Sitka Conservation Society
May 20 2013

Sitka Girl Scouts Learn Tongass Forest Food Web, Ecological Relationships

Within the University of Alaska Southeast, classrooms were teeming with young women eager to deepen their understanding in the field of science. On April 13th, 2013, Girls Scouts of Alaska organized a one-day science symposium in Sitka for its young members and asked Sitka women working in various scientific fields to teach a class that covered information of their choosing.

The Sitka Conservation Society’s community organizer Ray Friedlander participated in the event and chose to discuss and recreate the ecological relationships commonly found throughout the Tongass National Forest from the perspective of Coho salmon.

For the activity, girls ranging from ages 5 to 10 embodied a particular role in the web. Roles included fishermen, aquatic insects, old growth forest, eagles, bears, ocean, and rivers, which were represented by photographs that the girls wore around their necks. The most popular role however was the Coho salmon, which was represented by a stuffed animal toted around by one of the girls as she made her way from Girl Scout to Girl Scout with a red ribbon. As the salmon “swam” its way to each critter or habitat in the web, questions were posed to the group about the significance of that relationship.

What relationship do you think this salmon has to the old growth forest?” Friedlander asked the group.

The shade from the trees helps keep the salmon from getting too hot,” said one Girl Scout. “The roots stop the soil from going into the river and making it dirty,” said another.

Each Girl Scout was then asked to loosely hold on to the ribbon, and help answer the questions posed to the other roles of the ecological web. After every role of the web was discussed, the Girl Scouts looked around to see that in fact they were all connected by a ribbon that represented the relationships formed through their species and habitat interactions with the salmon.

Embodying the ecological relationships that exist between different species and habitats of the Tongass allowed Sitka Girl Scouts to see how important it is to view these relationships as interconnected rather than separate. For the Sitka Consevation Society and Girl Scouts of Alaska, inspiring our youth to become stewards of the environment promotes the leadership skills and knowledge needed to ensure a healthy, protected Tongass and sustainable community.

May 17 2013

Wild Foods, A New Relationship

Arguably, to know a place is to know the plants. It’s one thing to appreciate the aesthetics of a certain habitat but another to really know the plants within it. To really know a plant creates a relationship. One that’s based on an understanding and appreciation of seasons, habitat, and life cycle. It’s a give and take—food and medicine (among others) for protection and stewardship.

The Sitka Conservation Society created an opportunity for community members to deepen their relationship to the land through a “spring edibles plant series.” This class explored edible plants in three different habitats: the forest, estuary, and coastline. Students learned how to identify plants, where they are commonly found, harvesting techniques, and preparation methods. And now, we hope, they have a deeper appreciation and connection to the Tongass National Forest.

This course was a partnership with the Kayaani Commission, which was established in 1998 to “preserve and protect the historical and traditional knowledge of the way plants are used.” Kayaani Commissioners shared a customary wisdom, complementing instructor Scott Brylinsky’s extensive knowledge of edibles and plants.

Click here for an online field guide to the wild edibles in the Tongass. Enjoy the tastes of the Tongass!

May 08 2013

Sitka: A Tongass Salmon Town

In 2011, SCS began the Sitka Salmon Tours program.  The goal of the tours was to give visitors a salmon’s eye view from the forests where the salmon are born, to the ocean, the fisher and processor, and finally to our plates.  We’ve discontinued the Salmon Tours for 2013.  Instead, we have distilled all of the great facts, stories, and natural history  from the tours into this manual, “Sitka: A Tongass Salmon Town.”  Now anyone can be an expert on wild Tongass Salmon.  We hope that Sitka residents, guides, and naturalist will use this guide to share the miracle of salmon that attracts tens of thousands of visitors to this place each year.

Printed guides are available at the Sitka Conservation Society office.  If you’d like us to mail you a copy, send a request to info@sitkawild.org.  Bulk copies are available for purchase at-cost (about $0.80 per copy).

Download a copy of the manual HERE.

May 07 2013

SCS Summer Boat Tours Start June 1st

The first of six boat tours to take place throughout the summer.  Mark your calendars!

  • June 1st, Saturday 10am
  • June 11th, Tuesday 5:30pm – Cancelled
  • June 27th, Thursday 5:30pm
  • July 23rd, Tuesday 5:30pm
  • August 13th, Tuesday 5:30pm

Check back soon for more information on tour topics and speakers.  See you on the boat!

 

A special thanks to Allen Marine for offering discounted charter prices for our non-profit summer tours, which makes this series possible.

Apr 30 2013

Jig Saws and Jack Planes and Clamps, Oh My!

Women in Carpentry class participant, Judi, driving the wormsaw

You’re going to want to burn two and then mark it 13.5,” Judi says to her workshop buddy Linda. Linda carefully measures across a piece of hemlock harvested from Starrigavan Valley and marks it with a pencil. She pulls out the tape measure and goes over it again (measure twice and cut once!) as Judi confirms the pencil lines and arrows.  Judi grabs the ‘worm saw’ (a powered skillsaw) and starts ripping the board as Linda holds it down and observes.

After a piece of wood drops to the floor, both women carefully inspect the cut, running their fingers along the edge then nodding in approval. It’s not perfect but pretty close. “We can fix that when we sand it,” Linda says.

We’ve come a long way from our first workshop class when we built our saw horses, making sure to pad the top of them with ‘sacrificial’ wood. The sacrificial wood being scrap that we don’t mind chipping, cutting and scarring as a result of our novice woodworking abilities. Our first class began with instructions from Marcel LaPerriere, local craftsman and owner of Southeast Cedar Homes. He gave us the basic DOs and DON’Ts of the wood shop as we eyed the unfamiliar gadgets and tools that surrounded us. The next few meetings we learned how to use tools, how to change drill bits and saw blades and the difference between crosscut and plane cut. Despite our rapidly growing repertoire of skills and vocabulary, we were still short on confidence, often having to encourage one another to take the helm when it was time to start up a saw.  Now, class participants are confidently using saws, drill presses, and are continually awestruck all while being steeped in the delicious smell of fresh cut wood.  Our class is small (eight participants) but maxes out the space in the wood shop.  It is also a diverse group of women ranging from an opera singer to a retired teacher to a Sheldon Jackson summer camp organizer proficient in Chinese.

Kenley and Cindy clamping down a straight edge guide

In April SCS and the Sitka Fine Arts Camp partnered to offer a ‘Women in Carpentry Workshop’.  The workshop, a brain child of SCS board member Judi Lehman, and she thought it would tie in nicely with our young growth projects that were funded by the NFF Community Capacity and Land Stewardship program. The course provides locally harvested wood, tools, supplies and instruction from SCS board President Marcel LaPerriere.  The product of the class is quite simple: six wooden benches to be placed at the Allen Auditorium on the SJ campus.  The goal, however, is much more involved. SCS wanted to showcase young growth timber, contribute to the production of a local wood product and shed light on the quality and usefulness of young-growth timber. This class takes it one step further by providing an opportunity for women who had little to no experience with wood working to learn new skills and create something for the community.

One class member, Kenley, described why she decided to take the course: “I signed up because I really wanted to learn how to use power tools and wanted to gain skills for volunteering and life projects. I’ve learned so much already! The vocabulary and skills are foreign to me and I’ve reveled in learning the names of tools, techniques, and processes. I have a much deeper respect for how buildings are constructed and how wood objects are made. I’ve learned a lot about trees and wood and really appreciate Marcel’s dedication and patience in teaching this awesome class”.  We aren’t quite ready to start building our dream homes, but we are learning and having fun along the way. For now, I just wish I could wield a planer or skillsaw fluidly and one handed like Marcel!

 

Apr 26 2013

Summer Boat Tours – Back by Popular Demand

See new places, new perspectives and learn more about this wild place we live in!

Whether you are a born and bred Sitkan, or a recent transplant to the Tongass, the SCS Summer Boat Tour series offers an excellent opportunity to get out to explore and learn more about Sitka Sound and the Tongass. There will be six tours  throughout the summer, each about 2.5 hours.

These tours are for you! And we want to hear your ideas on topics and tours you would like see as a part of our Boat Tours this summer.  Visit our Facebook page, call our office (747-7509) or email Erin with your ideas.

Check back soon for updates on tour topics and tickets!

Mar 06 2013

Three Small False Island Timber Sales Designed to Support Small Mills

A harvest of around 300,000 board feet off the False Island road system near Sitkoh Bay and Chicagof Road System is being proposed by the Forest Service, but it is not just the sale that is being offered—this proposal is also offering up a new approach on harvesting timber and managing the Tongass to benefit people and our forests on a local scale.

Last summer, right as the Sitkoh restoration project was underway, I met the Forest Service staff responsible for laying out the three small False Island Timber sales. These sales, which ended up bearing the names the Ray, RayRay, and High Road timber sales, are a relatively new forest management approach for the Tongass because they are designed with small mills in mind, select trees of high quality and value, and incorporate collaboration with community organizations and stakeholders.

Incorporated within this planning are future sales that offer second growth spruce and alder, which is the timber of the future on the Tongass. The Sitka Conservation Society sees sales like this as apart of the Forest Service’s commitment to implementing their 2010 Transition Framework. Focusing on small timber sales will increase local capacity for working and building with local wood while turning away from export oriented resource extraction. A focus like this catalyzes the Tongass National Forest’s transition from a history of unsustainable actions towards a more sustainable future.

This sale is just a start.  It is not enough in itself.  There is still much to be done and there are still many timber sales being offered that are part of the old way of doing things.  The Forest Service needs to move faster in their transition and begin investing in the programs and activities that are prioritized by the public, bring value to the region, and don’t have negative environmental consequences.

Below are the comments that SCS submitted on this timber sale.
Here is a link to an article I wrote about my summer experience on False Island with the Forest Service timber crew:

http://www.fs.usda.gov/detailfull/r10/home?cid=stelprdb5387326&width=full

Comments on False Island’s UpcomingThree Small Timber Sales

 

Feb 18 2013

America’s Salmon Forest at the AK Forum Film Fest

SCS’s short documentary Restoring America’s Salmon Forest was selected to show at the Alaska Forum on the Environment Film Festival on Friday, February 8, 2013 in Anchorage.  The film focuses on a multi-agency effort to increase salmon returns on the Sitkoh River in Southeast Alaska’s Chichagof Island, by improving the spawning and rearing habitat and redirecting a river that was heavily damaged by logging operations in the 1970s.

In the heyday of the Southeast Alaska timber industry, little regard was paid to the needs of salmon. Streams were frequently blocked and diverted, with streams in 70 major watersheds remaining that way decades later. Salmon surpassed timber in economic importance in Southeast Alaska more than two decades ago, but only in the last few years has the Forest Service finally made a serious effort to repair damaged streams. Currently over 7,000 jobs in Southeast Alaska are tied to the fishing industry, compared to about 200 in the timber industry. The Forest Service spends about three times as much on timber related projects as fisheries and restoration projects each year on the Tongass.

While salmon are responsible for 10 times as many jobs in Southeast Alaska as timber, and are also an important food source and a critical part of our cultural identity, the Forest Service still puts timber over salmon in its budget priorities. Recent Forest Service budgets have dedicated in the range of $22 million a year to timber and road building, compared to less than $2 million a year to restoring salmon streams damaged by past logging, despite a $100 million backlog of restoration projects.

Logging damages watersheds by diverting streams, blocking fish passage, and eliminating crucial spawning and rearing habitat structures. Restoration increases salmon returns by removing debris, redirecting streams, stabilizing banks to prevent erosion, and even thinning dense second-growth forest. We believe it simply makes sense to go back and repair habitat if you are responsible for its damage.

TAKE ACTION:

Please contact your representatives in Washington to tell them the ways you depend on Tongass salmon, and tell them you support managing the Tongass for salmon and permanently protecting important salmon producing watersheds. Tell them it is time to redirect funds from the bloated timber budget to the salmon restoration budget, and finally transitioning away from the culture of old-growth timber to sustainable practices recognizing all resources and opportunities.

What to say:

Check out the talking points in this post for some ideas of what you might include in your letters or calls.

Contact:

Undersecretary Robert Bonnie
Department of Natural Resources and the Environment
U.S. Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Ave., S.W.
Washington, DC 20250

Email: robert.bonnie@osec.usda.gov

Senator Lisa Murkowski
709 Hart Senate Building
Washington, DC 20510

Email: karen_billups@energy.senate.gov

Senator Mark Begich
825C Hart Senate Building
Washington, DC 20510

Email: bob_weinstein@begich.senate.gov
If you have questions, contact the Sitka Conservation Society at 747-7509 or info@sitkawild.org

Produced by Bethany Goodrich, a summer staffer at the Sitka Conservation Society, “Restoring Alaska’s Salmon Forest” provides a brief look at how a restoration project looks on the ground and what such a project can accomplish in terms of salmon returns.
Feb 16 2013

The Renewable Energy: People Power used in the Protection of our Wild Salmon

“Aint no power like the power of the people ‘cause the power of the people don’t stop!” We as a community have great potential to create the change we want to see in the world because this change is initiated by something we all have—our voice. We have the ability to envision things differently, contemplate the steps necessary to enact our vision, and then put those steps into action through our words, community involvement, and passion. These efforts typically don’t have to start with a large group of people because change can begin with an individual, and that individual could be you.

When I met local Sitkan Paul Rioux and experienced his determination to raise awareness about genetically engineered salmon, I was seeing firsthand the power of voice and the importance of standing up for your beliefs. For Paul, organizing a rally that would protest genetically engineered salmon was one of those ways to stand up. “I saw that there were rallies going on in other parts of the country, and I decided that it would be nice to do one here,” Paul said. Through Paul’s actions, over 130 people came to the rally, which was then publicized by Senator Murkowski, Senator Begich, and Representative Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins. Four days after the event, the Food and Drug Administration announced they were going to extend the period to comment on genetically engineered salmon by 60 days, with the new date being April 26th, 2013. I’m certain that Sitka’s activism helped spur this extension.

To make this happen, we started small. We gained support from fishing organizations like the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association (ALFA) and the Alaska Troller’s Association (ATA), who passed the message on to their members; we held sign-making parties at the SCS office, Blatchley Middle School, and Ventures; flyers were created, posted, and handed out, featuring both information on the rally and how to submit a comment to the FDA opposing genetically engineered salmon; Raven Radio had us on their Morning Interview, where myself, Paul, and David Wilcox, a Blatchley middle school student running across the country in protest of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), discussed the negative impacts of genetically engineered salmon; both the Mudflats blog and Fish Radio with Laine Welch hosted information on the rally to raise awareness to their subscribers that the FDA was considering approving genetically engineered salmon; and the day of the event, the local news station, the Sitka Sentinel, and Raven Radio came out to document the event, which made it on the front page of the paper. Days after the rally, Sitka’s Assembly also approved, on a 7-0 vote, a resolution stating the city’s opposition to frankenfish.

Technology more than ever can be used to organize our social networks, tell our stories to folks that live in communities all over the country, and enforce our opinion to decision makers to listen to their constituents. This can happen with any issue that we find ourselves passionate about, and for Paul that issue was the health of our wild salmon from the Tongass.

It is right here in our community that we can create the world we want to see through our actions, but this can only happen through an engaged, active citizenry. Far too often I encounter folks who are somewhat cynical to the democratic process, folks that have lost faith in the power of their voice.  But in the end, if no one takes action, nothing gets done.

What kind of world do you want to live in? For us at the Sitka Conservation Society, we want the management of the Tongass to benefit the communities that depend upon its natural resources while supporting the habitats of the salmon, black tail-deer, and bears that roam wildly about. Sitkans like Paul Rioux remind us that our voice is a catalyst for change, and by speaking and standing up for what you believe in, we can continuously create the world we want to live in. Let us stand up together, generate the renewable energy of people power, and work towards that future some say is a dream but can be a reality if we work towards it.

If you haven’t submitted a comment opposing Frankenfish, please go to http://www.regulations.gov/#!submitComment;D=FDA-2011-N-0899-0685. For the required field “Organization Name,” you can put “Citizen” and for the category, you can put “Individual Consumer.” Do it right now, it only takes a few minutes!

Jan 29 2013

Local Wood, Local Building: Bike Shelter Coming to Sitka Sound Science Center

 

Notorious for having bikes chained along its railway, the Sitka Sound Science center is upgrading its parking for those traveling on wheels. The Construction Tech class at Sitka High, under the instruction of Randy Hughey, is building a bike shelter for the Science center made of young growth Sitka spruce and old growth red cedar from Prince of Wales Island. The 6,000 board feet of this Alaskan wood was milled by Mel Cooke of Last Chance Enterprises out of Thorne Bay. From Cooke’s perspective, the logs are very easy to work with – very symmetrical, very little taper, and mostly comes out straight. “I enjoy cutting it, it cuts real easy, and the wood looks really good– beautiful boards” says Mel.

Back at Sitka High, the students have already begun applying a preservative treatment to the future deck of the bike shelter to protect the wood.  The bike shelter will also rest on top of skids so that water can drain out of the shelter instead of forming pools that will rot the wood.  The deck of the shelter is made of  Yellow Cedar and Sitka Spruce.  The framing and roof deck will be made of rough sawn Sitka Spruce and the structure will be sided and roofed with Red Cedar.

The timber framing of the bike shed is made possible thanks to Daniel Sheehan, a recent Alaska transplant from Massachusetts. Dan showed up at the SCS alder nightstand open house at Sitka High and met Randy Hughey. They discovered a mutual love of classic pegged mortise and tenon timber framing. Dan has worked for four years for Ted Benson Timber Framing in the Northeast United States and volunteered to help teach Randy and the students how to timber frame.

This bike shelter will serve both as a useable space for bikes but also a testament that young growth wood can be used in construction and carpentry fields. It also demonstrates that building with local wood builds community, relationships, and sustains the knowledge of carpentry for future generations.

Funding for this project was provided by 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, the Sitka Conservation Society hopes to help builders, woodworkers, resource managers and others make more informed decisions about using Tongass young-growth.

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