Finding Balance at the Speed of Trust

The Sitka Conservation Society is a founding member of the Sustainable Southeast Partnership (SSP). SSP is a diverse network of organizations working together to meet the challenge of sustainable community development in Southeast Alaska. It is our collective mission to empower rural Alaskan communities to reach cultural, ecological, and economic prosperity.

SSP brings together a truly varied group of organizations ranging from conservation-focused groups like SCS to dedicated economic development organizations like Haa Aaní, LLC. SSP works across the region and includes seven tribal governments, specialists in energy independence, food security, natural resource stewardship, and economic development. Collectively, we take an integrated and holistic approach to sustainable development in Southeast Alaska.

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SCS is part of this network because we believe that ecosystems and communities are served best when they function in balance. We cannot conserve ecosystems across the globe by simply setting aside lands and promising not to touch them. Rather, we need to rethink the ways in which societies and economies interact with the global environment, and we must reconceptualize what it means to “develop”. SSP pursues development following a ‘triple-bottom-line’ philosophy that balances environmental considerations, economic needs, and social values.

This robust and diverse partnership stands at the forefront of a promising new direction in Southeast Alaska where regional and community stakeholders work collectively within our communities to find balanced solutions to our region’s most daunting challenges.

And now, you can read about how SSP came to be, our values, how we work together, and our successes and lessons learned so far. We hope this story will be inspiring and useful for other regions and communities interested in the work SSP does and how we model our partnership.

Click here to read the full story: Finding Balance at the Speed of Trust.

 Home to old-growth forests, towering peaks, and salmon streams feeding whale-filled waterways and 32 culturally-vibrant rural communities, Southeast Alaska is unlike anywhere else. Alaska Natives indigenous to this region have histories of resilient economies stretching back millennia. However, for decades, we’ve experienced protracted conflicts around resource use that have created enmity between conservation groups and industry. Local economies have declined as milling has become less viable and as extractive activities have impacted the wildlife habitat residents rely upon for subsistence harvesting. We now import most food and energy sources, and, due to issues arising from the relatively recent colonization of Alaska, we face a lack of assets and capacity to pursue more sustainable approaches to growth not dependent on boom and bust cycles.

Southeast Alaska is still home to the world’s largest remaining coastal temperate rainforest; this place and the ways of life it supports are increasingly rare global treasures. To ensure this story continues for millennia more, we must find a common understanding of how economies, communities, and a healthy environment can co-exist and co-evolve.

Through deep collaboration with communities, the Sustainable Southeast Partnership is striving to answer these questions: How can we support community well-being and build projects benefiting our families and neighbors? How do we protect our rainforest home so future generations can continue to depend on its resources? How do we build a robust and diverse economy supporting more self-reliant rural communities? As with all of our work, we hope this story amplifies the voices of community members as they articulate how they wish to sustain the traits that make their hometowns unique, the starting points for thriving, resilient prosperity.

—Paul Hackenmueller, 2018 Program Director Sustainable Southeast Partnership

SSP

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