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.
This winter, students from Sitka High’s Field Science Class worked with the Sitka Ranger District to target wildlife habitat restoration activities. We mapped occurrences of Vaccinium species (Blueberry) and other deer forage plants in young growth forests. We then used data analysis and mapping technologies to identify potential locations where the Forest Service can create [...]
BACKGROUND: Clear-cut logging of the forests near False Island between 1967 and 1972 led to fast-paced, even-aged growth of new conifers, shrubs and herbaceous plants that is today causing serious problems for deer and other wildlife. After about 25 years of growth in a previously clear-cut area, conifers become so thick that understory shrubs and [...]
BACKGROUND: The Peril Project is a collaborative stewardship initiative designed to improve wildlife habitat and recreational access within the False Island/Peril Strait landscape. Planning for Peril officially began in 2010, but the “landscape-scale” project concept is rooted in three efforts that began as far back as 2006: the U.S. Forest Service False Island Integrated Resource [...]
Make Management and Protection of Wild Alaska Salmon a Priority in the Tongass National Forest! Background: 5 species of Pacific Salmon spawn in the Tongass National Forest. For thousands of years, those salmon have played a key role for the peoples and cultures that make their home on the Tongass. Today, the connections and traditions [...]