Sitka Conservation Society
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.




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


Feb 07 2014

Alaska Way-of-Life 4H

Want to get involved with 4H? 4H is a positive youth development program to get youth civically engaged and apply leadership skills at a young age.

Our 4H Adventure Series starts February 18!! This series will be Tuesdays through May from 4:15 – 5:45pm for ages 8 to 13. Skills we will explore are: map and compass navigation, using survival kits, GPS and geocaching, fire building, shelters, knots, water purification, Leave No Trace Wilderness ethics, bear awareness, and other skills to prepare for an overnight trip!

New 4H members are encouraged to join! Please share with friends who may be interested.

Attendees must be 4H members. Please complete the registration forms before the 18th. Copies are available at the Sitka Conservation Society.

Registration is open for this series by e-mailing Mary or Tracy or by calling SCS at 747-7509.

Get outside and explore!


Feb 06 2014

A 4H 2013 in Review

The Alaska Way-of-Life 4H club had a full year of getting youth outside, civically engaged, and exploring the Tongass National Forest. In 2013, young Sitkans explored the Tongass by foot and kayak, and gave back to community elders. 4H is a prime example of how SCS is meeting its goal to educate people to be better stewards of the Tongass and to live in a sustainable relationship with the natural world.

Out of our network of over 70 families, 46 active 4H members in Sitka explored the Tongass forest in 2013. They learned how to identify and process wild edibles: spruce tips, Lingonberries, Huckleberries, Labrador tea, mushrooms, and rose hips. We made jams, jellies and fruit leather that were donated to elders at the Pioneers Home to give back to the community. A night hiking series stretched the members to explore the night and use their sense of smell, hearing, and sight with a new focus. In addition to hiking club, summer programs included gardening club, kayak club and a fishing clinic. The youth cultivated and harvested vegetables in the St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm, learned the basics of kayaking safety and technique and paddled the Sitka Sound, and learned how to make a lure and tie it to a fishing pole. The year rounded out with an outdoor survival series educating youth how to be prepared and stay safe for outdoor adventures in the Tongass.

4H is open to youth ages 5 to 18. 2014 marks the adoption of the national 4H community club structure. There will be monthly meetings with all the project clubs, such as Alaska Way-of-Life and Baking, leadership opportunities, and public speaking. Want to get involved in 4H? The Alaska Way-of-Life project is going strong with the Living with the Land Naturalist series on Fridays and gearing up with a new Adventure Series starting February 18 for ages 8-13. Check out the SCS events calendar for specific dates and times. We are always open to new members curious to explore the Tongass and learn with us! Contact Mary at 747-7509 or

Get inspired by getting a snapshot of what we did in 2013!

Feb 05 2014

Seeking Summer Wilderness Intern

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 2014 summer field season.

If interested, please review the position description below and submit a resume and cover letter to Adam Andis at


Position Title: SCS Wilderness Project Internship


Host Organizations: Sitka Conservation Society

Location: Sitka, Alaska

Duration: 14 weeks, starting in May 2014. 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 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, multi-day backpacking
  • Sea kayaking skills and experience
  • ·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
  • Sea kayak certification from American Canoe Association or British Canoe Union


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
  • 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!


Timeline (Approximate)

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:

Application will close March 31, 2014.


Jan 30 2014

Voices of the Tongass – Hannah Hutton

Hannah Hutton is the storyteller this week on Voices of the Tongass. To listen to her episode, scroll to the bottom of this post. Be sure to admire the very tall girl and very small pony on your way.

Photo by Berett Wilber 


Jan 24 2014

Young-Growth Bike Shelter Installed!

Chris Pearson and his crew from Coastal Excavation pose in the shelter after transporting it to its final home.

Last week, after much anticipation, SCS was able to get the Young Growth bike shelter installed at the Sitka Sound Science Center. If you haven’t had a chance to check it out, we encourage you to do so. It’s the product of multiple community partnerships and hard work. This summer SCS produced a video about the bike shelter and it features time lapse footage of the shelter going up and an interview with Randy Hughey, the instructor at Sitka High who designed the shelter along with local craftsman Dan Sheehan.

To celebrate, we will be holding a small dedication celebration on Tuesday, January 28th, at 3:00 PM.  If you are interested in a bike ride, meet up at Totem Square at 2:45 for a quick ride down to the shelter.  We will be thanking people who have helped along the way and have some light refreshments.

We can’t thank all of these great people enough for their help with this project!

National Forest Foundation, CCLS program
Randy Hughey and Dan Sheehan
Sitka Sound Science Center
Chris Pearson and Coastal Excavation
City of Sitka Parks and Recreation
Mike Litman – Precision Boatworks
US Forest Service
Bill Thomason
Mel Cooke
Good Faith Lumber
Keith Landers H & L salvage
S&S Contractors
Baranof Island Brewing Company
SCS members, staff, interns and volunteers

Jan 23 2014

Voices of the Tongass – Dylan Hitchcock Lopez

This week on Voices of the Tongass we get to hear from Dylan Hitchcock Lopez. To listen to the episode, scroll to the bottom of this post. For more on the influence place has had in Dylan’s life, keep reading.


Photo by Berett Wilber

Dylan Hitchcock Lopez grew up fishing off the coast of Baranof Island, and has since lived all over, including Fairbanks, Homer, Colorado, New Mexico, and Wales. Yet, like the salmon he fished for as a kid, he returns every summer, to work with his family and reconnect with the place that he thinks of as his home: Sitka, Alaska.

For Dylan, there’s a simple answer to why he keeps coming back, an answer that looms in the back of the minds of many Alaskans who grew up on boats and trails: geography. “It’s a lot more important to me than to people from other places,” he says. “The places I lived after Alaska – everything was really small, safe, controlled. Here, the community is so small relative to the mountains and oceans and everything around it. Your idea of place becomes dominated by habitat and ecosystems rather than by man made structures, like it would be anywhere else.”

But he also acknowledges that Alaska is far from perfect. His experiences all over the state exposed to him to realities that many Alaskans prefer to avoid, deferring to the beautiful landscape to represent the state instead. But for Dylan, it’s important to think about Alaska from a macroscopic perspective. “We’re a kind of screwed up state on that level,” he says, “Here, where we have basically an insignificant amount of people and a vast amount of natural resources – if we had a more intelligent way of investing our resources Alaska could be so far ahead of the rest of the country, and yet we’re a little behind. We have some really frightening statistics.” Domestic violence, alcohol and drug problems, depression, suicide rates…these are problems that many young Alaskans hear about or experience every day, but as Dylan puts it, “It’s such a big place and there are so few of us that it’s easy to ignore these problems that are staring us in the face.”

And yet, he keeps coming back to Alaska. “Having that sense of truly caring about a place not just intellectually” – he stops himself, to clarify. “I might identify with America on an intellectual sense, but I don’t identify with it in a personal sense. It’s just a concept, it’s too big, it’s just words. When I think about being from Alaska, I have feelings, memories – those statistics I mention earlier make me feel sad and angry in a way that is not entirely rational.”

But they’re also not something that scares him. On the contrary: “The fact that we have so many problems is more of an impetus to want to come back,” he says. ”It’s the only place I have a personal connection to, that I really care about in that sense. I don’t think you ever care about a place like you care about the place you grew up.”

So does he have Alaska in his permanent plans? When I ask, he ducks his head and gives us an answer that resonates all too well. “I used to say absolutely not,” he tells me, “and every year I lean more towards probably. It’s a pretty hard place to leave.”


Jan 22 2014

Working with communities to study river restoration

Forest Service Biologist Sarah Brandy describing the Twelvemile Restoration Project to a group of students from the Tatoosh School

Scaling local projects to achieve regional impact!

The Sitka Conservation Society has entered a strategic partnership with the Tongass National Forest to engage local communities in the assessment of the habitat restoration projects on Twelvemile Creek, Prince of Wales Island.

In Sitka over the past several years, we have developed the capacity and partnerships to engage our community in pro-active natural resource stewardship. This has included developing a program to implement and study the effects of projects that restore fish and wildlife habitat damaged from past logging practices, developing K-12 and university curriculum materials for salmon habitat, and getting students and volunteers out in the field conducting ecological studies and collecting information that will be used by resource managers such as the US Forest Service.

Funding that has made this work possible include the Sustainable Southeast Partnership, the National Forest Foundation (NFF), and SCS members. Now we have the opportunity to work with the US Forest Service to bring these types of programs to communities on Prince of Wales Island. Funding will be provided by the National Forest Foundation. So by leveraging capacity and funding sources, we and our partners will have the opportunity to bolster and enhance watershed and fisheries programs across Southeast Alaska, and engage communities all along the way. Other partners and participants will include the Universities of Alaska Anchorage, University of Alaska Southeast, Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game, and schools on Prince of Wales Island.

SCS Executive Director Andrew Thoms: “This funding helps us take successful initiatives we have begun in Sitka to integrate stakeholders, community members, and students in Tongass Forest management to other communities and places on the Forest.”

Large wood was placed in Twelvemile Creek to help create habitat for spawning and rearing salmon

The program on Prince of Wales will use a “Triple-Bottom-Line” approach to help build socially, economically, and environmentally resilient communities.

Environment: Working with the Tongass National Forest, we will operate a seasonal non-lethal trap to count and assess salmon smolt that are migrating out of the Twelvemile Creek Watershed on Prince of Wales Island. Collecting this type of data is critical for evaluating the effectiveness of habitat restoration activities. The USFS Tongass National Forest, in partnership with The Nature Conservancy and the National Forest Foundation, conducted restoration work on this creek over the past few years to restore salmon spawning and rearing habitat impacted by past logging activities. This monitoring project will be an integral part of the Watershed Restoration Effectiveness Monitoring Program of the Tongass National Forest.

Economic: The Tongass National Forest produces an average of 28% of Alaska’s annual commercial salmon harvest.  Because salmon support 1 in 10 jobs in Southeast Alaska and create an economic impact of $1 billion dollars in the regional economy, projects that protect and restore salmon runs are of critical importance to Southeast Alaska communities.

Economic (part 2): In partnership with the UAS Fisheries Technology Program, local youth will also have vocational training opportunities as interns working at the fish trap, along with receiving career and educational counseling from fisheries professionals – possibly leading to careers as resource managers in the backyards where they grew up.

Social: Teachers and students from Prince of Wales communities will take part in classroom-based Salmon Curriculum and outdoor-based Steam Team activities. Stream Team is a statewide program where students collect field data to assess water quality and stream health.


Jan 16 2014

Voices of the Tongass – Whale Watching

This week Voices of the Tongass brings us a poem by Berett Wilber entitled Whale Watching. To hear the poem read aloud by the author, scroll to the bottom of this post.

Photo by Berett Wilber


Jan 16 2014

Standing up for the Alaskan Voice

Fellow Supporter,

House Bill 77, or the “Silencing Alaskans’ Act,” is up for vote in the state senate this legislative term. The passage of this bill would cut Alaskans out of permitting decisions for any project on state lands, particularly projects that could destroy salmon habitat. The bill would give only the unelected Department of Natural Resources Commissioner power to approve permits without having to notify the public of potential impacts unless the impacts are deemed by the Commissioner as “significant and irreparable.” HB 77 also omits citizens, non-profits, and tribes from being able to apply for in-stream water flow reservations that protect fish and wildlife habitat, or be used for recreation and parks, navigation and transportation, and sanitation and water quality.

As of now, the average citizen can apply for an in stream water flow reservation to protect important salmon streams in their community. This will go away however if HB 77 is approved.

This is where you come in. If you are in Senator Stedman’s district, give him a call and let him know you appreciate him standing up for the voice of Alaskans by opposing HB 77. The Senator’s phone number is 907-465-3873.

Want to take it a step further? Get in touch with me and we’ll work together to represent Southeast’s disapproval of HB 77. The bill goes out on the Senate’s floor this session, so we gotta act fast. Call 907-747-7509 and ask for Ray.

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Keep up to date on all of the issues. Check out "The Southeaster" Blog.

  • Hungry for Huckleberry Pie, Venison Stew, or Fresh Greens? Come to the Wild Foods Potluck Nov. 2!
  • Stand Up to Corporate Influence!
  • Kayaking Kootznoowoo: Report on SCS’s Final Wilderness Trip
  • Encouraging Local Natural Resource Stewardship on the Tongass: Kennel Creek
  • Teaching the Alaska way of Life: 4-H in Sitka
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