Hundreds of people throughout the state have come out in opposition to House Bill 77, known also as the Silencing Alaskans Act.
The Sitka community joined in opposition to HB 77 this past Thursday as well. Around fifty people showed up to a meeting scheduled with Department of Natural Resources Representative Wyn Menefee to get a better understanding of the bill. Mr. Menefee was unable to attend due to snow but the meeting still continued.
Linda Behnken, Executive Director of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association, helped frame the bill and answered questions posed.
“Is there anything in this bill that you like?” , moderator Eric Jordan read off a notecard given by a community member.
“If there are things that I like in this bill, I couldn’t point them out to you” said Behnken.” I do understand that DNR has interest in facilitating the permitting process so that there could be quicker decisions but I think they’ve gone way beyond that with this bill and that’s the message they need to hear from the people.”
That’s the message that was heard repeatedly at Thursday’s public discussion through the fourteen people that testified against the bill.
“Over 30 tribes have expressed opposition to HB 77 and Sitka Tribe is one of them,” said Michael Baines, Tribal Chairman of Sitka Tribe of Alaska.
“This bill attacks the basic constitutional guarantees of fish and wildlife protection. The public holds these resources in common yet [HB 77] gives priority to extractive interests that damage them,” said Matt Donohoe, board member of the Alaska Troller’s Association.
“I think a good example of things that happened when we didn’t have any kind of say about stuff was what the water used to look like when the pulp mill was operating”, said Kim Elliot, Alaska Department of Fishing & Game Advisory Council member. “We really have to think about what our future would look like if we didn’t have any rights to take care of the water upstream from our piece of property wherever that might be. People really deserve the right to question what the government is doing.”
Sitkans still want DNR to come to town and answer questions on HB 77, but this time it will be when we see the new amendments proposed on the bill. Right now behind closed doors, the Senate Rules Committee is proposing changes to the bill because of the hundreds of people that have outspoken against it. This reminds us that public participation IS in fact key to the way we manage our shared natural resources, and our rights as Alaskans.
For more information on House Bill 77, go to www.standforsalmon.org and join us in writing Governor Sean Parnell to let him know of your opposition to HB 77 and to the giveaway of your rights as an Alaskan.
Governor Sean Parnell
Alaska State Capitol Building
PO BOX 110001
Juneau, AK 99811-0001
House Bill 77, or the “Silencing Alaskans’ Act,” is up for vote in the state senate this legislative term. The passage of this bill would cut Alaskans out of permitting decisions for any project on state lands, particularly projects that could destroy salmon habitat. The bill would give only the unelected Department of Natural Resources Commissioner power to approve permits without having to notify the public of potential impacts unless the impacts are deemed by the Commissioner as “significant and irreparable.” HB 77 also omits citizens, non-profits, and tribes from being able to apply for in-stream water flow reservations that protect fish and wildlife habitat, or be used for recreation and parks, navigation and transportation, and sanitation and water quality.
As of now, the average citizen can apply for an in stream water flow reservation to protect important salmon streams in their community. This will go away however if HB 77 is approved.
This is where you come in. If you are in Senator Stedman’s district, give him a call and let him know you appreciate him standing up for the voice of Alaskans by opposing HB 77. The Senator’s phone number is 907-465-3873.
Want to take it a step further? Get in touch with me and we’ll work together to represent Southeast’s disapproval of HB 77. The bill goes out on the Senate’s floor this session, so we gotta act fast. Call 907-747-7509 and ask for Ray.
Tenders may only fulfill one or a few parts of the salmon commodity chain yet their hard labor and work ethic is what keeps our fishermen fishing and eventually our plates full of fish. To keep fishermen fishing, yet another amenity often provided by tenders is conversation.
This is where my role as a community organizer came in.
There are all sorts of approaches to packing Coho bellies with ice–I got a little ridiculous and acrobatic.
While on the tender boats, I both worked as a crew member, and an organizer. While working on the tender boats, I talked with fishermen and deckhands about the US Forest Service’s Tongass Transition and how the transition should be focused on protecting the salmon they depend on.
It is very important that fishermen and tender operators voice their concerns with the people and agencies responsible for managing our Tongass National Forest because the salmon these fishermen depend on come directly from the Tongass. Salmon fishing accounts for over 7,000 jobs, hundreds of millions in revenue, and are a sent out as food to people from all over the country.
A Sitka fishermen offloads his catch to the Shoreline Scow in Pelican, AK.
It wasn’t surprising thing I found that most fishermen catching salmon had not heard about the Tongass Transition because the Forest Service is still only focusing on timber.
The very Coho that I helped process spent anywhere from one to five years in the rivers, streams, tributaries, sloughs, and back-pools of Tongass watersheds. Now here they were: supporting the livelihoods of these fishermen while generating thousands of jobs in our Southeast economy by the many hands that catch, weigh, stuff, and ship these fish all over the world.
Rows and rows of Coho with ice-stuffed bellies are lined up in totes that can hold from 1,000-1,500 pounds of fish and ice.
It is the Forest Service’s job to manage the Tongass, our forest and resources, in a way that reflects the people of Southeast Alaska’s priorities. If you look at the economic stats and use common sense, Salmon is the most sustainable and valuable resource that the Tongass produces.
After discussing the Tongass Transition with the large number of fishermen I worked with this summer, they want the Forest Service to start implementing the Transition, and make sure that salmon are a big focus of the Forest Service’s work. They have written messages to the Forest Service that include “I have been trolling in SE for the last 9 years and will for many more to come. Every salmon is important to me. It is my livelihood so every fish counts.” They are telling the Forest Service to prioritize restoring salmon habitat damaged by historic logging as the main focus of the Transition.
As my friend Kai on the Shoreline scow said about fishermen and deckhands respectively, “You slice um, we ice ‘um,” we Sitkans, fishermen, and users of the Tongass can say to our Forest Service respectively, “you manage ‘um, we live off of ‘um.”
If you haven’t already done so, type up a quick email to Chief of the Forest Service Tom Tidwell asking him to implement the Tongass Transition and to focus management effort on salmon for the benefit of the fishermen, the multitude of jobs created by the fishing industry (such as our beloved tender operators), and the delicious taste of salmon for super. It takes 5 minutes, yet helps keep the people who depend on the Tongass.
The chief’s email is [email protected], and if you need more information for your email, click here. You just gotta clearly state “Implement the Tongass Transition and move beyond Old Grown timber harvest, Chief Tidwell.”
Over the course of the summer, I had a chance to talk to a huge number of fishermen, but our conversations did not happen just at the harbors, docks, or in Sitka’s Pbar. Instead, they occurred on tenders.
Tenders are a very important component of Southeast Alaska’s fishing industry and serve fishing boats that are far from their home harbors.
Either stationary like the Shoreline Scow by Pelican or mobile like Sitka’s Ginny C or Deer Harbor II, tenders serve our fishermen with paychecks, ice, and at times with rare amenities like hot showers and right-out-of-the-oven chocolate chip cookies. The job of tender boats is to unload the catch from fishing boats on the fishing grounds. On the tender boats, the fishermen’s catch gets sorted, weighed, iced up, and packed away in a matter of minutes. During those minutes, there is a lot of physical and mental endurance by people who are typically behind the scenes in the fishing industry.
As a community organizer, I saw working on tenders as not only a way to reach out to fishermen about the Tongass Transition during the busy fishing season, but also as a way to get some sort of experience in the lifestyle and hard work that most people in Southeast commit to in order to make their living.
Picture the King salmon opening in July, which is one of the busiest times for salmon trollers and consequently for the tenders. A typical day for tender deckhands begins at 6 or 7 in the morning with greetings from fishermen that have been waiting to sell their fish since 3 am. There is not just one boat waiting to offload, but a line of 5 boats with more lingering close by. The hydraulics are turned on, the crane is in motion, and bags of fish are hauled one at a time from the fishermen’s boat to a tray on the tender where the deckhands sort the fish for quality and weight.
Once weighed these often heavy and large fish are grasped by the gills and neck, one in each hand, by deckhands that then simultaneously toss both fish into a tote with a repetition that fills the tote with layers of fish and ice in a matter of seconds. These deckhands have to be quick, to operate under pressure, to persevere with numb hands and hungry bellies as each fishermen offloads thousands of pounds of their livelihood onboard in the hopes to catch more in the next few days.
With troll caught Coho aboard, deckhands of the Ginny C and myself removed the ice from salmon bellies, weighed the fish, placed them in totes, and then stuffed their bellies again with ice.
After working on their feet for hours, moving around totes of around 1000 pounds of fish and ice, breaking apart new totes of ice with metal shovels, tossing around 12 pound fish with sore muscles and wrists, stuffing salmon bellies with ice, and then scrubbing the whole operation down with bleach, Joy soap, and water, the deckhands yawn themselves to bed around 2 am, quite possibly still covered in fish slime. Then they will sleep for 4 or 5 hours, wake up, and do it all over again.
The Shoreline in Pelican, AK has been a woman-run operation for decades, and I was fortunate to join them for a few days and share in their hard, hard work, which helps our fishermen keep fishing.
Stay tuned! I will be posting a blog piece focused on the advocacy work I did on tenders entitled “You slay ‘um, we weigh ‘um”: a mix of tendering and Tongass Transition advocacy in Southeast Take Two. A big thank you to KaiLea Wallin who coined the two slogans I have used as titles for these blog pieces.
As recreationists we put on our hiking shoes, as fishermen we sport xtra tufs, and for Sitkans Against Family Violence (SAFV)’s Girls on the Run program, we learn and run in sneakers.
This was SAFV’s fifth year participating in the Girls on the Run program and the Sitka Conservation Society’s first. Our mission at SCS ties us to protecting the beautiful Tongass National Forest that surrounds us and also connects us to the development of sustainable communities. We also use the triple bottom line as one of our guiding principles, meaning that healthy communities, protection of the natural environment, and economic vitality have to be balanced for a sustainable earth.
Twice a week throughout this past fall and spring, I would join other volunteer coaches at Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School to learn with young women about topics like peer pressure, bullying, and self-reflection. Activities would range from circling up and collectively trying to keep a beach ball up in the air to running laps forwards and backwards in pairs to even making dream catchers for patients at the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC)’s hospital. We asked each other questions, smiled and laughed while going over the days lessons, and simply had fun.
Programs like Girls on the Run help us create space for young women to come together as a team, work through topics that discuss the meaning of community and positive thinking, all the while creating relationships to support one another. These are seeds that overtime will bloom into the sustainable community we work hard to have. Community is not a dream although it is quite often idealized—a community is people and the relationships that hold them together. Having programs like Girls on the Run are preventative measures for our young women here in Sitka. The Sitka Conservation Society would like to thank SAFV for their commitment to community empowerment and prevention. Preventative work makes it so that we are not treating hardships or mistakes after they have already happened but instead working to avoid them all together through education, mentorship, and teamwork.
“Girls on the Run is so much FUN!” A team-building exercise, we all circled up and tried to keep this beach ball in the air as long as possible.
“1, 2, 3-GO!” Closing this year’s Girls on the Run program was our 5K run, where members of the community joined our girls for their big day!
Within the University of Alaska Southeast, classrooms were teeming with young women eager to deepen their understanding in the field of science. On April 13th, 2013, Girls Scouts of Alaska organized a one-day science symposium in Sitka for its young members and asked Sitka women working in various scientific fields to teach a class that covered information of their choosing.
The Sitka Conservation Society’s community organizer Ray Friedlander participated in the event and chose to discuss and recreate the ecological relationships commonly found throughout the Tongass National Forest from the perspective of Coho salmon.
For the activity, girls ranging from ages 5 to 10 embodied a particular role in the web. Roles included fishermen, aquatic insects, old growth forest, eagles, bears, ocean, and rivers, which were represented by photographs that the girls wore around their necks. The most popular role however was the Coho salmon, which was represented by a stuffed animal toted around by one of the girls as she made her way from Girl Scout to Girl Scout with a red ribbon. As the salmon “swam” its way to each critter or habitat in the web, questions were posed to the group about the significance of that relationship.
“What relationship do you think this salmon has to the old growth forest?” Friedlander asked the group.
“The shade from the trees helps keep the salmon from getting too hot,” said one Girl Scout. “The roots stop the soil from going into the river and making it dirty,” said another.
Each Girl Scout was then asked to loosely hold on to the ribbon, and help answer the questions posed to the other roles of the ecological web. After every role of the web was discussed, the Girl Scouts looked around to see that in fact they were all connected by a ribbon that represented the relationships formed through their species and habitat interactions with the salmon.
Embodying the ecological relationships that exist between different species and habitats of the Tongass allowed Sitka Girl Scouts to see how important it is to view these relationships as interconnected rather than separate. For the Sitka Consevation Society and Girl Scouts of Alaska, inspiring our youth to become stewards of the environment promotes the leadership skills and knowledge needed to ensure a healthy, protected Tongass and sustainable community.
A harvest of around 300,000 board feet off the False Island road system near Sitkoh Bay and Chicagof Road System is being proposed by the Forest Service, but it is not just the sale that is being offered—this proposal is also offering up a new approach on harvesting timberand managing the Tongass to benefit people and our forests on a local scale.
Last summer, right as the Sitkoh restoration project was underway, I met the Forest Service staff responsible for laying out the three small False Island Timber sales. These sales, which ended up bearing the names the Ray, RayRay, and High Road timber sales, are a relatively new forest management approach for the Tongass because they are designed with small mills in mind, select trees of high quality and value, and incorporate collaboration with community organizations and stakeholders.
Incorporated within this planning are future sales that offer second growth spruce and alder, which is the timber of the future on the Tongass. The Sitka Conservation Society sees sales like this as apart of the Forest Service’s commitment to implementing their 2010 Transition Framework. Focusing on small timber sales will increase local capacity for working and building with local wood while turning away from export oriented resource extraction. A focus like this catalyzes the Tongass National Forest’s transition from a history of unsustainable actions towards a more sustainable future.
This sale is just a start. It is not enough in itself. There is still much to be done and there are still many timber sales being offered that are part of the old way of doing things. The Forest Service needs to move faster in their transition and begin investing in the programs and activities that are prioritized by the public, bring value to the region, and don’t have negative environmental consequences.
Below are the comments that SCS submitted on this timber sale.
Here is a link to an article I wrote about my summer experience on False Island with the Forest Service timber crew:
“Aint no power like the power of the people ‘cause the power of the people don’t stop!” We as a community have great potential to create the change we want to see in the world because this change is initiated by something we all have—our voice. We have the ability to envision things differently, contemplate the steps necessary to enact our vision, and then put those steps into action through our words, community involvement, and passion. These efforts typically don’t have to start with a large group of people because change can begin with an individual, and that individual could be you.
When I met local Sitkan Paul Rioux and experienced his determination to raise awareness about genetically engineered salmon, I was seeing firsthand the power of voice and the importance of standing up for your beliefs. For Paul, organizing a rally that would protest genetically engineered salmon was one of those ways to stand up. “I saw that there were rallies going on in other parts of the country, and I decided that it would be nice to do one here,” Paul said. Through Paul’s actions, over 130 people came to the rally, which was then publicized by Senator Murkowski, Senator Begich, and Representative Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins. Four days after the event, the Food and Drug Administration announced they were going to extend the period to comment on genetically engineered salmon by 60 days, with the new date being April 26th, 2013. I’m certain that Sitka’s activism helped spur this extension.
To make this happen, we started small. We gained support from fishing organizations like the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association (ALFA) and the Alaska Troller’s Association (ATA), who passed the message on to their members; we held sign-making parties at the SCS office, Blatchley Middle School, and Ventures; flyers were created, posted, and handed out, featuring both information on the rally and how to submit a comment to the FDA opposing genetically engineered salmon; Raven Radio had us on their Morning Interview, where myself, Paul, and David Wilcox, a Blatchley middle school student running across the country in protest of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), discussed the negative impacts of genetically engineered salmon; both the Mudflats blog and Fish Radio with Laine Welch hosted information on the rally to raise awareness to their subscribers that the FDA was considering approving genetically engineered salmon; and the day of the event, the local news station, the Sitka Sentinel, and Raven Radio came out to document the event, which made it on the front page of the paper. Days after the rally, Sitka’s Assembly also approved, on a 7-0 vote, a resolution stating the city’s opposition to frankenfish.
Technology more than ever can be used to organize our social networks, tell our stories to folks that live in communities all over the country, and enforce our opinion to decision makers to listen to their constituents. This can happen with any issue that we find ourselves passionate about, and for Paul that issue was the health of our wild salmon from the Tongass.
It is right here in our community that we can create the world we want to see through our actions, but this can only happen through an engaged, active citizenry. Far too often I encounter folks who are somewhat cynical to the democratic process, folks that have lost faith in the power of their voice. But in the end, if no one takes action, nothing gets done.
What kind of world do you want to live in? For us at the Sitka Conservation Society, we want the management of the Tongass to benefit the communities that depend upon its natural resources while supporting the habitats of the salmon, black tail-deer, and bears that roam wildly about. Sitkans like Paul Rioux remind us that our voice is a catalyst for change, and by speaking and standing up for what you believe in, we can continuously create the world we want to live in. Let us stand up together, generate the renewable energy of people power, and work towards that future some say is a dream but can be a reality if we work towards it.
If you haven’t submitted a comment opposing Frankenfish, please go to http://www.regulations.gov/#!submitComment;D=FDA-2011-N-0899-0685. For the required field “Organization Name,” you can put “Citizen” and for the category, you can put “Individual Consumer.” Do it right now, it only takes a few minutes!
Notorious for having bikes chained along its railway, the Sitka Sound Science center is upgrading its parking for those traveling on wheels. The Construction Tech class at Sitka High, under the instruction of Randy Hughey, is building a bike shelter for the Science center made of young growth Sitka spruce and old growth red cedar from Prince of Wales Island. The 6,000 board feet of this Alaskan wood was milled by Mel Cooke of Last Chance Enterprises out of Thorne Bay. From Cooke’s perspective, the logs are very easy to work with – very symmetrical, very little taper, and mostly comes out straight. “I enjoy cutting it, it cuts real easy, and the wood looks really good– beautiful boards” says Mel.
Back at Sitka High, the students have already begun applying a preservative treatment to the future deck of the bike shelter to protect the wood. The bike shelter will also rest on top of skids so that water can drain out of the shelter instead of forming pools that will rot the wood. The deck of the shelter is made of Yellow Cedar and Sitka Spruce. The framing and roof deck will be made of rough sawn Sitka Spruce and the structure will be sided and roofed with Red Cedar.
The timber framing of the bike shed is made possible thanks to Daniel Sheehan, a recent Alaska transplant from Massachusetts. Dan showed up at the SCS alder nightstand open house at Sitka High and met Randy Hughey. They discovered a mutual love of classic pegged mortise and tenon timber framing. Dan has worked for four years for Ted Benson Timber Framing in the Northeast United States and volunteered to help teach Randy and the students how to timber frame.
This bike shelter will serve both as a useable space for bikes but also a testament that young growth wood can be used in construction and carpentry fields. It also demonstrates that building with local wood builds community, relationships, and sustains the knowledge of carpentry for future generations.
Funding for this project was provided by the National Forest Foundation as part of an ongoing effort to support sustainable timber harvest and local markets in the Tongass National Forest. The purpose is to invigorate markets for Tongass young-growth timber products, particularly in Southeast Alaska, by exploring their performance in a variety of interior and exterior applications. By sharing practical information, broadening the knowledge base, and connecting local producers with consumers, the Sitka Conservation Society hopes to help builders, woodworkers, resource managers and others make more informed decisions about using Tongass young-growth.
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.