The summer boat tour adventure continues to the
West Chichagof-Yakobi Wilderness on Tuesday July 23rd.
The West Chichagof-Yakobi Wilderness Area is near and dear to our hearts here at SCS, as the central focus of our founding as an organization. Thirty-three years after its federal designation as a Wilderness Area, West Chichagof-Yakobi Wilderness is still a place treasured by many Alaskans. Come with as we explore just some of the many reasons that this Wilderness is such a special place.
Guest speakers from the US Forest Service and the Sitka Conservation Society will guide us through the dramatic beginnings of the West Chichagof-Yakobi Wilderness Area, what makes a wilderness a Wilderness, why these places are so important, and more.
This special tour will take place on Tuesday July 23rd, from 5:30 to 9:30pm. TIckets can be purchased from Old Harbor Books 201 Lincoln Street for $45 or (if available) at the Crescent Harbor loading dock at time of the cruise. It is suggested that tickets be purchased in advance to assure participation. Boarding begins at 5:15 pm. at Crescent Harbor. Due to the discounted rate of this trip, we are unable to offer additionally reduced rates for seniors or children.
This cruise is great for locals who want to get out on the water, for visitors to Sitka who want to learn more about our surrounding natural environment, or for family members visiting Sitka. Complimentary hot drinks are available on board and you may bring your own snacks. Binoculars are available on board for your use. Allen Marine generously offers this boat trip at a reduced rate for non-profits. Please call 747-7509 for more information or email [email protected]
See you on the boat!
Mark your calendars! The next tour in our Summer Boat Tours series will be exploring the History of Sitka Sound on Thursday June 27th.
We’ll be exploring the islands, forests and waters of Sitka Sound and learning about the rich history of this amazing place: how it has shaped the lives of those who’ve called Sitka home, and how Sitka Sound has been shaped in turn.
Guest speakers from the Sitka Historical Society, the Sitka Maritime Heritage Society, as well as local Sitkans with a love of history and unique knowledge of this amazing place will help bring the days of Sitka’s yesteryear to life.
Boarding for the tour will begin at 5:15pm from Crescent Harbor Shelter, departing at 5:30pm, and returning home at 8pm. Tickets can be purchased at Old Harbor Books for $35.
Any questions? Call 747-7509 or email [email protected].
See you on the boat!
The first of six boat tours to take place throughout the summer. Mark your calendars!
- June 1st, Saturday 10am
- June 11th, Tuesday 5:30pm – Cancelled
- June 27th, Thursday 5:30pm
- July 23rd, Tuesday 5:30pm
- August 13th, Tuesday 5:30pm
Check back soon for more information on tour topics and speakers. See you on the boat!
A special thanks to Allen Marine for offering discounted charter prices for our non-profit summer tours, which makes this series possible.
See new places, new perspectives and learn more about this wild place we live in!
Whether you are a born and bred Sitkan, or a recent transplant to the Tongass, the SCS Summer Boat Tour series offers an excellent opportunity to get out to explore and learn more about Sitka Sound and the Tongass. There will be six tours throughout the summer, each about 2.5 hours.
These tours are for you! And we want to hear your ideas on topics and tours you would like see as a part of our Boat Tours this summer. Visit our Facebook page, call our office (747-7509) or email Erin with your ideas.
Check back soon for updates on tour topics and tickets!
The Tongass National Forest is valuable for more than old growth timber clear-cutting: it’s the source of near limitless value to both residents and visitors, if used sustainably.
Energy production, recreation, tourism, hunting, fishing, education and subsistence resources all rely on the continued health of the Tongass in order to continue bringing thousands of dollars and hundreds of jobs to Sitka. As Sitka continues to grow, physically and economically, it’s essential that we recognize the wide swath of valuable assets present in and around Sitka.
Southeast Alaska offers a cornucopia of possibilities for making a living from (and living off of) the land, rivers and sea. Wilderness areas offer adventure and solitude rarely matched elsewhere in the US, large tracts of remote and robust ecosystems provide habitat for large populations of deer, bear, mountain goat, and more, world class salmon fisheries provides the best wild salmon and some of the best sport-fishing,
The Tongass National Forest, and Sitka, are more than just tourist destinations, more than just timber value, more than just salmon fishing: the sum is greater than its parts. If we plan future expansion and development with all these invaluable assets in mind, Sitka has the potential to grow more prosperous, and more sustainable.
Ask anyone where the best salmon is caught, and they’ll answer: Alaska.
Ask an Alaskan where the best salmon is caught, and they’ll answer: Southeast.
The Wild Salmon fisheries of Southeast Alaska provides nearly 30% of the global supply of wild salmon. The 57,000 plus miles of rivers, streams, and creeks throughout the Tongass National Forest provides unparalleled spawning habitat for all five species of salmon: pink, chum, coho, sockeye and king. Neighboring rivers in British Columbia and in Southcentral Alaska, as well as the salmon released each year from hatcheries throughout Southeast, also contribute to the robust fisheries we have here.
But just how many salmon caught each year are true Tongass Salmon: spawned and raised in waterways within the Tongass National Forest?
Ron Medel, the Tongass Fisheries Program Manager, found out just that. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game keeps a close eye on salmon throughout the state, and each year produce an estimate regarding how many landed fish come from hatcheries versus wild stocks. Fisheries data from British Columbia’s portions of the Stikine, Taku and other salmon streams were also considered and factored out of the Southeast total harvest. Combining all this data, utilizing the power of spreadsheets and some elbow grease… Medel extrapolated that about 79% of the annual harvest in Southeast Alaska are from wild salmon that originated from the Tongass National Forest.
Even though the Tongass forest is such an important element in the Southeast Alaska salmon harvest, the US Forest Service has not allocated its funding and attention to the restoration and continued health of salmon spawning habitat within the forest. Only a small portion of their budget – only about $7 million out of the nearly $63 million budget – is spent on the fisheries and watershed program which directly impacts fisheries conditions and restores salmon habitat (timber harvest and road building receive $20 million). The health of the streams and watersheds that produce nearly $1 BILLION each year through commercial, sport and subsistence salmon harvesting is receiving so little support from the US Forest Service – what sort of salmon fishery would we have in Southeast Alaska if the Forest Service put more of their budget to supporting salmon and restoring all of the damage that was done by the historic clear-cut logging?
Wild, Tongass-raised salmon may make up 79% of the salmon caught in Southeast Alaska each year, but those salmon forests, waterways, fisheries and markets need our support, our time, our energy, our concern in order to continue.
Take action to encourage the Forest Service to put more support into stream restoration and watershed health! Your input is needed now to help Congress and the Forest Service prioritize where the American public wants to invest our tax dollars in public land management!
In his inauguration speech yesterday, President Obama made clear the key issues that are of the most concern and importance going into his second term in office. Of those handful of issues, addressing the threat of climate change was arguably the most important – both to the President, and to our planet. After so many years of stagnant, and often non-existent, discussions and attempts at creating policies to address climate change, President Obama made it quite clear that this inactivity will not continue. Addressing climate change is not just something we “must” do, it is something we “will” do.
We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. Some may still deny the overwhelming judgement of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms.
Now, more than ever, we need to keep vigilant in our efforts to make sure that our Senators Begich and Murkowski know that climate change policy should be at the top of their “to do” lists as well. Writing a letter, sending an email, making a call – all are important actions that everyone can and should do to make sure our representatives in Washington DC know what their constituents value and want to see addressed in this new term. It only takes a few minutes, and we already have a page set up to get you started.
If you missed the President’s speech, you can read a transcript here.
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 [email protected], 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!
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 [email protected]
Can’t come to the meeting, but still have ideas you want to be heard? Contact Erin Fulton at [email protected]
¹US Forest Service Fiscal Year 2012 Budget Overview document
Growing up in Minnesota, and having just spent the last three years in North Carolina, hearing or reading the term “public lands” brings to mind some pretty specific notions and memories, most of which include traveling a long distance, paying entrance or vehicle fees, rangers and managers who varied from enthusiastic to ornery, and usually lots of people.
After living in Sitka for just over two months now, I’ve come to see public lands in a much different light. Sitka is nestled within 17 million acres of mountains, forests, streams and muskegs that comprise the Tongass National Forest. There’s no long expedition needed to reach public lands here – they’re in our backyards. They are our backyards. And these public lands are so much more than just a beautiful place to visit – they are the backbone to the communities of southeast Alaska.
I did take a small excursion this past weekend, over to Kruzof Island. I was excited to actually travel the roads and see the forests, beaches, streams and muskegs I have spent so much time working with on the computer. Not to mention this was my first chance to see the Tongass off of Baranof Island. The purpose of this trip was two-fold: to ‘ground truth’ a number of forest stands and salmon streams for their current condition and their potential for restoration work, and to experience first-hand why Kruzof is such a popular and important place for Sitkans.
I traveled with AmeriCorp volunteer Paul Norwood and SCS’s Watershed & Restoration manager Scott Harris over to Mud Bay. Once there, we anchored the boat, loaded up our gear onto our rented ATV’s, and headed west across the island to North Beach cabin (our ‘home base’ for the next couple of days). Already on the very first day on Kruzof, my idea of what “public lands” are started to shift. There I was, looking in awe at the beautiful forests and muskegs of north Kruzof as we roared along in our ATVs, all the while the other people we came across during our trip were there hunting deer with their families, starting to set out marten traps for the upcoming trapping season, and just enjoying the weekend out in the woods.
While our trip didn’t include trap setting, I was able to experience deer hunting for the first time (a beautiful buck on our first day), ATVing through forests, up mountains and across rivers, hiking in streams and through muskegs, old growth stands and thick young growth, and strolling along Shelikof beach collecting sand dollars. All of these amazing and unique experiences, all in three days, all on a small section of an amazing island, and all on public land.
As important and cherished as Kruzof is to Sitkans today, it still shows a landscape scarred from a less than kind history of extensive clear-cutting. Amid the tangle of young growth we climbed through were the moss-covered stumps of the giant trees that once towered there; streams barren of any logs or other diversions were lined with the blunted ends of old fallen trees that had been removed to allow for machinery to move easily upstream; mountain and hill-sides were blanketed in a mosaic of old growth, young growth, and veins of alder along the roads and trails. The scars are healing on Kruzof, but work is still needed to ensure that we can bring Kruzof back to it’s previous ecosystem health, allowing us and the countless animals that live there to enjoy the many riches of Kruzof well into the future.
This trip showed me Kruzof Island as more than just a pretty view of Mount Edgecumbe: it is simultaneously a place for hiking, ATVing, subsistence hunting, fur trapping, restoration work on salmon streams and the surrounding forests, bird watching, beach-combing, quiet reflection, adventure… the list goes on. And all of this without any waiting in line at an entrance gate, or paying a visitor fee, or being constantly monitored by rangers and land managers. Believe it or not, this was the first time I had seen “the public” actually utilizing their public land. After all the visits I had made to public lands before in the lower 48, it wasn’t until coming here to Sitka, and seeing it first hand on Kruzof Island, that I really understood what public lands are really about.
We are so fortunate here in southeast Alaska to not only to have this beautiful landscape as the backdrop of our lives, but to have that landscape as public land that we can visit for recreation and relaxation, and for our livelihoods. The fishing and tourism industries, which are the first and second largest employers and revenue makers in Sitka, are dependent on healthy forests, salmon streams, myriad wildlife, hiking and ATV trails, and cabins: all of which are found in our public lands. On Kruzof, these are places like Shelikof Creek, Iris Meadows, Twin Lakes, North Beach cabin, and so many more. Yes, public lands like the Tongass National Forest are managed by tax payers’ dollars, but the money that the public pays to manage the Tongass is re-paid one hundred-fold. From the roughly 14 million dollars that the Forest Service spends on tourism and fisheries & watershed management within the Tongass, just under two billion (that’s $2,000,000,000!) is brought into the local economies of southeast Alaska from these two industries. And this number doesn’t even include the value of subsistence hunting, fishing and gathering.
When I see Mount Edgecumbe on a clear day, or look out from atop Harbor Mountain, or hear the words “public lands”, a new array of memories and ideas come to mind. Public lands are for all people, for a profusion of different activities. They’re a gift and a legacy for all of us.