Sitka Conservation Society

About Andrew

Andrew Thoms, Executive Director, Andrew Thoms grew up in rural Upstate New York State. After studying Environmental Sciences at SUNY Plattsburgh, he worked for 10 years in Latin America as an environmental specialist in international development projects. Most of his projects focused on the interface between the sustainable use of natural resources and the conservation of tropical biodiversity. One of his favorite jobs was developing and integrating new techniques for cultivating coffee in an environmentally sustainable way on a Guatemalan Coffee farm that he managed for a few years. Andrew received a Master’s degree in Conservation Biology and Sustainable Development at the University of Wisconsin where he concentrated his studies on conservation and economics. Andrew enjoys being outdoors hunting, birdwatching, fishing, and exploring.

Feb 10 2012

Calling on Friends in Wisconsin to Help Save Tongass Salmon

Dear Wisconsin Friends:

Greetings from Sitka, Alaska in the Tongass National Forest in Southeast Alaska.  I hope that you can all get up here to visit sometime and see what an amazing place it is.  You should definitely come and visit too because most of the land around here you own.  That’s right, it is almost all public lands in the National Forest system so it is essentially yours!

The town that I have been living in for the last 6 years since I left Wisconsin is right on the coast of the Pacific Ocean.  We have the ocean in front of town and mountains rising up in back.  There are an infinite number of bays, fjords, island, and coves.  It is a lot like the boundary waters area but with bigger mountains, temperate rainforests, salt water, and whales, sea lions, seals, killer whales, Brown Bears, and some glaciers.   Most importantly, there are salmon!

The big issue I am working on right now is on protecting and restoring the Salmon on the Tongass.  They were really damaged by awful and devastating clear-cut logging over the last few decades.  This logging really impacted the ecosystems here and they are still healing.  We are working diligently to restore the salmon streams.  This is especially critical because my community and all the other communities in Southeast Alaska, depend on the salmon that come from the Forest.  Commercial fishing, charter fishing, and subsistence fishing are all really important and is a core part of our way-of-life here.

The problem we are trying to fix right now is that the Forest Service is still spending about $30Million a year on timber harvest even through there is only about 150 jobs in timber.  The fisheries and watershed budget on the Tongass, which is tasked with protecting and restoring salmon habitat, only gets $1.5 Million dollars, even though it employs over 4000 people.  We want that funding to switch.  We don’t want all timber harvest to go away… there is room for some logging.  But the Tongass National Forest is really best managed to produce salmon.

I know that everyone in Wisconsin loves fish and I hope that you eat our Wild Alaska salmon.  If you have, it probably comes from the Tongass.

I want to ask you to help us by writing to your Senator Kohl.  He is on the committee that oversees that Forest Service budget.  Next Thursday, he is going to be asking questions to the Forest Service chief.  You can help us here by writing to the Senator and asking him to ask the Forest Service chief when they are going to shift funding on the Tongass to management for Salmon.

This would be an immense help for us and I think this is entirely doable.  And I’ll also promise that if we are successful and your senator asks the Chief about the Tongass, I’ll come back to Wisconsin with a big cooler full of salmon and we’ll have a salmon Bar-be-Que at the church.


If you write a letter, please send me a copy (make sure to put your address on it) so we can keep track and deliver them to him when fishermen from Alaska go to Washington to ask for this same budget shift. [email protected]

Here are some of the main points to mention:

  • Over 35% of Salmon caught in the United States are born and spawn on the Tongass National Forest in Alaska
  • Salmon fishing provides about six times as many jobs in the in the Tongass as the timber industry
  • The Forest Service spends about $25 million on timber  programs in the Tongass compared to $1.5 million on salmon stream  restoration projects;  those numbers need to be switched
  • Senator Kohl is on the Budget Committee that oversees that National Forest Budget.  He will be asking questions to the Forest Service chief on Thursday Febuary 17th.  Tell Senator Kohl to ask the Forest Service chief when they are going to start to manage the Tongass for Salmon


You can get more information here:


Andy Thoms


Feb 10 2012

The Tongass is America’s Salmon Forest

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 from the Tongass are a sustainable resource that can continue to sustain communities, livelihoods, and ecosystems well into the future– if we manage the land and waters correctly.  The Forest Service is at a critical cross-roads right now in its “transition” framework as it moves out of Industrial Old Growth Logging and into more diverse and sustainable ways to create benefits from National Forest lands and resources.  Because the Tongass is America’s Salmon Forest,  and because Salmon are so important to all of us, we encourage the Forest Service to shift resources into the Tongass Fisheries and Watershed program and work to protect and restore salmon habitat and our salmon fisheries.

You can help us protect Tongass Salmon by taking action: here

Feb 02 2012

Sealaska Land Privatization Bill

Background: The Alaska Congressional Delegation has introduced bills in the House and Senate that would take tens of thousands of acres of prime Tongass lands and privatize them by passing them over to the Sealaska Corporation.  The Sitka Conservation Society opposes this legislation and sees it as a threat to the Tongass and to the ways that we use and depend on the lands and waters around us.

Beyond the over 80,000 acres of prime forest land that they are trying to take that will surely be clear-cut, they are trying to take land in ways that could be even more destructive.  One of the worst aspects of the legislation is that it would give Sealaska the opportunity to select over 3600 acres of land in small parcels throughout the Tongass as in-holdings within the National Forest.  We are already seeing what this means as Sealaska is working to privatize the important fishing site at Redoubt Lake.  Here they can strategically select only 10 acres and virtually “control” the entire watershed.  It is frightening what they could do if they had thousands more acres to select.  We already know that they are planning on cherry-picking the best sites.  Around Sitka, we already know that they want to select sites in all the sockeye producing watersheds and sites in important use areas like Jamboree Bay and Port Banks.

Most chilling is that Sealaska is mixing the issue of race and culture into their own corporate goals.  They are cynically calling the 3600 acres “cultural sites.”  While it is true that there are important sites that were used throughout history by Native Alaskans, they should not be privatized by a corporation with the mandate to make profit.  They sites should stay in public hands, be protected by the Antiquities act, and be collaboratively managed by the clans who have the closest ties to them.

Further, sites that were important in the past because of their fish runs and hunting access are still important for the same reasons today.  They should not be privatized.  They should be honored by their continual traditional uses and their public ownership.

Take Action: You can take action by writing letters to Congress and to the Forest Service Chief telling them to oppose the Sealaska Legislation.

Please write to Chief Tidwell:

Tom Tidwell Chief of USDA Forest Service
US Forest Service
1400 Independence Ave., SW
Washington, D.C.
[email protected]

Please also write you congressmen.  If you live in Alaska, write to:

Senator Lisa Murkowski
709 Hart Senate Building
Washington, DC 20510
Email to staff: [email protected]
Senator Mark Begich
144 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Email to staff: [email protected]
Representative Don Young
2314 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Jan 13 2012

Action Alert: Make Wild Alaska Salmon a Priority!

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 between communities and salmon is still one of the most important associations that we have with the natural environment of the Tongass.

Take Action: Management of the Tongass National Forest is currently at a critical crossroads.  As we begin to move beyond the ill-fated, industrial logging phase of Tongass Management, the region and the Forest Service is striving to define a new paradigm for Tongass Land Management.  The decision makers who govern the Tongass need to hear from you now that management for Wild Alaska Salmon is the most important use of the Tongass National Forest.

You Can Help Now: by writing letters to Alaska State Senators, the Undersecretary of the Department of Agriculture, and the Alaska Regional Forester telling why Salmon are important for SE Alaska and how our dependence on the lands and the waters of the Tongass revolves around Salmon.

Here are some of the important points that you can highlight:

  • Salmon are the backbone of the economy of SE Alaska
  • The economic value and the jobs created by commercial harvest of Salmon is much greater than the economic value of the Timber industry—even though more money and resources are spent on the timber program ($30million) than salmon management and restoration ($1.5 Million).
  • Salmon are important for both the local seafood industry, the SE Alaskan visitor industry, and rural communities who depend on subsistence fishing
  • Subsistence harvest of salmon on the Tongass is one of the most important protein sources for SE Alaskans— outline how subsistence caught salmon are important for you
  • Forest Service management of subsistence fisheries (such as Redoubt Lake) have enormous benefits for Sitka and other SE Alaskan Communities–  expanding this program is critical
  • Salmon Habitat Restoration Projects—such as the work being done in the Starrigavan Valley and Sitkoh River  in Sitka—are the most important efforts currently being conducted by the Forest Service on the Tongass.  This work should be continued and expanded.
  • The success of Tongass Management should no longer be tied to “million-board feet of timber produced” but rather should be measured on the successful rehabilitation, enhancement, and continuance of Wild Salmon Runs on the Tongass
  • Continued and expanded research and investigation on Alaskan Salmon is a huge priority to assess how we will manage salmon in the face of climate change

What to do:  write a letter, send it out to decision makers, pass it along to SCS so we can help make all our voices heard, and continue to get involved. 

Send Letters to (email is fine):

Senator Lisa Murkowski
709 Hart Senate Building
Washington, DC 20510
Email to staff:  [email protected]
Senator Mark Begich
144 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Email to staff:  [email protected]
Undersecretary Harris Sherman
Department of Natural Resources and the Environment
U.S. Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Ave., S.W.
Washington, DC 20250
Email: [email protected]
Tom Tidwell Chief of USDA Forest Service
US Forest Service
1400 Independence Ave., SW
Washington, D.C.
[email protected]
Beth Pendleton
Regional Forester
Alaska Region 10
[email protected]

Please send a copy to us at the Sitka Conservation Society offices at [email protected].    We will keep track of the letters that are received by decision makers and work on getting them delivered in person by a fisherman to decision makers in Washington, DC.

Jan 13 2012

Fishermen at the Capital

The Sitka Conservation Society is working hard during this Forest Service budget preparing season to advocate for a shift of Tongass funding from a disproportionate logging program to a focus that manages our largest National Forest for Salmon.  It is high time that we made this shift because salmon are the lifeblood of our region for our ecosystems, our economy, and our way-of-life.  Now is a critical time to write letters supporting the Tongass’s Fisheries and Watershed program and ensuring that the Forest Service is putting Tongass funding in the programs that benefit our wild, Alaska Salmon and the communities within the Tongass.

You can help by writing a letter, click here to Take Action.

In December, SCS was able to help Matt Lawrie, a local Sitka Troller, travel to Washington, DC to take copies of letters that Fishermen and community members wrote asking for a shift from Forest Service spending on Old Growth Clear-cutting in the Timber program to the Fisheries and Watershed program to restore and protect Tongass Salmon Habitat.  Matt personally delivered the letters to Harris Sherman, the Undersecretary of Natural Resources, Senior Staff at the USDA Rural Development offices, staff from the President’s Management and Budget Office, and spoke personally with the Chief of the Forest Service and delivered the message on the importance of Tongass Salmon.

The meetings were frustrating because everyone acted like they agreed that funding needs to shift from Timber to Salmon, but everyone seemed to point the finger that someone else had to step up and demand the change was made.  It seemed that some of the decision makers that were visited (The Forest Service Chief and the Undersecretary) were genuinely happy that commercial fishermen were visiting DC and speaking up on the budget because they are slowly recognizing the importance of the Tongass National Forest’s role in producing salmon and sustaining a sustainable fishery and sustainable livelihoods and that they agree that this shift needs to be made.

Officials were also glad that commercial fishermen and concerned community members were finally visiting because the timber lobby visits at least twice a year to keep the programs funded that log the Tongass!

We always knew that timber had a big lobby and it is likely why more money is going to cut down the Forests that salmon depend on than restoring the damage that pulp mill clear-cutting has done to the Tongass that needs fixing.

The fact that Matt and the other fishermen visited the same offices as timber shows us that we are doing the right thing.  It was really good that young fishermen stand up and speak too because he represents a new generation on the Tongass that is looking ahead to the future and thinking about sustainable management of Tongass resources— the opposite of what we’ve had with clear-cut logging.

We are going to try to send more fishermen back to Washington in February to advocate for a Forest Service budget that focuses on Salmon and Watershed restoration.  We want to take back at least 200 letters from fishermen in February.  That would be 40 more letters than there are timber jobs in Southeast Alaska (160 timber jobs, over 4000 jobs related to Salmon).

You can help us by writing letters to the regional forester, the undersecretary of Natural Resources, our Alaskan Senators.  Tele Aadsen did a really good blog post that outlines the issue calls fishermen to action.  It is a great post to point people to for motivation:

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

  • Hungry for Huckleberry Pie, Venison Stew, or Fresh Greens? Come to the Wild Foods Potluck Nov. 2!
  • Stand Up to Corporate Influence!
  • Kayaking Kootznoowoo: Report on SCS’s Final Wilderness Trip
  • Encouraging Local Natural Resource Stewardship on the Tongass: Kennel Creek
  • Teaching the Alaska way of Life: 4-H in Sitka
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