The Tongass National Forest was a designation imposed upon the traditional and current homelands of the Língit, Haida, and Tshimshian people, who continue to care for and steward the natural environment and resources that sustain lifeways for many Southeast Alaskans. Sitka Conservation Society recognizes that land management decisions have historically been driven by corporate actors and corrupt government figures, rather than the local people who utilize and depend on the forest and surrounding waterways. 

A different approach to land management

We are invested in catalyzing more equitable approaches to land management  by building capacity for local citizens to undertake stewardship and restoration activities, supporting projects that demonstrate and exemplify co-stewardship approaches between Tribal governments and land management agencies, and advocating for policies that increase local decision making power and highlight the importance of resources that our communities depend on. 

Learn more on the Sustainable Southeast Partnership website. 

Wood Products for Cultural Use

Cedar Stewardship on the Tongass

Cultural Uses of Forest Resources Workshop

For seven years, the Sitka Conservation Society has been collaborating with partners across the region to research and document the cultural value of cedar trees – a cultural and ecological keystone species in the landscape of Southeast Alaska. In 2021, SCS and fellow collaborators in the Sustainable Southeast Partnership put this research into practice by sponsoring a workshop for staff of the U.S. Forest Service on Prince of Wales Island titled ‘Cultural Uses of Forest Resources.’

The Organized Village of Kasaan and the Hydaburg Cooperative Association hosted a two-day workshop for Forest Service timber cruisers and silviculturists. Culture bearers, tribal staff, and youth taught Forest Service employees about the uses that the Lingít, Haida, and Tsimshian people of the region have for the local tree species. Forest Service employees had the chance to partake in many of the cultural activities, a unique opportunity for many of them. They wove cedar bark into headbands with Haida culture bearer Chris Tolson and witnessed the harvesting of cedar bark by Hydaburg community leader Tony Christianson. During the field day, they collaborated with tribal staff to identify and catalog trees on the landscape that would be suitable for totem poles, canoes, and bentwood boxes. This was a shared learning opportunity between people with a deep cultural reverence for cedar trees, and those whose decisions directly impact the future of this ancient resource.

This workshop and the continuing work are addressing the century-long struggle between the Indigenous people of Southeast Alaska and a land management agency that was not originally created to appreciate the broad value that these forest resources have for the original inhabitants of this land. SCS is proud to support this work as the Forest Service begins to implement its new direction outlined in the USDA’s 2021 Southeast Alaska Sustainability Strategy of “meaningful consultation with Tribal governments and Alaska Native corporations.” We hope that this direction leads to management of this region in a more holistic manner that appreciates the diverse values that the Tongass encapsulates. 

Collaboration & Leadership Forums

Collaborative Leadership in Land Management 


Amplifying Local Perspectives for Tongass Management

Staff from the Sitka Conservation Society are regularly appointed to and participate in collaborative advisory bodies that inform land management decision-making and priorities, including local fish and game advisory committees, municipal resource management task forces, and federally designated advisory committees that are convened to inform everything from the creation of an Alaska-specific Roadless Rule to the revision of the Tongass Land Management Plan.  

Our work in these forums is focused on increasing local voices in land management and creating conservation outcomes by diversifying agency management focus and priorities. Historically, old growth timber harvest has driven agency budgets and staff time, while wildlife habitat  restoration, tribal co-management, land protection, and recreation programs have been neglected. Sitka Conservation Society works to raise the profile of and increase investment in projects and policies that restore habitat health and ecosystem function; increase collaboration and partnerships between land management agencies, tribes, businesses, and community organizations; and plan for the long term sustainability of the forest and resources that local communities depend on. We use our long-term participation in these forums to advocate for and create opportunities for other entities to participate and new perspectives to come to the forefront. 

We have participated in the processes that have crafted recommendations and guided agency approaches for on-the-ground management actions and economic development in Southeast Alaska, including the Tongass Transition Collaborative, the Pre-Commercial Thinning Task Force, the Tongass Advisory Committee, the Alaska Roadless Rule Citizens Advisory Committee, and the Tongass Blueprint. You can learn more about the collaborative forums that are leading the transition to a regenerative economy and a healthy forest here: