Sitka Conservation Society
Aug 03 2012

Trawling: A Threat to Southeast Alaska Fisheries

Above:  TROLLERS, like the family salmon troller pictured above, made sure that TRAWLING was not allowed in the Eastern Gulf of Alaska.  TRAWLING is an unsustainable method of fishing that results in massive bycatch.  TROLLING is a much more targeted fishing method and is more sustainable.


The Sitka Conservation Society signed onto a letter raising the alarm that trawl caught fish were being purchased by a local fish processor.  Trawling, the practice of dragging a net through the water or along the bottom of the ocean and indiscriminately catching everything in the path of the net, has proven to be one of the most wasteful types of fishing and one of the most environmentally damaging.  Trawling has been outlawed in Southeast Alaska east of 140 degrees West Longitude thanks to the foresight and advocacy efforts of fishermen, conservationists, community members, and local government in 1998.

Trawl fishing is very different from the types of fishing employed in Southeast Alaska today.  Not to be confused, trolling employs hooks and line and is one-hook, one-fish.  Likewise, seining and gill-netting are highly targeted to specific places, times, and types of fish and is closely monitored to ensure fish harvest does not exceed the population needed for long-term population viability.  Halibut and Black-cod  Long-lining is also a one-hook, one-fish fishery that has tight controls on by-catch and harvest levels.  Crab and Shrimp fishing in SE Alaska uses pot and traps and has little impact to the seafloor and does not kill the by-catch.

SCS is concerned about trawling because of the harm is can cause the environment and the threat that it poses to the local economy that Sitka has worked so hard to develop in ways that balance human needs and environmental protection.  This is an issue that clearly demonstrates that protecting fisheries is both about protecting the natural environment of the Tongass Temperate Rainforests where salmon begin their lives and being vigilant on what takes place in the ocean ecosystems where the fish grow and mature.

To listen to a radio story on Sitkan’s concerns on trawling and the threat it poses to fisheries, livelihoods, and the environment, click here.

To read the letter that the Sitka Conservation Society signed, click here.

Jul 02 2012

Sealaska Legislation would create “Corporate Earmarks” that would Privatize some of the most important parcels on the Tongass

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

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.



Jun 15 2012

The Sitkoh River Restoration Project Begins!

Sitkoh River Restoration Begins!

The Sitkoh River Salmon Habitat Restoration Project got started last week.  SCS staff, Trout Unlimited Alaska, local high school students, and other volunteers have been helping work at the site alongside contractors and Forest Service staff.  On Wednesday June 13th, the crew hosted a fly-in visit by journalists, fishermen, and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game Habitat Division Director who took a tour of the project to see what was going on.

The visitor’s were thoroughly impressed.  Randy Bates, Director of the ADFG Division of Habitat stated,  “The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is happy to participate in a project like this that will restore high value fish habitat and restore the productive capacity of the original stream course.”

Wayne Owen, the Forest Service Alaska Director of Wildlife, Fisheries, Watersheds and Subsistence commented to the press during the visit that “Salmon are the lifeblood and economic base of Southeast Alaska.  The Tongass is the fish basket of North American and Southeast Alaska produced a billion dollars in economic activity from the salmon produced on the Tongass.”

SCS applauds the efforts of the State of Alaska and the United States Forest Service in recognizing the role that the Tongass National Forest plays in providing and producing the salmon resource that is so important to the 32 salmon-dependent communities of SE Alaska.  We hope that the Sitkoh River Restoration project is just the start of more efforts to put the watersheds that were damaged by historic logging back together so that they can return to full ecosystem functionality and produce all the salmon that they were once capable of.

Jun 06 2012

Ask the Assembly to Protect Redoubt

If the Assembly doesn't take action, this could be our last season to fish at Redoubt Falls.

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 →

Apr 29 2012

Living with the Land and Building Community in Southeast Alaska

Sitka, Alaska in the heart of the Tongass National Forest

The Tongass National Forest is the heart and soul of Sitka and the people who live here, as has been the case for thousands of years.

 The Tongass provides our food, and it provides jobs in the fishing and tourism industries, which are the backbone of Sitka’s economy. The  Tongass is also where we go to relax and find inspiration.

 When the Tongass is not well, neither is Sitka, a fact that has driven the work of the Sitka Conservation Society for over 40 years.

 This blog will tell stories of the ways the Sitka Conservation Society, the people of Sitka, and all of Southeast Alaska, are finding ways and solutions to build communities that live with their natural environment and turn away from the unsustainable practices that were tried over the last 200 years.  This blog will include stories of individuals, groups,  practices we have learned, natural history concepts, and much more that  we hope will begin to help us learn how to live with the land and build  sustainable communities in Southeast Alaska.

Mar 20 2012

Energy Conservation Brochures

In 2007, the Sitka Conservation Society began a fruitful partnership with the City of Sitka Electric Department to initiate action on climate change in Sitka and to begin taking steps to become more energy efficient.  The start of the partnership was a joint position that worked in the electric department to find ways for Sitkans to save energy and reduce their energy bills.  One of the many outputs of the work was a series of educational brochures for Sitkans  Below is how we introduced the results of this work to Alaska Senator Bert Stedman:

December 10th, 2007

Dear Senator Stedman,

 We are pleased to announce the release of our series of brochures on energy conservation inSitka.  These brochures are the end result of an ongoing collaborative project with the City and Borough of Sitka to identify, evaluate, and implement energy conservation measures that reduce energy demand inSitka, reduce energy costs forSitkaresidents, and reduceSitka’s environmental footprint on a local and global scale.

 This project began in late 2006 when the Sitka Electric Department released a 28 year electric energy provision plan that identified an increase in demand for electricity that has the potential to outstrip total available electric supply.  The high cost and potential environmental impact of new hydroelectric facilities alarmed our membership.  However, a provision in the City’s plan identified energy conservation as part of a solution to reducing energy demand.  The Sitka Conservation Society identified this section as a potential niche where we may be able to aid the city in developing energy conservation initiatives.

 To help develop the energy conservation initiatives, we applied for a grant to pay for an intern with experience in energy policy and analysis that would work at the electric department with the electric department employees to identify possible energy conservation actions.  After an extensive recruiting process at top Universities across the country, Amy Heinemann was chosen from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies for the internship.  Part of the needs she identified during her work inSitkawas public education on energy conservation possibilities and specific choices the energy consumer can make that will achieve results.  These brochures were the results of some of her work.

 This project is part of a continuing effort by the Sitka Conservation Society to offer “solutions” to the community that not only benefit our surrounding natural environment but also provide tangible and needed benefits to our community. 

 Please let us know if you would like more information on this work or any of our other initiatives or if you would like more copies of the brochures.

Download the brochures below:

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Energy Audits and Weatherization

Electronics and Appliances

Personal Transportation

Space Heating

Water Heating




Mar 08 2012

SCS Illustration Contest: Natural Patterns of the Tongass, Mycelium and Dendritic Patterns

The Tongass is a place of patterns that repeat at different scales.  Branching patterns are found at all scales on the Tongass.   On a grand scale, these patterns are seen in bays and fjords on a map, in the rivers that flow through watersheds, and in the glaciers plowing down through the mountains.   At a medium scale, these are the dendritic patterns seen in the networks of stream in estuaries, in the branches and roots of trees, and the trails of wildlife through the forest.  At a micro-scale, these patterns repeat in the mycelial web of fungi that feed the living trees and in the decay of the logs on the ground.  in the veins of leaves, and in the filter feeding organs of intertidal creatures.  To see photos of some of our favorite dendritic patterns, check out the SCS web gallery below.

The dendritic patterns we see on the Tongass are all pathways for wildlife and nutrients.  Salmon travel up the branches of the bays to the river mouths.  They travel up the rivers and its streams to reach their spawning grounds.  Bears pick up dying salmon and carry it through the trails of the forest.  The nutrients of the decaying salmon are picked up by fungal networks and are delivered to tree roots.  The tree roots carry the nutrients up the trunk and then into the tree branches and to the needles. The pattern of interconnectedness repeats itself over and over again.

The patterns seen across the Tongass are visible manifestations of the web of life that connects the oceans with the land with all the creatures of the Forest and Waters.  They are beautiful in both their infinite fineness and in their grand majesty.  And they are intriguing and inspirational to many who live in and visit the Tongass.

We need help illustrating this pattern and telling the story through art!  Help us with a design and your art could be featured in the next SCS t-shirt design or web graphic.

“Your submission must be two dimensional, no larger than 12in. by 12in., and must be ready for a scanner (mixed media is okay, but please keep in mind that we will use a high-quality scanner to make the submission digital).  We encourage you to incorporate Rhonda Reany’s Coho Salmon Design to represent the journey of salmon from the forest to the ocean and back to the trees; however, it is not required.”  Download a copy below.


1st prize:  SCS Double Salmon Design Hoodie

2nd Prize:  Copy of Amy Gulick’s Salmon in the Trees Book

3rd Prize:  SCS Double Salmon T-Shirt

First 50 entrants will receive a camelback waterbottle 

Rules:  here

Rhonda Reany Salmon Design:  here

Mar 06 2012

President Obama Quotes SCS’s Favorite Conservation Author, Aldo Leopold

President Obama quoted one of SCS’s favorite authors, Aldo Leopold, during a White House Conference on Conservation on March 3rd.  Specifically, he cited the famous quote “Conservation is a positive exercise of skill and insight, not merely a negative exercise of abstinence and caution.”  Everyday at the Sitka Conservation Society, we are exercising our skills and insights as we work to find ways for Sitka to live within the majesty of the Tongass and thrive, while conserving its resources and ensuring they are there to sustain future generations.

Prior to his address, there was a panel discussion at the White House that discussed topics related to many of the land stewardship issues that SCS is working on.  One member of the panel was Maia Enzer, from the Portland based NGO Sustainable Northwest.  Maia visited Sitka in 2009 and helped us get SCS started on community-based collaborative resource management so that we can ensure that management of our Sitka Community Use Area is done in a way that responds to how we use and depend on those lands.  During her comments at the White House, Maia said, “the backbone of collaborative natural resource management efforts comes from small, rural community based organizations that have networks tin the community that connect to a lot of other communities and people [and] the accomplishments of these small community organizations is what gets to the systematic change.”  

SCS, the small community organization in the Tongass, is the best example in the region of a group that is implementing projects and initiatives on the Tongass with a new vision and using those successes to help change National Forest Policy across the nation.  As we work to connect our local network of neighbors and partners with organizations like Sustainable Northwest that help us tell our story and advocate on policy makers at a national level, we are making long-term change in public lands policy.  Thanks for the all the help and for the props at the White House Maia!!!

We applaud the White House’s attention to conservation and public lands and look forward to more positive policy changes on the Tongass.

Here is a link to video of the President’s address on Conservation:  here  (forward to min 16:55)

Here is a link to the panel discussion:  here  (forward to min 8:40)

Mar 05 2012

Fishermen Travel to Washington, DC to Advocate for Tongass Management that Prioritizes Wild Alaska Salmon

Salmon are the lifeblood of Sitka’s economy, culture, and way-of-life and are a keystone species in the temperate rainforest ecosystems of the Tongass.  Management of the Tongass has long focused on timber and historic logging practices were done in ways that severely damaged salmon runs.  The Forest Service has since learned that stream beds shouldn’t be used as logging roads and that there needs to be buffers between logging and salmon streams.  However, Forest Service management priorities and spending still overwhelmingly focus on timber harvest—even though salmon are really the drivers of the SE Alaska economy and the most valuable resource from the Tongass.

A group of fishermen are traveling to Washington, DC this week to lay out the facts for decision makers in Washington, DC.  They will be delivering a stack of letters from hundreds of people who use and depend on Salmon from the Tongass and ask for a shift in budget priorities in Tongass management.

To take action to help us protect Tongass Salmon, click here.


Read the Press Release Below on their visit below:

Fishermen to Forest Service: Grow Jobs, Protect Fish in America’s Salmon ForestGroup Asks Obama Administration, Congress to Strengthen Conservation and Restoration of Salmon and Trout Watersheds in Tongass National Forest

Juneau, A.K. — A group of Alaska commercial fishermen, anglers, guides, naturalists and tour operators are in Washington,
 D.C., this week to advocate for more conservation and restoration of fish habitat in the Tongass National Forest in Southeast Alaska. The group, together with Trout Unlimited, Alaska Program, and Sitka Conservation Society, is meeting with key lawmakers and agency leaders to seek critical changes in the management of America’s largest national forest, a top producer of wild salmon. They want conservation of critical salmon habitat and watershed restoration to become higher priorities for the U.S. Forest Service in Southeast Alaska. The group is also delivering dozens of letters from individual fishermen asking the Forest Service to make salmon a priority in the Tongass.

“Salmon and trout alone are a billion-dollar industry in Southeast Alaska that sustains more than 7,000 jo
The U.S. Forest Service is the lead agency that manages the 17-million-acre Tongass National Forest, part of the world’s largest coastal temperate rain forest that covers most of Southeast Alaska and produces tens of millions of salmon every year. Southeast Alaska commercial salmon fishermen landed nearly 74 million fish during the 2011 season, a harvest worth more than $203 million—the most valuable in the either directly or indirectly. And yet the Forest Service budget remains squarely focused on timber and road building. It doesn’t make sense given the enormous value of fish

eries in the region,” said Sheila Peterson, a Juneau commercial fisherman and co-owner of a direct marketing seafood business.

Sport fishing is also big business. Salmon and trout anglers in Southeast Alaska spent an estimated $174 million on trips, gear, and related expenses in 2007, according to economic research commissioned by Trout Unlimited. The


total economic output related to their purchases that year is estimated at $358.7 million. Salmon and trout angling also supported 2,334 jobs and generated $84.7 million in personal income in 2007. On average, sport anglers catch 900,000 salmon each year in Southeast Alaska. They also catch halibut, steelhead, trout, char, rockfish, lingcod, and other species.

Because of its stunning beauty, the Tongass draws more than 1 million tourists to Southeast Alaska every summer. Many come aboard cruise ships to view the forest’s snowcapped mountains, tidewater glaciers, pristine fjords and abundant marine and terrestrial wildlife, including brown bears, wolves and humpback whales.

Despite the bounty fishing and tourism provide to Southeast Alaska, the Forest Service budget fails to reflect this

economic reality.

The agency spends more than $25 million annually on timber sales and road building in the Tongass – an industry that supports about 200 private-sector jobs, according to the Alaska Department of Labor. At the same time, the Forest Service only invests about $1.5 million each year on watershed restoration. And yet, by the Forest Service’s own estimate, it will cost some $100 million and take 50 years at current investment rates to restore salmon-producing watersheds damaged by past logging. This funding shortfall and backlog needs to be addressed. Salmon watershed restoration will create new jobs and increase salmon productivity. More salmon will provide greater opportunity for commercial, sport, and subsistence harvest as well as additional jobs in the fishing industry.

“We hope the Forest Service will move funding in a new direction. It’s time to change the Forest

Service budget so that more money goes toward

managing the Tongass as the salmon forest it is,” said Jev Shelton, a longtime Juneau commercial fisherman who has served on many fishery boards, including the Pacific Salmon Commission.

For more than four decades, the Forest Service managed the Tongass primarily for old-growth timber produ
“There are fe

w places left in the world where wild salmon still thrive. The Tongass National Forest is one of them but we need to ensure watersheds that were damaged by past timber harvest and road building are restored to their natural conditions. The only way that’s apt to happen in a timely manner is through shifts in the Forest Service budget,” said Mark Kaelke, Trout Unlimited, Southeast Alaska Project Director.ction. But with the closure of the region’s two large pulp mills in the 1990s, the agency has begun to shift toward second-growth timber management, restoring fish-producing watersheds damaged by logging, and supporting other industries such as fishing and tourism. Trout Unlimited, Alaska P
rogram, supports the Forest Service’s transition and would like to see this policy shift reflected in a new Tongass National Forest budget that emphasizes fisheries, watershed protection and h
abitat conservation.

For more information, visit, and

Feb 18 2012

SCS Receives Grant from The National Forest Foundation to Use Local Wood and Plan Watershed Restoration Projects

The Sitka Conservation Society has been awarded a grant to partner with local organizations to build capacity for the use of Tongass young growth timber, and to create a long-term strategic plan for watershed restoration in the Sitka Community Use Area.  The grant is awarded through the Community Capacity and Land Stewardship Program, a collaborative program of the National Forest Foundation and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The two-phase project will build momentum of the Sitka Collaborative Stewardship Group by partnering with local high schools and community members. With the $20,000 grant, the project will last throughout 2012 and will result in a collaboratively defined Strategic Restoration Priorities List, a Best Management Practices document on partnering with the U.S. Forest Service on restoration projects, and initial efforts to advocate for the highest priority projects.

“The project will combine ecological data with social and economic priorities to create a framework that prioritizes where we need to restore salmon and deer habitat,” Said Scott Harris, SCS Collaborative Restoration Projects Coordinator. “It will also find ways to maximize local benefits to create jobs for local contractors to perform the work needed on the Tongass National Forest, as best for the community as a whole.”

SCS will partner with Sitka High School (SHS) on the young growth component of the project.   Industrial arts students will build furniture and a visitor’s kiosk for Sitka Sound Science Center with young growth timber harvested and milled on Prince of Wales Island.  These projects will take place during the 2012-2013 school year and will be the first time local wood has been used in SHS industrial arts projects in nearly a decade.

“It is exciting to bring local wood back into the classroom. There will be some differences in using young growth than what we usually build with, so it should be a good experiment to see the best ways to use the wood,” said Sitka High School industrial arts teacher, Randy Hughey. “It will also be a great opportunity for the students to learn about the local resources available and how they can support the Sitka economy.”

Based on the experiences at Sitka High, SCS will develop a best practices guide for buying local wood.  The guide will compare the cost of local young growth to imported wood, will detail where and when local wood can be purchased, and will explain properties of local young growth that may be different from conventional lumber.  SCS and SHS will host two educational open houses during the 2012-13 school year for local builders and other community members on the best practices.

Bill Thomason, owner of Alaska Wood Cuts Mill, will sell SCS young growth spruce from a stockpile of timber he acquired under stewardship contract during a 2007 habitat restoration project on Prince of Wales Island.

“We have been cutting and milling second growth here on POW for a few seasons now. It is great wood for a number of purposes, particularly in the construction of log and timber cabins as we are now doing,” he said. “We are really encouraged by the start of its use here in Southeast Alaska.”

“There are a lot of opportunities for using young growth timber from the Tongass, and I hope this experience will not be a one-time thing at the high school,” said Sitka contractor Marcel LaPerriere, owner of Southeast Cedar Homes, which uses wood from local sources. “I believe this is an opportunity to raise awareness and increase the commercial use around the region.”

The second component of the grant will focus on strategic planning for collaborative watershed restoration projects on the Tongass.  In recent years, the U.S. Forest Service, Sitka Conservation Society, Trout Unlimited and other partners have worked together to restore salmon streams damaged by industrial logging practices decades ago.  Despite the work and successful partnerships, projects have proceeded without a community-derived strategic plan.

“There are important watersheds in the Sitka Ranger District that were heavily impacted by logging during the pulp mill days. We know that this has had a negative impact on the number of fish these watersheds produce,” Matt Lawrie, a 2nd generation Sitka salmon troller said. “I’m hopeful that this project will bring together agency staff, fishermen, and locals with knowledge about local watersheds and it will lead to more habitat restoration projects that will increase Coho numbers and create more stability and resiliency for salmon populations.”


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