Senator Lisa Murkowski has reintroduced the Sealaska Lands Legislation, with the new version of the bill containing five selections in the Sitka area, some of which are in crucial subsistence and recreation areas.
The Sitka-area selections are 15.7 acres at Kalinin Bay, 10.6 acres at North Arm, 9 acres at Fick Cove, 10.3 acres at Lake Eva, and 13.5 acres at Deep Bay.
LEARN MORE ABOUT THE SITES BELOW
Background: Murkowski's legislation, known as S.340, is the fourth version of the Sealaska Lands Legislation to be introduced in the last eight years. Like the three previous versions, the primary focus of this Legislation is to allow the Sealaska Corporation to make land selections outside the boundaries it agreed upon following the passage of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. The Legislation would lead to the privatization of over 70,000 acres of the Tongass and grant Sealaska access to substantially more old growth forest than if it made its selections within the previously agreed upon boundaries.
In fairness to Murkowski and Sealaska, the latest version of the Legislation is a significant improvement on prior versions of the Legislation, with the addition of timber stream buffers, removal of proposed "Natives Futures" development sites from the Sitka area, and the inclusion of new provisions for subsistence access in cultural and historic sites.
Most of the development lands in the Legislation are on Prince of Wales Island, and all of the Sitka-area selections are deceptively-labeled "cemetery and historic" sites. From the time the first version of the Legislation was introduced, the Sitka Conservation Society has held the position that we do not oppose Native management of important Native cultural and historic sites. Our problem has been that from our experience and review of agency practices concerning previous historic site applications, including that at Redoubt Falls near Sitka, the law is so loosely interpreted by the federal agencies tasked with determining what qualifies as a cemetery/historical site that virtually anything can be considered "historic." Indeed, we have seen little evidence to the historic value of most of the sites selected by Sealaska.
Under the new Legislation, Sealaska has selected 76 "cemetery and historic" sites around Southeast Alaska. For years we have said that the Tongass National Forest is large, but its greatest resources are concentrated in small areas like the mouths of streams and in safe anchorages. Thus, some of the spots with the richest resources in the Tongass might only take up a few acres. Many of Sealaska's proposed cemetery/historic sites selections are small in terms of acres, but the effect of making these spots private inholdings can be very "large" such as when they are located at "choke points" of access or cover the entire mouth of a stream. It might only takes two acres at the mouth of a stream to, in effect, control the whole stream.
SCS have told Senators Begich and Murkowski that we oppose the Sealaska Legislation, and we encourage you to do the same. SCS -- Sealaska Murkowski lettertoviewthe letter expressing our concerns. Please contact them and explain how you and your family use and rely on the parcels selected in the Legislation.
SITKA-AREA SITES OF IMPORTANT CONCERNS
The latest version of the Sealaska Lands Bill includes six cemetery and historic sites in the Sitka area. While some of these sites may contain important cultural artifacts, at this time we have seen little evidence and we would like to see a lot more. From past experience, most notably our work on Sealaska's pending selection of Redoubt Falls near Sitka, the standards for what qualifies as "historic" are extremely broad. Actual archeological evidence is not needed, and often sites are deemed historic by second hand oral accounts. Furthermore, from our experience, the agencies tasked with enforcing these loose standards are generally unwilling to raise objections or apply the law to its full extent.As noted, we have been given little information about the historic significance of the Sitka-area sites. About all we know is the site locations as listed here:
- Kalinin Bay Village (site 119). This is a tourism spot and is used for hunting and fishing. As recently as the 1960s, it was used as a fish camp, which included a store and diesel generating plant.
- Lake Eva Village (site 120). This includes trail access.
- Deep Bay Village (site 181). This area is widely used for hunting and fishing. The 1975 field investigation found no evidence of occupation.
- North Arm Village (site 187). This is a popular hunting, fishing and guided bear hunting location. The 1975 field investigation states: "This could possibly have been a village."
- Fick Cove Village (site 185). This is a popular hunting and subsistence area. The 1975 field investigation revealed the ruins of two cabins which may have been trapper cabins.
Take Action: If you or your family use these sites, please contact Senators Begich and Murkowski and tell them you do not want to lose access to public lands.
111 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
fax. (202) 224 - 2354
Toll-free line: (877) 501 - 6275
Email Senator Begich HERE
Email Senator Murkowski HERE
Sealaska Corporation selected the Kalinin Bay Village Site in the latest version of the Sealaska bill. The Kalinin Bay site is 15.7 acres, making it the 5th largest historic site selection in Southeast. The popular Sea Lion Cove Trail begins at the head of Kalinin Bay and continues over to the west side of Kruzof Island. It is not known what impacts there may be on trail access, if the Sealaska bill passes.
In earlier versions of the bill, Sealaska selected Kalinin Bay as an "enterprise site" which would have allowed tourism activities and created a Sealaska controlled "access zone" in a fifteen mile radius of the site. Although Kalinan Bay has been selected under a different designation in the current bill, there may be allowances for tourism type activities.
For more information on the current Selalaska bill, and how you can help CLICK HERE.
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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:
Last weekend, SCS organized a work party to replace a broken bridge behind Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School. The bridge is used by students who monitor the stream and its surrounding habitat, but it recently sustained serious damage due to rot and falling trees, and became too unsafe for classroom use.
Requests were made to several organizations and agencies but every one of them lacked either the time, the money or the workers needed to perform the work. SCS turned out to be the perfect catalyst for drawing resources from around the community and turning them into an effective bridge-building team.
- Spenard Builders' Supply paid for about half of the material, and delivered them almost immediately.
- Sitka Trails Work covered the rest of the expenses, and provided tools, a truck, and invaluable expertise.
- Science teacher Rebecca Himschoot and her crew of Keet Gooshi Heen parent volunteers contributed their labor and tools. They also set up an impromptu class on the physics of levers.
- Carpenter Mike Venetti directed the project and designed the bridge.
- Sitka Community Schools and the Sitka Conservation Society contributed volunteer labor.
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 buildingreceive $20 million). The health of the streams and watersheds that produce nearly $1 BILLION each year throughcommercial, 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 salmonand 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!
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Sunday, March 10th, Kettleson Library
Get your hiking boots and sneakers ready and plan your next trip on Sitka's trails. Carin Farley from the National Park Service and Deborah Lyons from Sitka Trail Works will be sharing the latest work on the Sitka trail system.Learn more about the efforts of various agencies, non-profits, and volunteers to create a world class trail system in Sitka. This is a good chance to learn about how you can get involved and help as Sitka continues to work to complete our trail plan.
Bring your unwanted outdoor gear to the Sitka Gear Swap at Kettleson Library from 3:00 to 4:30 pm, before the Trails of Sitka Talk.There will be tables set up, both inside and outside of library, to display your gear.
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Wednesday, February 27th, 7:00 pm, UAS
In Northwest British Columbia there are currently 21 projects either active or in the later stages of exploration. Some of these projects are open pit mines that rival the size of the proposed Pebble Mine. The fisheries on the Stikine, Unuk, and Taku Rivers are threatened. Guy Archibald from Southeast Alaska Conservation Council will talk about the proposed mines and their widespread implications for Southeast Alaska's fishing industry.
There will also be a casual meet and greet with Guy Archibald at the Brewery February 28th from 5-6pm to discuss these issues.
Learn more here
For visual inspiration, watch Sacred Headwaters:
Learn what is happening in the Food Movement locally, nationally, and globally. Check out the films, join the roundtable discussion, and tune into Rob Kinneen's keynote presentation on the use of local and traditional foods. Sink into your chair, munch on some popcorn, and get your taste buds in on the movie-theater experience! Films are free but donations are encouraged. Check out the line up below!
SCS's short documentary Restoring America's Salmon Forest was selected to show at the Alaska Forum on the Environment Film Festival on Friday, February 8, 2013 in Anchorage. The film focuses on a multi-agency effort to increase salmon returns on the Sitkoh River in Southeast Alaska's Chichagof Island, by improving the spawning and rearing habitat and redirecting a river that was heavily damaged by logging operations in the 1970s.
In the heyday of the Southeast Alaska timber industry, little regard was paid to the needs of salmon. Streams were frequently blocked and diverted, with streams in 70 major watersheds remaining that way decades later. Salmon surpassed timber in economic importance in Southeast Alaska more than two decades ago, but only in the last few years has the Forest Service finally made a serious effort to repair damaged streams. Currently over 7,000 jobs in Southeast Alaska are tied to the fishing industry, compared to about 200 in the timber industry. The Forest Service spends about three times as much on timber related projects as fisheries and restoration projects each year on the Tongass.
While salmon are responsible for 10 times as many jobs in Southeast Alaska as timber, and are also an important food source and a critical part of our cultural identity, the Forest Service still puts timber over salmon in its budget priorities. Recent Forest Service budgets have dedicated in the range of $22 million a year to timber and road building, compared to less than $2 million a year to restoring salmon streams damaged by past logging, despite a $100 million backlog of restoration projects.
Logging damages watersheds by diverting streams, blocking fish passage, and eliminating crucial spawning and rearing habitat structures. Restoration increases salmon returns by removing debris, redirecting streams, stabilizing banks to prevent erosion, and even thinning dense second-growth forest. We believe it simply makes sense to go back and repair habitat if you are responsible for its damage.