will try to assist in finding low-cost housing options). SCS will provide appropriate training for fieldwork in Southeast Alaska.
Organization: The Sitka Conservation Society (SCS) is a grassroots, membership-based organization dedicated to the conservation of the Tongass Temperate Rainforest and the protection of Sitka’s quality of life. We have been active in Sitka, Alaska for over 45 years as a dynamic and concerned group of citizens who have an invested interest in their surrounding natural environment and the future well-being of their community. We are based in the small coastal town of Sitka, Alaska, located on the rugged outer west coast of Baranof Island. Surrounded by the towering trees of the Tongass National Rainforest, the community has successfully transformed from an industrial past and the closure of a local pulp mill to a new economy featuring a diversity of employers and small businesses.
Background: The Tongass National Forest 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). The Sitka Ranger District alone encompasses over 1.6 million acres of countless islands, glaciated peaks and old growth forests. In 2009, SCS partnered with the Sitka Ranger District (SRD) to ensure the two Wilderness areas near Sitka (the West Chichagof Yakobi and South Baranof Wilderness Areas) meet a minimum management standard by conducting stewardship and monitoring activities and recruiting volunteers. We will be continuing this project into its fifth year and extending the project to ranger districts throughout the Tongass National Forest.
Direction and Purpose:
In this position you will be expected to assist in organizing the logistics of field trips. Trips can range from just a few nights to three weeks. Backcountry field logistics include float plane and boat transport to and from field sites; kayaking, backpacking, and packrafting on location; camping and living in bear country; field communications via satellite phone, VHF radio, and SPOT transmitters. You will be co-leading trips with SCS Staff. Depending on experience, you may have the opportunity to lead short trips of volunteers on your own.
Working with SCS Staff, this intern position will assist in the following duties:
- · collection of field data
- · coordinating logistics and volunteers for field surveys
- · plan and conduct outreach activities including preparing presentation and sharing materials on Wilderness and Leave No Trace with outfitters/guides and other Forest users.
- prepare and submit an intern summary report and portfolio of all produced materials, and other compiled outputs to the Forest Service and SCS before conclusion of the residency, including digital photos of your work experience and recreational activities in Alaska. Reports are crucial means for SCS to report on the project’s success.
- · Graduate or currently enrolled in Recreation Management, Outdoor Education, Environmental Studies or other related environmental field
- · Current Wilderness First Responder certification (by start date of position)
- · Outdoor skills including Leave-no-Trace camping, sea kayaking, multi-day backpacking
- · Ability to work in a team while also independently problem-solve in sometimes difficult field conditions.
- · Ability to communicate effectively and present issues to the lay-public in a way that is educational, inspirational, and lasting
The ideal candidate will also have:
- · Experience living or working in Southeast Alaska
- · Pertinent work experience
- · Outdoor leadership experience such as NOLS or Outward Bound
- · Ability to work under challenging field conditions that require flexibility and a positive attitude
- · Proven attention to detail including field data collection
- · Experience camping in bear country
- · Advanced sea-kayaking skills including surf zone and ability to perform rolls and rescues
Fiscal Support: SCS will provide a stipend of $4,664 for this 14 week position. SCS will also provide up to $1,000 to cover the lowest cost airfare from the resident’s current location to Sitka. Airfare will be reimbursed upon submittal of receipts to SCS.
With respect to agency/organization policy and safety, intern agrees to:
- · Adhere to the policies and direction of SCS, including safety-related requirements and training, including those related to remote travel and field work.
- · Work closely with the SCS Wilderness Project Coordinator to update him/her on accomplishments and ensure that any questions, concerns or needs are addressed.
- · Be a good representative of SCS at all times during your internship.
- · Arrange course credits with your university if applicable.
With respect to general logistics, resident agrees to:
- Seek lowest possible round trip airfare or ferry trip and book as soon as possible and before May 1st, working in conjunction with SCS whenever possible;
- Provide SCS with travel itinerary as soon as flight is booked and before arriving in Alaska. Please email itinerary to Adam Andis at firstname.lastname@example.org..
- Reimburse SCS for the cost of travel if you leave the intern position before the end of your assignment.
- Have fun and enjoy the experience in Sitka!
May 20-June 1: SCS and Forest Service trainings; get oriented and set up in offices; begin researching and getting up-to-speed on background info (Outfitter/Guide Use Areas, patterns of use on the Tongass National Forest (subsistence, commercial fishing, guided, recreation), Wilderness Character monitoring, Wilderness issues).
June 4 – August 17: Participate in field trips and assist in coordinating future trips, contact Outfitter and Guides to distribute educational materials, assist SCS in other Wilderness stewardship activities.
By August 20-24: Prepare final report including any outreach or media products, trip reports, and written summary of experience to SCS. Work with Wilderness Project Coordinator on final reports.
To apply please submit a cover letter and resume that includes relevant skills and experiences including documentation of trips in remote settings to Adam Andis: email@example.com
Application will close March 31, 2013.
Sitka Community Wilderness Stewardship Project
Expedition Grant Program
Description: The Community Wilderness Stewardship Project monitors the two Wilderness areas that the Sitka Conservation Society helped to create, the West Chichagof-Yakobi Wilderness and the South Baranof Wilderness. We conduct research expeditions to collect data ranging from botanical surveys to small mammal genetic mapping to glacial change research. These remote study areas are difficult and expensive to access. For this reason, we seek research partners to broaden the scope of the project and ensure that the trips are as effective as possible.
Ideal candidates for Expedition Grants would include partnerships with other institutions, organizations, or agencies; focus on priority sites within Wilderness areas; incorporate an outreach component; and include additional outside funding.
Location: Based out of Sitka, Alaska. Research must occur within West Chichagof-Yakobi Wilderness Area or South Baranof Wilderness Area.
Dates: May – December 2012
Proposals due by: May 1, 2012
Compensation: SCS may fund up to $1000
To Apply: Submit proposal* and cover letter to Adam Andis- firstname.lastname@example.org
* Research in Forest Service Wilderness Areas requires a special permitting process. SCS staff will help facilitate the research permit application, but it is the responsibility of the applicant to complete all necessary forms and work with the Sitka Ranger District to receive a temporary research permit for the project. See useful resources below.
Scientific Activities Evaluation Framework- Use this evaluation framework to apply for research permits. The actual application begins on page 54.
Guidelines for Scientists- The following guidelines are written for scientists who want to conduct scientific activities in
wilderness. These are only brief guidelines intended to help scientists understand and
communicate with local managers, thereby expediting the process of evaluating a proposal for
Expedition Grant Proposal 2011- Establishing Baseline and Groundtruthing Data within the West Chichagof-Yakobi Wilderness, Chichagof Island, Alaska
Project Proposal 2010- Glacial Change on Baranof Island: Quantifying Local-level Impact of Climate Change