Sitka Conservation Society
Apr 29 2012

Living with the Land and Building Community in Southeast Alaska

Sitka, Alaska in the heart of the Tongass National Forest

The Tongass National Forest is the heart and soul of Sitka and the people who live here, as has been the case for thousands of years.

 The Tongass provides our food, and it provides jobs in the fishing and tourism industries, which are the backbone of Sitka’s economy. The  Tongass is also where we go to relax and find inspiration.

 When the Tongass is not well, neither is Sitka, a fact that has driven the work of the Sitka Conservation Society for over 40 years.

 This blog will tell stories of the ways the Sitka Conservation Society, the people of Sitka, and all of Southeast Alaska, are finding ways and solutions to build communities that live with their natural environment and turn away from the unsustainable practices that were tried over the last 200 years.  This blog will include stories of individuals, groups,  practices we have learned, natural history concepts, and much more that  we hope will begin to help us learn how to live with the land and build  sustainable communities in Southeast Alaska.

Apr 27 2012

Wilderness Project 2011 Final Report

The Sitka Community Wilderness Stewardship Project seeks to connect communities with their local Wilderness areas by facilitating volunteer stewardship and monitoring.  Over the past three years, the project has been an overwhelming success and will be continuing in to 2012 and 2013.

This is the Final Report for the 2011 Community Wilderness Stewardship Project.  Components of the Data Report for the 2011 project can be found below.

Can’t see the report?  Down load the pdf here: Wilderness Project 2011 Final Report

2011 Data Report

Cover sheet

Solitude Data Instructions

2011 Solitude Monitoring Data

2011 Plant List

2011 Plant Survey Map – West Chichagof-Yakobi

2011 Plant Survey Map – South Baranof

2011 Bird List

* Data is primarily for Sitka Ranger District.  Data for other ranger districts can be found in the in reports specific to each Wilderness Area in thefull project file below.

Wilderness Stewardship Project 2011 – Full Project File- The full project file contains all photos, reports, data, radio interviews, videos, and products from the 2011 project.  (This is a large file–3.5 Gb)




Apr 27 2012

May is National Bike to Work Month!

All of us here at SCS hope that you will join us in riding our bikes to work during the month of May in honor of National Bike Month!  Our friends at SEARHC, Yellow Jersey Cycles, UAS, Rotary, and Sitka Community Hospital have a load of events that will knock your sprockets off!  Be sure to check out the event schedule and don’t miss out!

Learn more at the Sitka Bicycle Friendly Community Coalition website.

Happy riding!

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.

Apr 20 2012

Weatherization 101 at Blatchley Middle School

Students in 6th grade learned about various ways to weatherize their homes. One of the topics in this lesson discussed the importance of proper ventilation.

Energy education classes in Blatchley Middle School are back by popular demand. Sixth grade social studies teacher, Tom Henshaw, welcomed a lesson on hydroelectricity and Sitka’s energy thresholds last semester and was so pleased with it, he requested another lesson focusing on energy this semester.

The lesson that all 115 students received was Weatherization 101. In this lesson, students learned a variety of ways to weatherize their homes for projects both small and large. Some of the weatherization projects examined were as simple as upgrading to energy efficient lighting. In this portion, students participated in class discussions that gave them an in-depth look at the difference between incandescent and compact fluorescent light bulbs. One of the more tedious and costly weatherization upgrades the students learned about was adding and identifying energy efficient insulation. Students were briefed on the four main types of insulation and given pros and cons for each. After analyzing the various insulation types, students broke off into groups and used their knowledge of insulation to rank four different samples of insulation from least to most efficient. Many of the groups were able to properly rank the insulation.

A group of students ponder which insulation is most energy efficient during a brainstorming session.

By the end of the lesson, students were aware of several ways to weatherize their homes and were encouraged to try some of the methods discussed in class with their families. Despite packed schedules at the end of this school year, several other teachers made it a priority to make Weatherization 101 available to their classes as well. One third grade class was taught this lesson last week and  a fourth grade class is scheduled to receive it in the beginning of May.

As a conclusion to the energy education these classes have received over the course of this year, each of the classes plans to take a field trip in May to experience Sitka’s energy first-hand. With the help and support of the Electric Department, the students will be able to tour the diesel generators the town uses when hydroelectricity alone cannot support electric needs. The tour will be led my engineer, Andy Eggen, and show students just how much diesel fuel is needed to run the diesel generators. When in full swing, the diesel generation plant uses eight truckloads of fuel in a single day! The students will also get a tour of the Blue Lake Powerhouse led by Senior Operator, Frank Rogers. During this part of the tour, students will look at how the City controls the hydroelectricity produced by the dams and will allow them to see the infrastructure that allows Sitka to have this renewable energy. By the end of this year, the hope is that some of Sitka’s youth will have the knowledge necessary to make wise choices regarding energy conservation and lead their generation towards an energy independent Sitka.

Apr 17 2012

Fish to Schools to be Honored at Benefit Dinner on Wednesday 4/25

When people from the lower 48 think of Alaska, images of the Deadliest Catch, the debate around drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the open tundra of the north often come to mind. But, there is a lot more to Alaska.

Despite the long winters and short summers Alaska is joining the nation’s growing farm to school movement. There are only a few farm to school programs in the Last Frontier recognized by the Alaska Farm to School Program. One of those programs is Fish to School.

Sitka’s Fish to School program is coordinated by the Sitka conservation Society, but it relies on the entire community to make it happen. It is a stellar program that interweaves a stream to plate curriculum, hands-on learning, tours of local processors and fish options on the cafeteria menus. This is the second year running and it is getting better with age. Even Alaska’s First Lady Parnell had a Fish to School lunch with the students on April 11th.

The Alaska Farm to School Program also thinks it is an A-plus project. On April 25th, SCS’s Fish to School program will be honored with the award of best farm to school program in Alaska for the 2011-2012 school year. Johanna Heron from the state’s Department of Natural Resources will present the award during a special Benefit dinner that will raise funds to cover the cost of next year’s school fish lunches.

The Benefit dinner will be prepared by Chef Colette Nelson, proprietor of Ludvig’s Bistro, and Pacific High School students. Chef Nelson, has been creating recipes for students at Pacific High School throughout the winter. Students rotate the responsibility of preparing lunch for the rest of the small alternative school as part of their food handler’s license job training. And then, they voted on their favorite recipe.

Crispy Oven Baked Rockfish won overwhelmingly. That entrée will be featured at the Benefit dinner and will be a model for future school lunches. The menu also includes salad with Alaska grown beets, sweet potato fries, blackened broccoli, home made bread, and carrot cake with Alaska grown carrots.

This is a community wide award ceremony and Benefit. Sitka proves that it defiantly takes a village to feed local, healthy seafood to the children and teach them about the wonders of fishing. Volunteer coordinators, the school food management service, fishermen, Tlingit elders all make the Fish to School program the best in Alaska, and possibly the best in the nation.

If you are in Sitka on April 25th, Sitka Conservation Society invites you to celebrate Fish to Schools. Eat some fish, support this local initiative, have fun, and help keep local fish in the schools! It will take place at Sweetland Hall on the historic Sheldon Jackson Campus. Doors open at 5:30pm and dinner begins at 6:00pm. Pricing structure: $20.00 adults, $15 seniors/students, and $5.00 for children. Tickets are available at Old Harbor Books.

To learn more about the Fish to School program visit and for information about the event, contact Tracy Gagnon at (907) 747-7509 or [email protected]

Apr 09 2012

Science Mentor Program ushers in the Tongass Transition

The future of the Tongass National Forest will be intimately tied to how engaged our communities are in its sustainable management. The Science Mentor Program involves Sitka youth in hands-on scientific research that explores important ecological questions regarding forest restoration. Listen to the Raven Radio story about how Sitka High student Justine Webb and UAS professor Kitty LaBounty are using genetic lab techniques to examine soil fungal communities in young growth forests. Check out the story at the link below.

Science mentors bring students into labs _ KCAW

Apr 09 2012

Stewardship Contracting: The Right Tool for the Tongass?

The False Island landscape in the Sitka Ranger District is an ideal location for utilizing stewardship contracting authorities such as best value contracting and collaboration.

Stewardship contracting, unlike conventional U.S. Forest Service contracting tools, offers a creative way to incentivize restoration by paying contractors in full or part with the value of the restoration “byproducts” that are extracted during a project. It also allows the agency to award contracts based on overall  best value to the government and local communities rather than lowest bid at the time. Stewardship contracts that exercise these authorities are desirable because they address significant challenges to habitat restoration and local economic development faced by rural communities.

Stewardship contracting successes in other states provide excellent models of the ecological, social, and economic benefits of this tool, but as the Forest Service works to translate stewardship contracting to the unique geography of the Tongass, there are significant concerns that must be addressed about how and what goals are being met.

What We Love

Stewardship contracting is the primary mechanism under which the U.S. Forest Service can implement best value contracting and enhance local benefits from projects, while responding more nimbly and effectively to mounting landscape-scale restoration needs. The intent of stewardship contracting is to “blend the need to restore and maintain healthy forests with the need to work closely with communities,”[1] which is why collaboration with communities is required throughout a stewardship project. Priority project types include watershed restoration, wildlife and fish habitat, invasive species removal, and other activities related to improving forest health.

Under stewardship contracting, the Forest Service has several unique authorities at its disposal designed to maximize the value of projects for both the Federal government and the local community. Best value contracting, which can allow the agency to rank bids based on criteria such as “local business” or “materials and supplies purchased locally,” is the only required authority. Others, such as the ability to trade goods for services, may be applied to suit individual projects. Together, stewardship contracting authorities allow local districts to integrate multiple projects into one efficient package; reinvest profits back into the landscapes they came from; actively support local economic development and capacity building; and focus on end result ecosystem benefits.

Not all second growth on the Tongass is valuable enough to be used in a "goods for services" transaction during restoration, however, old growth should not be used as a substitute.

What We Don’t Support

Although forests in other states have utilized stewardship contracting with great success for almost a decade, southeast Alaska is only just beginning to explore its potential. Experiments with stewardship contracting are taking place on Prince of Wales Island and in Kake, but unresolved questions about how the various authorities can and should be used are stifling experimentation and distracting the agency’s focus from accomplishing broader goals.

A particular barrier to implementing stewardship contracts in southeast Alaska has been the “goods for services” authority, which many consider a necessary component of the tool (although as stated above, the only mandatory authority is best value contracting). In states like Oregon, California, and Montana, where restoration projects can be paid for by selling byproducts to local pellet mills and other operations, this authority is a perfect fit. In landscapes like those that dominate southeast Alaska, however—where young growth is less mature, further from markets, and therefore less valuable—it is far less applicable.

Although trading goods for services is optional, and only one of many opportunities offered by stewardship contracting, districts in this region have begun resorting to large old growth sales to pay for restoration in a misguided attempt to force a fit. Using old growth to offset restoration costs is unheard of elsewhere in the country and, we believe, a gross misapplication of the law. The goods for services authority was designed to encourage local market integration and provide a more economical way to accomplish restoration objectives; large old growth sales do not fit this model, nor do they contribute to a key intent of stewardship contracting, which is to improve forest and watershed health.

As successes in the lower 48 have shown, stewardship contracting can be an effective way to enhance local economic development through restoration, but recent experiences in southeast Alaska remind us that focusing too intently on implementing a specific tool can lead to losing sight of the ideals that it represents. In this case, stewardship contracting is not the only method by which the Forest Service can engage in habitat restoration, collaboration with communities, project integration, best value contracting and local capacity building. In cases where restoration byproducts have no value, we would like to see the agency concentrate on exercising best value/local benefit contracting, long-term contracts, collaboration, and other applicable authorities; if this is not possible, we suggest that the agency use tools other than stewardship contracting to accomplish these goals.


Additional resources on stewardship contracting:

[1].“Everything You Wanted to Know about Stewardship End Result Contracting… But Didn’t Know What to Ask.” USDA Forest Service, USDI Bureau of Land Management. Available online at:

Apr 05 2012

Backwoods: “Gardening for Alaska’s Pollinators- the birds, bees and beetles!”

Speaker, Deborah Rudis is a Wildlife

Biologist and the Environmental Contaminants Specialist
for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Ecological Services
Offi ce in Juneau, where she has worked since January
1989. She is the FWS Alaska Region – Pollinator
Coordinator and is encouraging the National Wildlife
Refuges in Alaska to initiate bee surveys. She is
particularly interested in the promotion of fl owering plants,
especially in their importance to native pollinator species.

Tuesday, April 17


UAS Room 106



Apr 04 2012

Girl Scout Troop #4140 Presents: Earth Hour

Junior Girl Scout troop #4140 member, Autumn Dismore, persuades the audience to push for conservation efforts that make for a more energy independent Sitka (Photo provided, James Poulson, Daily Sitka Sentinel staff).

Saturday, March 31st was a day to remember for the girls in troop #4140. In order to earn the final award in the Get Moving Journey, the Innovate Award, the troop had planned an event that would allow them to showcase everything they learned about energy over the last seven months. The troop decided to combine the presentation of their work with an existing event promoted by Girl Scouts: Earth Hour.

Through the Forever Greencampaign, Girl Scouts hopes to bring communities together across a global effort to improve the environment and protect natural resources. As part of this broad mission, Girl Scouts designated March 31st as Earth Hour; an hour on this day in which everyone is asked to show their support of energy conservation by encouraging sustainable behavior change, reducing CO2 footprint, and saving energy by turning off every light in the building. The girls in troop #4140 felt that this existing event’s mission fit in well with their conclusions of the energy journey. The scouts made Earth Hour open to the entire community and held it at their school, Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary. They also invited participants to support energy awareness by attending this event, lit entirely by candlelight.

Troop #4140 laughes as they watch the presentation of the weatherization video they filmed, Caulking Cracks.

In order to get as many Girl Scouts involved at Earth Hour as possible, troop #4140 also invited every scout in Sitka to the event with the option to share how they have become more energy efficient this year. Several troops showcased their energy efficiency improvements, including a troop that turned old t shirts into reusable grocery bags. Junior troop #4140 gave those in attendance an in-depth look at exactly what they did to complete the journey. Some of the activities they did during the journey include learning about renewable energy and fossil fuels, doing informal energy audits at home, taking an energy tour of their school, and writing a letter of suggested weatherization improvements to the school board based on their findings. In fact, the girls were so inspired by energy conservation, they decided to record weatherization videos as an additional project outside of the journey. In these videos, the troop showed how to properly caulk windows and doors as well as how to make the lighting in your home energy efficient.  The troop finished the presentation of the journey by informing community members that they want to see energy education for youth and energy efficiency in school and other public buildings. They even encouraged attendees to try their hand in a little home weatherization saying, “if we can do it, so can you!”

Romy Bekeris smiles as she accepts her certificate of completion for the Get Moving Journey.

The support the Girl Scouts received at this event from both a community and statewide level was truly astounding. Over 75 community members and 27 Girl Scouts joined the event to show their support for Earth Hour and the troop’s mission to promote energy awareness. Of the participants, two community members acted as guest speakers giving the audience a more broad perspective of energy conservation in Sitka. Utility Director, Chris Brewton, was present at the event to give a special thanks to the girls for their conservation efforts which decrease Sitka’s dependence of diesel fuel. Sitka School District Board Member, Tim Fulton, also spoke at the event on energy use in the schools. In addition, he thanked the girls for the weatherization recommendations to the board and discussed the board’s tentative energy audit of Keet Gooshi Heen as a response. Melissa Edwards, Girl Scout Southern Tongass  Membership and Program Specialist who collaborated with SCS on the “Green Girls Grow” event, also congratulated the girls in troop #4140 for their achievement. Just last week, Senator Stedman himself sent a letter of recognition to the troop for their work and gave them each a forget-me-not pin, the Alaska state flower, to show his appreciation of their efforts to become more energy efficient. It is easy to see through the broad array of those who recognized the girls, that the impact of their work is of great importance to a sustainable future.


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Keep up to date on all of the issues. Check out "The Southeaster" Blog.

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  • Encouraging Local Natural Resource Stewardship on the Tongass: Kennel Creek
  • Teaching the Alaska way of Life: 4-H in Sitka
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