The extensive clear-cut logging in the Sitka Ranger District from the 1950s to the 1990s created new forest of quickly-growing, uniformly-aged conifers. This dense "second growth" forest impairs habitats for Sitka black-tailed deer and brown bears by creating such an efficient sunlight block that forageable understory is virtually non-existent. Combine the lack of a traditional understory plants with the almost untraversable slash that's often left behind and former clear-cuts have the potential to become ecological deserts that last for over 100 years.
Restoration thinning, where clearings are deliberately made in second growth forests to mimic the effects of wind-throw and to increase the age diversity of the forest, are an important tool in SCS's efforts to mitigate the long-term effects of clear-cutting. With restoration thinning, we can help re-create the light-filled environment of mature old-growth forests and greatly improve habitat for Tongass flora and fauna. When thinning is done by local contractors and the wood can be used for local projects, the forest, the animals, and Sitkans all benefit.
Alaska’s salmon habitats were also negatively impacted by previous logging practices. Before changes were implemented in 1990, approximately 500 miles of streamside habitat in Southeast Alaska were logged, leading to the loss of critical spawning habitat for salmon. Streamside logging also lead to a long-term shortage of "large woody debris", or large logs that fall into streams, which provide important shelter for juvenile salmon. Unmaintained or hastily built logging roads have also caused problems by blocking streams or contaminating them with large amounts of sediment.
Stream restoration includes replacing or removing bridges and culverts that block fish passages and placing large wood in channels to create rearing habitat for fish. These activities can have immediate positive effects and help rebuild the Tongass’ prominance as the “Salmon Forest”.
The SCWSP is an effort to get Sitkans out into our Wilderness Areas to help SCS conduct research and monitor the health of the Tongass. Find out how you can help by volunteering on a research expedition or by collecting data on your next hunting, hiking, kayaking, or fishing trip.
The Sitka Conservation Society, Trout Unlimited, and the US Forest Service conducted a multi-year salmon habitat restoration project on the Sitkoh River funded by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game's Sustainable Salmon Fund. In-stream work was started in spring of 2012 and completed the summer of 2013. Click the links to learn more about this success story.
In the Spring of 2011, the Sitka Conservation Society partnered with the Tongass National Forest to implement restoration thinning in the forests of Starrigavan Valley. Funding was provided by the National Forest Foundation and SCS. This project has achieved multiple objectives and remains active. The recent landslide in Starrigavan valley has created an exciting new opportunity for interpretation and natural science experiments as well.
Each May in Starrigavan Valley, nearly 100 7th Graders from Blatchley Middle School spend a few days learning about stream restoration and monitoring. In the classroom, the students learn about watershed ecology and salmon habitat. Next, they hit the field and help professional watershed managers install in-stream wood structures to rebuild fish habitat.