Extensive clear-cut logging in the Sitka Ranger District from the 1950s to the 1990s caused a fast-paced, even-aged growth of new conifers and other plants that is now impairing habitat for animals like the Sitka black-tailed deer. By creating a dense mass of trees that can shade out understory forage for deer, bear, and other wildlife for over 100 years, “second growth” forests diminish our subsistence resources and the normally top-notch functioning of Tongass ecosystems.
With restoration thinning, we can help re-create the light-filled environment of mature old-growth forests and greatly improve habitat for some of our most important subsistence resources. Restoration thinning can also lead to opportunities in the form of selling or otherwise using the timber “byproducts,” and stewardship contracting is an innovative way to achieve this.
Alaska’s salmon resource was also impacted by past logging practices. Before changes were implemented in 1990, approximately 500 miles of streamside habitat in Southeast Alaska was logged – in most cases leading to the loss of critical spawning and rearing habitat for salmon. Unmaintained roads and trails have also blocked fish passage to upstream habitat.
Stream restoration includes replacing or removing bridges and culverts that block fish passage and replacing large wood in streams that create rearing habitat for fish. These activities can have immediate positive effects and help rebuild the Tongass’ reputation as the “Salmon Forest”.
The Sitka Conservation Society, Trout Unlimited, and the US Forest Service, in conjunction with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s Sustainable Salmon Fund, have committed resources to conduct a multi-year salmon habitat restoration program on the Sitkoh River. A construction contract was awarded in 2011. In-stream work will begin in Spring 2012 and be completed by mid-Summer.
In the Spring of 2011, the Sitka Conservation Society partnered with the Tongass National Forest to conduct wildlife habitat restoration in the young growth forests of Starrigavan Valley. Funding was provided by the National Forest Foundation and SCS. This project achieved multiple stewardship objectives
Each May in Starrigavan Valley, nearly 100 7th Graders from Blatchley Middle School in Sitka spend a couple days doing hands-on stream restoration and monitoring. In the classroom, the students learn about watershed ecology and salmon habitat. Then they hit the field and help professional watershed managers actually install in-stream wood structures to rebuild fish habitat.
Protecting ecosystem diversity and finding sustainable ways to use the resources around us are two things that SCS cares deeply about, which is why this recent story on PRX - Food and Forests: Reviving Diversity - caught our eye. It chronicles a pretty inspiring model, based on the work of The Watershed Center in Hayfork, California, for [...]
Past logging practices, now disallowed, in the Sitkoh River watershed damaged important spawning and rearing habitat for salmon and steehead trout. For the past 12 years, the river has been flowing down an old logging road. Two years ago, SCS formed a partnership with the US Forest Service, Trout Unlimited, and the Alaska Sustainable Salmon [...]
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 [...]
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 [...]
At SCS, we know that getting people outside and participating in the stewardship of our environment is the single best way to realize our vision of a sustainable community living within the Tongass National Forest. Last summer, SCS, the Sitka Ranger District, and Sitka High School established a long-term monitoring study that will evaluate the [...]
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 [...]
Check out a cool Google Earth tour and photos of the section of Sitkoh River to be restored! The Sitka Conservation Society is partnering with the Tongass National Forest, Trout Unlimited, and the Alaska Dept. of Fish an Game to restore salmon habitat on a section of Sitkoh River that was damaged by past logging [...]
The Tongass produces more salmon than all other National Forests combined. These salmon are a keystone species in the temperate rainforest ecosystems and hundreds of species depend on them– including humans. Salmon have been a food source in Southeast Alaska for thousands of years and continue to be the backbone of the economy. The salmon [...]
In June of 2012, members of Wrangell’s Boy Scout Troop 40 joined forces with the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council (SEACC), the Sitka Conservation Society (SCS), the United States Forest Service and local volunteers to help remove invasive plants from the Stikine-LeConte Wilderness Area. The objective of the trip was to remove the aggressive reed cannery [...]
This is a guest post by Bonnie Loshbaugh about her reflections on SCS’s Tongass Salmon Forest Residency. This unique position was a partnership with the Sitka Ranger District and was tasked with telling the story of the Forest Service’s work restoring salmon habitat in the Tongass. Be sure to check out the fantastic slide show [...]