Background: In Sitka, we take climate change seriously–so seriously that the community just invested $96 million dollars into a hydroelection project at Blue Lake that will greatly cut our fossil fuel consumption.
The project came at an enormous price, but the benefits to the climate and our quality of life are worth the price. Unfortunately, most of that cost has fallen on the shoulders of our community. Despite efforts by SCS and the City of Sitka, the project has received no money from the federal government and only a small amount from the State of Alaska (which is a small fraction of the subsidies and support given to oil corporations every year). For the most part, the burden has fallen to the community of Sitka because oil companies have invested so much of their resources into convincing politicians that funding big oil is more important than funding sustainable communities. The result is that we are far behind where we need to be in moving our country and our economy in a direction away from fossil fuels to a renewable energy based economy.
Take Action: SCS is asking Senator Murkowski and the Senate Energy Committee to stand up for small towns, the climate, and a sustainable future. Please help us take action to demand that our politicians take climate change seriously. Write or call Senator Murkowski today.
Write:Senator Lisa Murkowski 709 Hart Senate Building Washington, DC 20510
Call:D.C.: 202-224-6665 Juneau: 907-586-7277
Check out the letter we wrote below for ideas.
Dear Senator Murkowski and Members of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee:
Climate change is the greatest threat to our way-of-life and national security. Climate change is caused by human activity that put amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere at levels that are changing global climate and weather patterns. We know that these changes are disrupting agricultural production, global shipping, and causing more extreme weather events that put our coastal cities at risk.
Human caused climate change is happening because of our use of fossil fuels. Oil, gas, and coal have formed through biological and geological processes over millions of years. Human activity in the last 300 years since the beginning of the industrial revolution has burned a large number of those deposits of fossil fuels and put amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere far above normal natural/geological processes. It is known that the burning of fossil fuels has increased the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from 275 Parts-per-million to 390 parts-per-million. It is impossible for this change to happen without severe side-effects.
At the same time that the impacts of climate change are becoming apparent, we are seeing the end of fossil fuels. At this point, we must make greater investment and go to greater lengths to extract oil, gas, and coal from the earth. We are being forced to go into extreme oceans like the Chukchi and Beaufort Sea where conditions are extremely difficult and risky to operate in. We are forced to drill much deeper into the earth in areas of extremely high pressures as well as drill in very deep ocean waters. We are forced to use techniques like fracking that have consequences that we aren’t even fully aware of to access oil and gas. All of the above is being done without acknowledging the inevitable fact that fossil fuels are a non-renewable resource that will run out.
American citizens are relying on your leadership. And yet, more and more it seems that Congressional policy seeks to favor the biggest corporate donors rather than take action that equates to good policy for the future of our nation. We have known about climate change for decades. Oil companies have invested in distracting the public and calling into doubt the science—just like big tobacco did when public policy to reduce tobacco deaths was being initiated. The result is that we are far behind where we need to be in moving our country and our economy in a direction away from fossil fuels and carbon emissions to a renewable energy based economy.
Despite the lack of significant and meaningful action from our elected leaders in Washington, DC, Americans across the country are stepping up and taking action. Here in our small town of Sitka, Alaska, where we live very close to the natural environment and can see the changes and impacts of climate change first-hand, we have decided to take action in a big way. This past December we broke ground on a $96 Million dollar, salmon-friendly hydroelectric expansion project. Most of the cost of this project is on the shoulders of the community members in Sitka. We have received support from the State of Alaska (which is a small fraction of the subsidies and support given to oil corporations) but we have received no help from the federal government.
We are asking you what you are going to do in this next session of Congress to take meaningful action to move our national energy policy in a direction that moves us away from a reliance on fossil fuels and reduces carbon emissions? In Sitka, we are tired of waiting for you to take action and we did it on our own. We are tired of the dynamic in Washington, DC and we implore you to take action for the sake of the future generations of our nation.
The Sitka Conservation Society
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.
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!”
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 protected] 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
Ricky Sablan is a law enforcement ranger with the Sitka National Historical Park. He joined the SCS Wilderness crew on a Community Wilderness Stewardship Project expedition to South Baranof Wilderness in the summer of 2012. Be sure to check out his videos from the trip below.
Walking onto a boat called “The Gust”, we loaded up our kayaks and supplies in preparation for an adventure. I looked backwards to see the orange transport ships from the cruises ship pass by as we set our courses to the open waters. Light grey clouds painted the sky, but the rain was holding back. Off in the distance, a hump back whale shot a burst of air from his blowhole and I realized I was no longer in man’s world.
I was to spend the next five days in the South Baranof Wilderness with three strangers I had only met a few days ago during briefing. Ray Friedlander an intern with the SCS, Jonathan Goff our botanist, and team leader Adam Andis were to be my new friends as we headed into the wild. Our plan was to be dropped off in Whale Bay with a satellite phone, an emergency SPOT gps tracker, and a USFS radio linking us to the rest of the world. Our goal was to assist the USFS in collecting data reports and observations in preserving the wilderness in Whale Bay.
Some hours had past as we came to rest upon a nice bay located near Port Banks. We unloaded all our gear and the kayaks on the shore and watched as The Gust slowly faded away off in the distance. We took our first paddle down to Port Banks and began taking notes of all the planes, jets, and boats that we observed and heard in the wilderness. As we paddled to shore, we observed an old recreational site where people had left some old trash. We packed up the trash and headed back to camp to burn what we could.
It was our duty to take notes on the conditions of these old sites and for the next few days we would paddle up the large arm of whale bay visiting recreational site to recreational site and writing down our observations on the human impacts of the area. Jonathan would collect samples of invasive plants and he would educate us what types of plants were edible and native to the area.
As the days past by, we quickly became immersed into a majestic routine paddling for miles soaking up the wilderness and all it has to offer. Safety was always considered a priority, but having fun was a mandatory part of the trip that we embraced. Taking a dip in the cold clear water felt refreshing after a long paddle on a hot summer day. We had the experience of watching nature at its finest as a brown bear had caught a salmon that was running up one of the creeks. Otters would crack shells on their bellies while a doe and her fawn walked to the shore to observe our brightly colored kayaks pass them by. No need for television, computers, or cellphones to entertain our minds, the wilderness in God’s great country was all we needed. The volunteer experience with the Sitka Conservation Society was something
I’ll always remember.
As citizens across the country watch the antics of the 112th Congress, we are all left wondering, “where is the leadership we need to take on the challenges we are facing in the world? When are we going to take care of our environment? When are we going to move away from fossil fuels to renewable energy? When are we going to invest in local economies rather than giving massive subsidies and tax-breaks to global corporations? When is Congress going to actually put aside partisan differences and do something meaningful?”
It surely isn’t happening right now. In fact, the House of Representatives just introduced a bill that shows the worst of Congress and it could have huge implications on SE Alaska and critical public lands across the country. They have cynically named the bill the “Conservation and Economic Growth Act.” It should probably be called, “The- Worst Bills For The Environment in Congress Wrapped Into One Act of 2012.” The bill is a lands omnibus bill and pulls together some of the worst bills currently in Congress. It includes such cynically titled acts such as the “Grazing Improvement Act of 2012” which allow grazing to continue on lands where cows shouldn’t even be roaming and puts grazing permits outside of environment review. It also includes the beautifully named “Preserve Access to Cape Hatteras National Seashore Act” which sounds good, but in reality is meant to open miles of critical beach habitat for piping plovers to ATVs, Dune Buggies, and other off road vehicles. Good luck plovers!
For Southeast Alaska, this bill is awful because our Representative Don Young has inserted the Sealaska Legislation which would privatize close to 100,000 acres of ecologically critical Tongass Lands. The version of the bill that Representative Young has introduced is much worse than the bad version of the bill being debated in the Senate. This version would create an even more widespread pox of in-holdings throughout the Sitka Community Use Area in areas that Sitkans routinely use and enjoy. If this bill passes, the nightmare we are facing with the corporate privatization of Redoubt Lake Falls is just the beginning.
If you dislike these developments as much as us, please take action. We don’t think that calls to Representative Young will help (you can try, his number is 202-225-5765). However, his goal seems to be to privatize and give away as much of the Tongass as possible. If you are in the lower 48, you should call your Congress members and tell them that HR2578 is awful and they should not support it. If you are in Alaska, please consider writing a letter to the editor letting everyone else in the community know how bad this bill is and that its introduction is a travesty (give us a call if you want some ideas or help).
As we watch our Congress and elected leaders flounder, we are reminded that in a democracy, we share responsibility and need to take action to create the society and the environment we want. Voicing concerns over the misdirection of Congress, especially on bills like this one, is one way we can engage and make change.
Here is a link to a letter that SCS submitted opposing the legislation: here
Here is a link to a Radio Story on the legislation: here
Here is a link to a copy of the legislation: here
Saturday, June 9 and Sunday, June 10, 2012, 10am-5pm
ACA instructors Adam Andis and Darrin Kelly will teach all of the skills you need to be a safe and confident paddler, so that you can get out and enjoy our coastal wilderness areas and volunteer with the Sitka Community Wilderness Stewardship Project to collect needed baseline data. The class will include kayak skills for beginning to advanced paddlers, self and assisted rescue training, and Wilderness monitoring training, including an invasive plant ID lesson from Kitty LaBounty.
This two day course is open only to current SCS members so be sure to join or renew your membership when you sign up. Space is very limited, so sign up early!
To sign up or for more information, contact SCS at 747-7509.
Cost is $75 for the 2-day course (drysuits included). Kayak rental is $35 per day through Latitude Adventures. A 10% will be offered to participants who provide their own drysuit.
Skills Course Agenda:
1000 Introduction (15 min)
- Intros- instructors, SCS, Wilderness Project
- Site logistics- food, water, hot drinks, bathroom, changing area
- outline course expectations
- safety briefing- PFD always on in water, helmets, hypothermia risk & mitigation, paying attention to each other and instructors)
- liability release
1015 On Shore Presentations (55 min)
- Equipment orientation – drysuits later
- Personal clothing and gear
- PFD’s, wetsuits, spray skirts
- Safety equipment
- Basic boat design and kayak terminology
- Boat fit and adjustment
- Boat/body weld
- Foot brace adjustment
- Spray skirt attachment/release
- Dry land “wet exit” drill
- Paddle orientation and use
- basic paddle technique
1110 Break (5 min)
1115 Launching & Landing (30min)
- The paddling environment: wind, waves, weather, water (overview)
- Carrying kayak to and from water
- Entry/exit of kayak from shore or dock
- Boat stability, “hip wiggle,”
- Allow students a few minutes to paddle around and get oriented with their kayak
1145 Basic Strokes & Skills (60 min)
- Rafting up
- Sweep stroke (forward/reverse/pivot in place)
- Forward Stroke
- Reverse stroke and stopping
- Draw stroke
High and low braces (hip snap/boat lean/lower body control) – discussion, not practice
1245 Lunch (30 min)
- risk management triangle
1315 Rescues (3 hr 15 min)
- hi and low brace
- t-rescue demo (2 instructors)
- stirrup demonstration
- assisted rescue variations (stirrup, swamping the kayak)
- students practice
- paddle-float demo
- students practice
- paddle-float re-entry and roll (if time available)
- advanced bracing- sculling
- all-in practice
1630 Wrap up (20 min)
- get out of dry suits
1650 Debrief (10 min)
- tomorrow’s itinerary
1000 Monitoring Training (1hr 50 min)
- Plant ID Training (Kitty LaBounty) (40 min)
- Solitude Monitoring (20 min)
- History of Wilderness/Wilderness Character (10 min)
- LNT and Rec. Site (40)
1150 Paddling Environment (extended) (50 min)
- Tides- theory and practice
- Basic navigation
1240 Lunch (45 min)
- Expectations for the day
- Prepare to get on the water- get dressed, personal gear and snacks, fill water bottles
1325 Practice and tour (3 hr 5 min)
- Skills and limitations (next steps)
- staying together
- boat traffic
- skills- stroke refinement, edging, running draws
- continued LNT training and practice
- Communication- equipment and protocol
- Boat traffic/Rules of the Road
- “What’s in my PFD?” and “What’s in my cockpit?”
1630 Return and Debrief (30 min)
- Return gear
- Thanks and continue to stay involved in SCS Wilderness Project
In the Tongass, people live with the land. We are constantly learning from it–learning how to build communities that are part of the landscape rather than a place away from it. In this blog we want to share with you some of those lessons we’ve learned and the experience of learning them first hand.
If you are not automatically redirected to the blog page, click here.
CALVIN CAVE is named for Jack Calvin one of the original founders of the Sitka Conservation Society who helped to protect West Chichagof as a Wilderness area. The following report and map were produced by Kevin Allred with the Tongass Cave Project. Kevin joined the SCS Wilderness crew on a trip to West Chichagof in the summer of 2011. See videos of the trip here.
DESCRIPTION: Calvin Cave was discovered on June 19, 2011 by Kevin Allred, and the Sitka Conservation Society Wilderness crew: Adam Andis, Tomas Ward, and Ben Hamilton, while searching for caves as part of the Sitka Community Wilderness Stewardship Project. The cave is located at the lower edge of a large muskeg which provides acidic waters where it flows onto the band of Whitestripe Marble of Triassic age. After a meandering stream slot, the small stream enters the cave, which is a winding narrow crack downcut into the marble. Down the slope are a series of sinkholes which indicate the downstream course of the underground stream. After about 60 feet the cave ends in too tight constrictions at the bottom of the first of these sinkholes, and daylight is seen in several places. There is an excellent example of the underside of a “sealed” sinkhole with its characteristic humus plug here. The cave was surveyed by Kevin Allred and Tom Ward. Its vertical surveyed depth is 10 feet and it has 63.8 feet of surveyed passage. The resurgence of this cave stream is not known, but is probably somewhere adjacent or under the nearby gorge of Marble Creek.
BIOLOGY: Fungus gnat webs were noted throughout the cave, but no insects were seen. No bones were seen.
MANAGEMENT RECOMMENDATIONS: Due to its remoteness, Calvin Cave is not likely to be negatively impacted by visitation. It is protected from logging under Wilderness Area regulation.
Interested in volunteering with the Community Wilderness Stewardship Project? Here are a couple of ways to get your hands dirty protecting you local Wilderness Areas:
Heading out into the Wilds on your own? If you are planning to get out hunting, hiking, fishing, paddling, etc. in a designated Tongass Wilderness Area (like West Chichagof-Yakobi or South Baranof) please consider downloading, printing, and filling out our Encounter Monitoring Form (PDF). Recording how, when and where folks are using our Wilderness Areas can give us a base-line to chart increases or decreases in human impact. Just follow the instructions on the form and record the boats, planes, people, and human impacts you find. Then, return the forms to us.
Want to join the SCS Wilderness Crew on a trip? Occasionally, we have extra room for volunteers to join the Wilderness Crew on research expeditions. If you would like to add your name to the list of volunteers we contact when such opportunities arise, fill out the Volunteer Form and Medical History Form below and return it to [email protected]. Also, be sure to take the short (10-15 min) course which allows volunteers to ride in Forest Service aircraft (most of our trips involve small plane flights) and watch the Boat Safety Video. Please keep in mind that only current SCS members can join a Wilderness trip, so make sure you join or renew your membership!
Volunteer Form (MS Word)
Volunteer Form (PDF)
USFS Flight Protocols: A-102: USFS Alaska Region Fixed Wing Safety Course * see instructions at the bottom of this post.
Volunteer Gear Checklist (MS Word) If you will be attending a trip, be sure to check out this gear checklist.
* Aviation Training Instructions
1. Go to this link and register as a user: https://www.iat.gov/Training/
2. Once registered, make note of your user name and password and log-in to the website.
3. Go to the “On-Line Courses” list and scroll down to USFS ALASKA/REGION 10 SPECIFIC COURSES. Click on “A-102: USFS Alaska Region Fixed Wing Safety”
4. Complete the course. At the end, click on the link to take a short quiz. After passing the quiz, you will receive an email from “IAT Admin” that includes some instructions for locating your completion certificate. Please email an electronic copy of your certificate to [email protected].