Intern Job Title: “Using Story-telling and Media for Social Change Organizing” Internship
Location: Sitka, Alaska
Description and Goals of Assignment:
The native people who have occupied Southeast Alaska for thousands of years learned to live with the land and the resources the landscape provided. For them, living locally wasn’t a trendy thing to do, but was a reality that was dictated by geography, climate, and available resources. Southeast Alaska as a place—the actual landscape—helped to define the culture of the people that lived there. One of the cultural developments that the landscape helped create was the use of story-telling as a method of passing along customs, practices, skills, and ideals from one generation to the next and amongst clans and extended cultural networks and groups. As anthropologist Thomas Thornton notes in his seminal work Being and Place Amongst the Tlingit, “Events, beings, objects, [ideals] and places typically become at.óow(sacred) when they are crystallized as encapsulating images and consecrated through use.”
At the Sitka Conservation Society, we have learned from and adopted these story-telling customs as a way to share our conservation ideals and conservation ethic and the story-telling practice continues to be an important part of our Southeast Alaskan landscape. As noted by the Island Institute’s Gary Holthus in 2010, “One secret of creating an enduring culture is to choose those healthy stories…” For the Sitka Conservation Society, for the Native People of Sitka, and for the diversity of groups that constitute Sitka and Southeast Alaska, those healthy stories that create an enduring conservation culture are the stories that teach us how we can use and depend on our natural environment while also protecting and preserving that environment. Some of the stories that we tell that exemplify this include:
- The stories of the original activists who stepped up despite all odds to save a part of the landscape that was slated for destruction
- The right way to hunt, fish, trap, and gather resources from the environment to both be successful and to ensure that the resources aren’t depleted so that we can provide for the continuity of that resource for future generations
- The story of the lives lived that exemplify community and conservation ideals and service to the community to built and sustain
- The stories of the animals, plants, fungi, and processes of the ecosystem and their interrelatedness and how they work together to create the whole
In the past, stories were told around campfires and at potlatch celebrations. We still do that today. But even more, with the access we have to technology and media, we have an infinite number of mediums where we can tell our stories and instill our values and strive to create our enduring culture of conservation and sustainability and reach much larger audiences.
As part of our work for the Fish, People and Place Campaign on the Tongass in 2013, we will strive to integrate and recreate the native cultural traditions of shagoon, our sense of place and being, across our community and region, using storytelling. We will use stories to both help define and shape who we are as a community and a place; we will also use these stories to tell others who we are, to share the lessons that we have learned, to inspire in others, and to promote a sense of a need to protect and conservation this place and the livelihoods and lifestyles that are unique to the Tongass and Southeast Alaska. We will tell these stories using 21st century media and we will reach new and varied audiences in innovative and effective ways.
- Community Organizing: build relationships and networks amongst community members who use and depend on the natural environment of the Tongass
- Share stories that exemplify our conservation ideals and demonstrate people finding ways to live sustainably within the natural environment of the Tongass and build their communities
- Use diverse media to share our stories and reach diverse audiences (local, regional, state-wide, and national)
Document the ways that the people who live in Southeast Alaska exist in a close relationship with the natural environment that surrounds them. Document the conservation ethic and values that have evolved alongside the lives and livelihoods of people of Southeast Alaska that co-exist in a close relationship with the natural environment. Use photography, audio, video, and media to share these stories and values.
- Spend time with Sitkans and Southeast Alaskans who use and depend on the natural environment including fishermen, tour guides, subsistence gatherers, scientists and researchers, land managers, contractors, etc.
- Use informal interviews to collect and document unique stories and relationships
- Use photography, writing, video, and other media to document stories
- Use innovative media to share stories and ideals with larger audiences
- Use creative and innovative approaches to tell new types of stories that foster increased knowledge and understanding and promote civic and environmental action.
- Ability to effectively work with people of diverse backgrounds
- High level of problem solving ability; high level of ability to work independently; high level of ability to adapt and innovate
- Demonstrated ability to document stories and represent ideals through writing, photography, and/or video
- Knowledge of Southeast Alaska
- Ability to work for extended periods of time in the outdoors, especially in maritime and Wilderness environments; WFR, Leave No Trace training, or Wilderness Leadership experience/certification preferred
- Master Degree level experience in field pertinent to the position
- Demonstrated knowledge and experience in conservation issues and philosophy
This is a paid internship. Amount to be determined by Alaska Conservation Foundation.
Since the Forest Service first announced its Tongass Transition Framework in early 2010, the Sitka Conservation Society has both partnered with the agency and sought models to demonstrate ways Tongass second growth timber can be used locally and sustainably. We know there is a significant interest in the use of local wood, and we believe Southeast Alaska communities can sustain small second-growth timber operations and mills. Local builders are interested in realizing this vision. However the Forest Service still needs a little convincing to move away from a dependence on unsustainable old growth logging. With the help of a National Forest Foundation grant, we recently donated 1,800 board feet of local young growth Pacific red alder to the Sitka High School industrial arts department for students to use in building night stands. Our hope is if students can successfully use this local wood in their first-ever carpentry projects – and perhaps discover a few of its quirks – local builders and the Forest Service will take note, and give more consideration to local second growth. To learn more about the Sitka High industrial arts classes’ use of local alder, listen to this article by KCAW radio.
Sitka Conservation Society has an established history of monitoring, education, and eradication of invasive species all the way from Yakutat to the Stikine River. This past week and for a week in November, SCS staff and volunteers helped organize and run two experiments in nearby Whiting Harbor.
The problem species is Didemnum vexillum, also known as “marine vomit,” or “rock snot.” It is probably from Japan, although by the time the species was discovered it had already established itself on enough continents that this guess can only be made by comparing different populations’ genetic diversity. The helpful species is a small snail known in Latin as Marsenina stearnsii. It lives on and appears to eat the invasive tunicate.
First, SCS resident Erin Fulton and myself (SCS Americorps volunteer Paul Norwood) got permission to cross the airport runway at night during an extremely low tide. We calculated that 31.5% of the low intertidal zone was colonized by the invasive species, and after surveying twenty square meters in more detail, we got more data on snail densities.
We also collected enough Marsenina stearnsii snails and tunicate colonies to set up the predator experiment the next day.
The next day, Patrick Fowler from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, myself, and Jasmine Shaw from UAF’s Cooperative extension service, went back to Whiting Harbor by boat to collect data on a genetic compatibility study for San Francisco State University, measured the samples, installed environmental data loggers, set up a predator study, and collected fecal pellets from snails that were captured the previous night.
On Monday morning, I arranged with the University of Alaska Southeast to use their lab, and examined the snails’ fecal pellets (also known as “snail turds” in scientific parlance).
Almost all the samples showed evidence that the snails had been feeding on invasive tunicates, which is very encouraging for the study. If the current experiment shows equally positive results, it is possible that our little snails will one day be used for invasive species control all up-and-down the West coast
Sitka has brought a myriad of new experiences for me in the short amount of time I have been here. I’ve learned I can home make my own jam or fruit leather from berries. I can process my own deer and have meat. I can harvest mushrooms and use them for a meal. These things were never a part of my upbringing. If you saw a berry on a bush in Chicago, you probably only ate it if you were dared. I have the opportunity to interact with the Tongass in more ways than just hiking the trails. Home making my own products seems much easier now than ever before.
To build off the idea of making my own foods or products, the other JV’s and I have decided to try a chemical challenge for the month of December. There are too many harsh products with destructive properties in household items. We are spending one month exploring alternatives to these products. To help protect our streams and ocean from these harsh chemicals that will inevitably make it there after it’s sent down the drain, we will create our own environmentally friendly products.
We are making one new homemade product or cleaning supply each week. This will include things like counter disinfectant, shampoo, toilet bowl cleaner, and more. After some research, we have found some common threads in homemade cleaning supplies, such as baking soda and vinegar. We have started collecting these types of ingredients to create some new cleaning supplies. Each week we will build off the previous product so by the end of the four weeks we will be consistently using four new cleaning solutions. Our goal is produce less harmful runoff and less of a footprint on our environment.
Salmon is an integral part of our community and it is the underlying backbone of what sustains us here in Sitka. Fisherman, processors, and fish eaters all have an investment in the livelihood of salmon in Alaska. Approximately 48 million wild salmon are caught every year in the Tongass. In order to keep our salmon healthy and safe, it is crucial that we protect our waters. Salmon are obviously hurt by trash and litter in the waterways, but chemicals are also effecting them. This could be overlooked because at a glance a river would look healthy and safe, but chemicals leaving our homes through the pipes or trash are making there way to the water. The EPA considers runoff to be the largest threat to water quality in the country currently. Investing in environmentally friendly products will help not only salmon, but the whole Tongass ecosystem. Check back at the end of the month to hear all about our new products and to get recipes to do this yourself!
The Sitka High School industrial arts classes and Sitka Conservation Society invite you to an open house of student handiwork featuring red alder harvested from False Island and processed in Sitka. Come to the SHS woodshop (follow signs from the front door) on December 19th, from 4:00-5:00 p.m., to learn more about the unique properties of red alder, and opportunities for using local wood in your home projects. Light refreshments will be served. This project funded by the National Forest Foundation. Contact Ray Friedlander at 747-7509 for more information.
The only thing more abundant than trees and salmon in the Tongass National Forest is the multitude of stories and memories that we’ve all made.
There are many ways in which we can measure the “value” of the Tongass and the numerous gifts it provides us: the salmon caught, the electricity generated, the fresh water consumed, the plants and berries harvested, the tours given. These are all important and tangible aspects of the Tongass, but it leaves out a big and pretty influential part of the Forest: us, the people who have made Sitka and the Tongass our home. From those of us born here, to those who have come to make Sitka our home, we all have stories, traditions, and memories from our time living here in the Tongass.
At SCS, we’re working to restore not only the ecosystems of the Tongass, but the connections people have to this wonderful place.
What better way to rekindle old connections and create new ones than to share our stories with each other?
Please send your stories to firstname.lastname@example.org, and be sure to include where your stories/traditions/adventures occurred (and please attach any photos you’d like to share too). We’ll link all of our stories to a map of the Sitka Community Use Area and post it on our site for all to see and enjoy. We’re looking forward to reading about the many wonderful experiences you’ve all had in the Tongass!
Salmon are the backbone of the economy and the way-of-life in Southeast Alaska. Many of our regional leaders recognize the importance of salmon for Southeast Alaska and recently worked with the Sitka Conservation Society to articulate why Salmon are important and the efforts they are taking to protect and sustain our Wild Salmon Populations. With support from the State of Alaska Sustainable Salmon Fund and Trout Unlimited Alaska, SCS helped to produce a series of “Targeted, effective, and culturally competent messages on the importance of wild salmon and salmon habitat will be created that are customized to appeal to specific Southeast Alaska communities.”
The work of the Sitka Conservation Society strives to find the common ground that we all have to the natural world that surrounds us. We work to build upon this common ground to chart a course for policy, practices, and personal relationships that create an enduring culture of conservation values alongside natural resource management that provides for current and future generations. In Alaska, we have in Salmon an opportunity to do things right. We are proud when are leaders recognize and support this vision and take actions that manifest this support. Listen to what they have to say:
Listen to: Senator Mark Begich
“We have an incredible salmon resource in Southeast Alaska. Did you know that salmon provide a 1 Billion dollar industry that powers the local economy? And that catching, processing and selling salmon puts 1 in 10 Southeast Alaskans to work? Salmon is big business throughout Southeast Alaska and symbolizes the richness and bounty of the Tongass National Forest. Healthy and abundant salmon–something we can all be proud of!”
Listen to: Senator Lisa Murkowski
“Since I was a young girl growing up in Southeast the region has been sustained because of the diversity of our economy, and a key part of that diversity is our salmon which fuel a 1 Billion dollar commercial fishery annually. Not to mention the sport fisheries’ economic contributions. Catching, processing and selling salmon accounts for 10% of all regional jobs. Everyone is lucky to live in a place that produces such bountiful fisheries. Healthy and abundant salmon–something we can all be proud of!”
Listen to: Dale Kelly – Alaska Troller’s Association
“Did you ever think that an old log lying in the stream might be good for salmon? Turns out it is! A fallen tree creates pools and eddies where salmon like to lay eggs. These areas are also nurseries for young salmon. Back in the day, people used to clear logs from salmon streams, but that’s no longer allowed and restoration work is underway in some rivers. Healthy forests mean healthy salmon–something we can all be proud of!”
Listen to: Bruce Wallace – United Fishermen of Alaska
“Did you know that conserving and restoring salmon habitat means jobs for Southeast Alaskans? Salmon already employ about 1 in 10 people here. Restoring salmon watersheds damaged in the past means more fish, bigger overall catches, and more jobs. With support from the Alaska Sustainable Salmon Fund, forest restoration projects are underway in the Tongass National Forest. Healthy forests mean healthy salmon–something we can all be proud of!
Listen to: Sencer Severson – Salmon Troller
“Southeast Alaskans love our rare spells of hot, dry weather, but heat and sunshine can be bad for salmon–in fact, they like shade. That’s why our towering trees in the Tongass National Forest are so important for our salmon to reproduce. Leaving trees along salmon streams provides essential shade. It also prevents erosion and keeps rivers in their natural channels. In the Tongass, healthy forests mean healthy salmon!”
“Alaska’s sustainable salmon management depends on good information. That’s why technicians may ask to look at salmon you’ve caught. Fish with the adipose fin removed usually means the salmon had a tiny wire ta implanted in side when they were juveniles. These tags provide managers with important information on the origin of the stock. Healthy and abundant salmon–something we can all be proud of!”
Thanks to everyone who came out to the 2012 WildFoods Potluck! Check out the photos, get an update on the prize winners, and even see the presentation on SCS’s Restoration work below.
And the Winners Are:
Most Filling (Judges: Courtney Bobsin and Paul Killian)
Ellen Frankenstein—Crab Loaf
Chris Leeseberg—Lingcod Curry
Prizes: Pickled Beach Asparagus (donated by Gimbal Botanicals) and a Eating Alaska DVD donated by Ellen Frankenstein
Best Dish/ Most Wild (Judges: Jud Kirkness and Wendy Alderson)
Linda Wilson—Potato pepper pickle pea salad
Kerri Fish—Panang Curry with halibut cheeks
Prizes: $100 gift certificate to Alaska’s Own (co sponsored by AO and SCS) and a homemade hemlock/cedar cutting board made by Spencer Severson with a Victorknox knife donated by Murray Pacific
Best Side (Judges: Marsh Skeele and Tachi Sopow)
Kerry O’toole–venison, goat cheese, and pickled crab apple
Prizes: one night paid in a FS cabin and two summer boat cruise tickets (both prizes sponsored by SCS)
Best Dessert (Judges: Fred Fayette, Veronica, and Kerri)
Darlene Orr –Cloud berry bites
Prize: $30 gift certificate donated by the Larkspur Cafe
Most Creative/Artistic (Judges: Chelsea Wheeler and Elena Gustafson)
Judy Lehman–salmon lingnon berry pizza
Prize: $60 gift basket donated by WinterSong Soap Co.
SCS’s Watershed Restoration Mission presented by Scott Harris
2012 Potluck Photo Gallery
Background: The US Forest Service has adopted the Tongass Transition Framework, a program intended to shift forest management away from the out-dated and ill-fated old growth logging paradigm toward management that support multiple uses of the forest, including recreation, restoration, subsistence, and second-growth management. This is an encouraging recognition of the region’s important natural resources, but the figures don’t match the Forest Service’s transition plan. Check out the figures here.
For example, the Forest Service still spends over $22 million a year on logging and road building, but only $6 million on recreation and tourism and $8 million on restoration and watershed. Our fishing industry relies on healthy watersheds and restoring damaged salmon stream. Our tourism industry relies on recreational facilities and wildplaces for visitors to get the Alaska experience. It just so happens that these are also the two biggest industries in Southeast, together supporting over 15,000 jobs and providing just under $2 BILLION to the local economy. Logging on the other hand only supports 200 jobs.
Take Action: Please ask the Forest Service to follow through with their Transition Framework and put their money where their mouth is. Write to the Undersecretary of Natural Resources, Harris Sherman.
Contact:Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell U.S. Dept. of Agriculture 1400 Independence Ave. S.W. Washington, D.C. 20250
Please also send a copy to SCS at email@example.com so we can hand-deliver all of your letters to the Undersecretary himself in Washington, DC.
Some key point to include in your letter:
- Tourism and fishing are the two largest economic drivers in Southeast Alaska.
- Logging and road building cost tax payers $22.1M annually, while the Forest Service only spends $6.1 M annually on tourism and $8.1M annually on fisheries and watershed management. BUT, the timber industry only supports 200 jobs— tourism supports 10,200 and fishing supports 7,200.
- The Forest Service has adopted the Tongass Transition Framework, a program to transition from timber harvesting in roadless areas and old-growth forests to long-term stewardship contracts and young growth management. This is an encouraging recognition of the need to protect the region’s natural resources and fundamental economic drivers: tourism and fishing, BUT the Forest Service needs to reflect this transition in their budget.
- Be sure to include your personal connection to the Tongass, it’s forests and natural resources.
- Also, be sure to include how you rely on the Tongass—for subsistence, recreation, business, etc.
Example: Here’s an example letter I wrote. Feel free to use this as a template:Your Address Here Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell U.S. Dept. of Agriculture 1400 Independence Ave. S.W. Washington, D.C. 20250 Dear Chief Tidwell: I am writing out of concern for my home. I live in Sitka, Alaska, a small fishing community in Southeast Alaska surrounded by the Tongass National Forest. Our entire economy revolves around our natural resources. I have been a guide for many years with a sea kayak tourism company. When my clients, or really anyone, come up to see Alaska they want to see three things: bears, forests, and salmon. Luckily for me as a guide, if you find one of them, you’ll find the others. For instance, if you find a salmon stream, you’d better be on the look-out for a bear; if you want to find a good salmon stream, go to the healthiest, oldest forest; and if you want to find a stand of big healthy trees, follow the salmon and bears. Just as the bears, salmon, and tress are connected, so too are our industries: tourism, fishing, and timber. In Sitka, we’ve already seen that poor logging practices kill our fishing industry by destroying the spawning-streams, the birthplaces of our salmon populations. Without standing forests and salmon fishing, tourism wanes in response. Recently, though, we have also seen that if all of these industries are balanced, our communities benefit as a whole. Small-scale logging, responsible fishing, and eco-friendly tourism have been growing at increasing rates and are the model for a new future for the Tongass. In Southeast, we are trying to build a sustainable future, and we are succeeding. My concern for my home stems from your agency’s spending priorities. Like any healthy and productive systems, our economy and your budget need to be proportionate and well-balanced. So, why does your agency spend just $6.1 million on recreation and tourism and $8.1 million on fisheries, but about $25 million annually on timber and road-building? That is certainly not a balance, and considering that fishing is our largest industry and tourism is the second in line, it is nowhere near proportionate. As the Forest Service, you say that your job is “caring for the land and serving people.” To care for the land and serve people in Southeast (and anyone who values these wild places) please redistribute your budget priorities to reflect the real situation on the Tongass. Imagine if we invested $25 million in salmon habitat restoration and recreation instead of timber. In four years, we will have completed all of the restoration projects needed on the Tongass. Compare that to the 50 years it will take at current rates. Speaking for all of us in Southeast Alaska, we cannot wait 50 years. Thank you for your consideration. Sincerely: Adam Andis
We see it just about every day, and the time is coming for us to pay a little closer attention to it: Kruzof Island
North Kruzof is the next item on the Forest Service agenda for a new management plan. But what does the Forest Service have in mind for north Kruzof? Something called an Integrated Resource Management Plan or IRMP.
In a nutshell, an IRMP is
“a collaboration using an inclusive process to find common ground across the many stakeholders and to leverage our investments for broader conservation impacts… blending a cross section of forest management activities, such as forest thinning, decommissioning roads, and removal of fish passage barriers – all of which lead to improved forest and grassland health and watershed function”¹.
So how will this translate into real life on Kruzof?
Kruzof is being managed for a number of different attributes: salmon habitat, recreation, hunting, wildlife habitat, transition into old growth forest, and to a much lesser extent – timber extraction. The new IRMP will seek to further the progress on each of these attributes in a cohesive way, with management activities working towards multiple goals across the landscape. Some of these activities could include:
- Gap treatments - as the name suggests, this consists of creating a small (about 1/4 acre) clear cut in a young growth stand. This mimics natural disturbances such as a blow down from high winds and storms. These gaps in the canopy allow more light to reach to the forest floor, in addition to creating wider spaces between trees.
- More light = more plant life on the forest floor, namely plants that deer and other animals depend on for food, like blueberries and huckleberries.
- More room = bigger trees can grow. If you’ve ever tried to bushwhack through a stand of second growth trees, you know what a dense thicket many of those stands can be. Removing some trees in a gap treatment also mimics the natural die-off that would occur as some trees out-compete others for light. The ‘winning’ trees can now devote more energy to growing outwards, speeding up the process of skinny second growth trees growing into giant old growth trees that existed there before logging.
- These big trees will eventually fall, and hopefully into a salmon stream!
- Trees removed from the forest will be available (to a limited extent) for use by Sitkans as firewood, building materials, and more. Gap treatments that will also be removing the downed trees will only occur in a few places on north Kruzof, and will likely be fairly limited.
- Upstream V’s - in streams, like Shelikof creek, that were ‘stream cleaned’ during logging operations (removing all logs and other obstacles from the stream bed in order to allow machinery to use it as a roadway), logs are placed back in the streams in a large “V” pattern to mimic the presence of former logs and the conditions they created.
- Pools to rest in and hide from predators are created by having large logs in streams. Calm pools for salmon to rest in are important for their long and arduous journey upstream to spawn. Once hatched, salmon fry also depend on these same pools as a place to rest as well as hide from predators. More complex stream conditions (deep, calm pools, tangled branches, swift moving water) create more varied habitat for salmon to thrive in. More thriving salmon means greater spawning success and larger salmon runs in the future.
- More salmon to eat, for people, bears, ravens, eagles, and even the forest itself! The abandoned salmon carcasses left in the forest by bears and other animals fertilize the forest as they decompose, bringing in essential nutrients all the way from the ocean.
- Improved Roadways- if you’ve driven an ATV on Kruzof lately, you’ve noticed the “speed humps” that have been created to slow down ATV traffic, making it safer for all users. In addition to these installments:
- Clearing trails that are overgrown will not only make those trails safer for those who do venture on them, it will allow other users access to these roadways.
- Maintaining and improving current roads and trails will allow for easier access and more enjoyable experiences for all users, and will also discourage new trail-blazing in these areas.
- Cabin/Facilities Upkeep- while already a part of the Forest Service system, the cabins scattered across Kruzof could be given more attention and upkeep as needed/requested.
- Additional amenities could also be a part of cabin/facilities upkeep, such as hardened trail access to and campsites at North Beach, a culture camp for the Tribe, wildlife viewing platforms at Iris Meadows, additional mooring buoy at Mud Bay, ”meat poles” for hunters to hang deer, etc.
These activities, and possibly others, will be “mixed and matched” in order to best meet the goals and objectives of each of the many management attributes of Kruzof Island. Having an IRMP for Kruzof is an exciting opportunity, as it allows both the Forest Service, as well as Sitkans, much more flexibility when managing a landscape like north Kruzof: no rigid “cookie cutter” approach to management.
Even more exciting is how this IRMP is being created – with direct input from the public! Coming up on January 16th at Centennial Hall, everyone in Sitka will have a chance to make their ideas and desires for north Kruzof heard during a public meeting with the Forest Service and the Sitka Collaborative Stewardship Group. This summer, the Sitka Collaborative Stewardship Group, along with some other ‘stakeholders’, took a trip out to north Kruzof to brainstorm some ideas on what they’d like to see happen there. This meeting will incorporate ideas from the summer as a jumping-off point for more discussion on what Sitkans want to see on their public lands.
For more information on the Kruzof public meeting, contact Ray Friedlander at firstname.lastname@example.org
Can’t come to the meeting, but still have ideas you want to be heard? Contact Erin Fulton at email@example.com
¹US Forest Service Fiscal Year 2012 Budget Overview document