Sitka Conservation Society
Sep 04 2012

Sitka, AK – Where Theory Meets Practice

In July of 2012, thirteen undergraduate students from Knox College embarked on a 15-day wilderness expedition into the wilds of Southeast Alaska’s Tongass National Forest.  The trip was part of a semester long course entitled “Alaska: Forest, Fisheries, and the Politics of Wilderness”.  The course entailed an in-depth study of the history of natural resource management in Southeast Alaska.  The first part of the course took place on the Knox College campus in Galesburg, IL with a thorough exploration of the literature regarding natural resource extraction in Southeast Alaska.  This classroom based study of Alaskan resource management was complimented with a 15-day field expedition to the region the following summer.  This was the “hands on” component to what they had learned in the classroom.

The students arrived in Sitka, Alaska on June 27th, 2012.  After a few days of preparation they embarked on a 100 mile kayaking expedition guided by Latitude Adventures, a local kayak guiding operation.  For many of these students, this was their first experience camping, not to mention their first experiences in the great Alaskan wilderness.  After ten days on the water, exploring the intertidal zone, watching bears, eagles, and whales; the students arrive at False Island on Chichagof Island.  There the students then spent five days working side by side with the United States Forest Service restoring salmon streams that had been degraded by industrial logging.  They also had the opportunity to participate in a variety of scientific surveys aimed at understanding the complexities of young growth forests.

This expedition was so unique because it allowed the students to experience the places that they had learned about in the classroom, first hand.  For many, this was a trip of a lifetime.

Opportunities like Knox College’s course are available for colleges and universities throughout the nation.  It is the goal of the Sitka Conservation Society and the Sitka Sound Science Center to connect courses like these with our local assets.  We can connect you and your students with our local experts, guides, interpreters, and organizations to facilitate your course’s Alaskan education.

 

 

Aug 24 2012

Aboard the Gallant Girl

Honored in tradition, loved, feared and respected across every ocean on earth, killer whales have tantalized our curiosity for lifetimes. I had the opportunity to face these intelligent animals on Alaskan waters while cruising with Pauli Davis of Gallant Adventures. The encounter was humbling, unforgettable, and reminded me that truly wild places like Sitka Sound are absolutely unique, and that it is imperative that we protect wildlife on these pristine coasts so that we can continue to have interactions like these.  Seeing these whales helps us retain our connection with the natural world and instills a respect for the animals with which we share it.

Enjoy the little video I put together on the encounter.

“Perhaps one of he most beautiful things about killer whales is that they are always going to be a haunting, formidable and utterly mysterious presence moving somewhere at the dark watery edge of our world.” Richard Nelson

Thank you over and over again Pauli Davis for such a wonderful trip! Check out Gallant Adventures Wildlife Tours: http://www.gallantadventures.com
Aug 06 2012

Restoring America’s Salmon Forest

What comes to mind when you hear the term conservation? Petitions, polar bears, politicians, researchers? David Attenborough? Did heavy equipment tearing up a rainforest floor come to mind? Unlikely. Nestled deep within our earth’s largest temperate rainforest- conservation takes unique form.

This summer, the Sitkoh River Restoration Project mobilized a team of heavy equipment operators on the Tongass National Forest of Southeast Alaska. The US Forest Service, Trout Unlimited, Sitka Conservation Society and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game raised $318,000 and hired Aqua Terra Restoration to repair critical salmon spawning habitat damaged by clearcut logging in the 1970s. Logging adjacent to the river banks left the Sitkoh without adequate erosion control and the fallen timber salmon need. Dump trucks, chainsaws, and excavators converted blueprints and years of planning into wooden structures and a redirected riverbed that will return healthy fish habitat and stability to this damaged system.

Salmon habitat restoration is relatively new to the Tongass and constitutes a key part of the Forest Service’s transition from old-growth logging to young-growth management, forest restoration, and investment in other industries-such as fishing and tourism. Across the forest, similar river and stream restoration projects are in various stages or have been completed with great success. Multiyear, complex, and dependent on powerful partnerships this rich form of salmon habitat restoration is by no means easy. However, in a land where salmon are lifeblood to both ecosystems and residents, protection of this critical resource is absolutely vital.

Habitat restoration benefits fish, fish-dependent ecosystems, and fish-dependent economies. It also provides career opportunities to skilled ecologists and equipment operators passionate about safeguarding our environment- people who prefer hardhats to suits, the company of bears to water cooler gossip and all in all want to build something good for our earth as opposed to something that’s only good for industry.

There are over 70 damaged salmon-producing watersheds on the Tongass and the Forest Service estimates $100 million dollars are needed to repair them. Salmon and trout alone contribute more than $1 billion to Southeast Alaska’s economy and employ some 7,300 people. It is critical that salmon become the top management priority of our country’s largest national forest; managing for salmon employs restoration workers on the ground, benefits local subsistence and the fishing industry, and conserves salmon-dependent rainforest ecosystems.

The Tongass is one of the last remaining forests with healthy and abundant wild salmon runs. Making this species the Tongass’ top priority makes sense for the ecosystem, the economy and anyone who loves to catch, eat or simply view wild salmon.

Jul 07 2012

Restoration and Vocational Training Produce the Charming Starrigavan Cabin

What started as an idea to put second growth timber to practical use in 2007 has since taken shape as the most frequently used cabin in the Tongass National Forest. The Starrigavan Cabin Project combined local watershed restoration, community recreation and practical vocational training to produce a forest service cabin that four years later, continues to enrich the lives of Sitka locals and transients alike.

Many watersheds across the Tongass National Forest have been clear-cut and harvested for old growth timber. The resulting land is referred to as ‘young growth’ or ‘second growth’ and differs from its original landscape in various ecologically critical ways. Many plants and wildlife such as salmon and black-tailed deer, require the unique assets old growth landscapes offer; the encompassing health of larger ecosystems such as the temperate rainforest of the Tongass National Forest, depends on the existence of old growth. For that reason, organizations interested in protecting intrinsically and economically valuable lands and watersheds often turn to restoration efforts such as ‘thinning’ of second growth forests to accelerate the return of young forests to old growth conditions. A byproduct of restorative thinning is not surprisingly: second growth timber!

Unfortunately, second growth timber here is not as unique and economically marketable a commodity as Alaskan old growth. However, finding local economic use has proven not impossible and in light of the success with the Starrigavan Cabin project, second growth timber is becoming a beautiful and sustainable alternative to environmentally damaging old-growth clear-cutting.

Dustin Hack, a local Sitkan participant in the 2-week log home building class that resulted in the Starrigavan cabin (see above video), is pursuing the economic possibility of “a nationwide market for Alaskan second growth wood”. He explains that participation in this construction class opened his mind to the prospect of using second growth timber for wide-scale timber framing and applauds that “the US Forest Service, conservationists, city and tribe are all behind the effort to use second growth wood to build an economy here in Sitka.”

Although, one hundred and fifty cabins are available for recreation within the Tongass National Forest, the Starigavan Cabin is both the first ever produced using local second growth timber and the first cabin accessible (weather permitting) by vehicle. Therefore, not only did this cabin demonstrate a charming and functional use of second growth timber, it’s subsequent presence continues to extend forest stewardship to those unable to access Southeast Alaska’s more remote cabins.

The restoration work that resulted in the wood, the class that provided local vocational training, and the production of the Starrigavan cabin itself have left a truly significant legacy here on Baranof Island. A tangible demonstration of the shift from unsustainable old-growth harvesting to second growth restoration timber, this project is a reflection of a truly resilient and innovative community working to protect the vast landscape they are fortunate to call home.

To reserve your stay at the Starrigavan Cabin please visit: www.recreation.gov

To learn more about restorative thinning practices please download our briefing sheet by clicking here

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.

May 03 2012

Weatherization 101: Programming You Heater

Weatherization 101 is a six part series produced by the Sitka Conservation Society and the City and Borough of Sitka Electric Department to help Sitkans increase their energy awareness, conserve electricity, and save money.  Links to all six videos are below.

The State of Alaska has set a goal of achieving a 15% increase in energy efficiency per capita by 2020.  This effort is especially important in Sitka because the demand for electricity exceeds supply.  This effort is also important because the community has set goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  In an effort to help Sitkans take steps to reducing their energy use and save money on energy costs, SCS has teamed up with local partners to create a series of “how-to” videos.  The partners in the project include the City of Sitka Electric Department, Sitka Girl Scout Troop 4140, and local contractor Marcel LaPerriere.

Weatherization 101:  Programming your Heater

You can save up to 10% of your space heating bill by turning your heater 3 degrees lower for only 8 hours a day.  This video demonstrate how to use a programmable thermostat on a Toyo Heater.

 

Weatherization 101: Lightbulbs

Weatherization 101: Hot Water Heater

Weatherization 101: Choosing the Right Type of Caulking for SE Alaska

Weatherization 101: Caulking with Troop 4140

Weatherization 101: Home Breaker Panels

Video by Andre Lewis.

 

Apr 27 2012

Weatherization 101: Home Breaker Panels

During a panel outage, every electric user should turn off the breaker panels to ensure that the electric department can get power up and running again across the whole community. This video shows how to use your breaker panel to turn off the highest energy uses in your home.

Weatherization 101 is a six part series produced by the Sitka Conservation Society and the City and Borough of Sitka Electric Department to help Sitkans increase their energy awareness, conserve electricity, and save money.

Video by Andre Lewis.

Mar 29 2012

Weatherization 101: Caulking with Troop 4140

Girl Scout Troop 4140 has been learning all about energy during their Get Moving Energy Journey project as they work towards completing the requirements for their badge.  Part of their project was to share what they learn with the community.  In this video, join Girl Scouts from troop 4140 as they demonstrate the proper techniques for chalking your home.

Weatherization 101: Caulking from Sitka Conservation Society on Vimeo.

Weatherization 101 is a six part series produced by the Sitka Conservation Society and the City and Borough of Sitka Electric Department to help Sitkans increase their energy awareness, conserve electricity, and save money.

Video by Andre Lewis.

Mar 27 2012

Weatherization 101: Choosing the Right Type of Caulking for SE Alaska

The videos this week will deal with caulking.  Making sure that windows, doors, and seams are caulked and sealed will help save energy and money on home heating.  This video will teach how to choose the right type of caulk.

Weatherization 101: Choosing Caulk from Sitka Conservation Society on Vimeo.

Weatherization 101 is a six part series produced by the Sitka Conservation Society and the City and Borough of Sitka Electric Department to help Sitkans increase their energy awareness, conserve electricity, and save money.

Video by Andre Lewis.

Mar 22 2012

Weatherization 101: Lightbulbs

Girl Scout Troop 4140 has been learning all about energy during their Get Moving Journey, which focuses on energy. The journey consists of three prestigious Girl Scout awards, each containing several projects within itself. In addition to the regular Journey requirements, Junior troop 4140 took an additional task of recording weatherization videos to promote energy efficiency.  Join Girl Scouts from troop 4140 in this video to learn about light(two word)bulbs and how to choose more efficient lighting..

Weatherization 101 is a six part series produced by the Sitka Conservation Society and the City and Borough of Sitka Electric Department to help Sitkans increase their energy awareness, conserve electricity, and save money.

Video by Andre Lewis.

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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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