It's November and the salmon eggs are all nestled in their gravel beds, but we can still dream of next year's Blatchley Stream Team by watching this very cool video! Each May, over 100 Blatchley 7th Graders participate in Stream Team, where they help restore fish habitat and monitor stream health. This annual event is eagerly anticipated by the students as well as the organizers, which includes the US Forest Service, Sitka School District, Sitka Conservation Society, National Park Service, Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game, Corps of Engineers, and US Fish and Wildlife Service.
Three Sitka High School students were recently chosen to participate in the Science Mentor Program for the 2012-2013 school year. Program Coordinator Scott Harris and UAS Professor Kitty LaBounty stand with students Kaya Duguay, Naquoia Bautista, and Melea Roman. Kaya and Melea will be working on a cedar genetics study and Naquoia will be working on a winter songbird study.
I haven't consciously thought about water as frequently as I have in the last four weeks. There has never been a time where I have counted the seconds it takes me to wash my hands or cringed at running water so much. This month has been long, informative, and pretty cold, but has been made me realize how much water people use on a daily basis. Bucket showering was definitely something I was dreading in September, but I have to admit I have learned to love them. I enjoyed being challenged by them and it has helped me tremendously to really appreciate having running water.
I think I have perfected the art of bucket showering. Here are some tips I have learned along the way:
- Hold the bucket up in the air as close to the shower head as you can while filling it up. Then the water will stay warm through the whole bucket shower
- Have a cup to pour the water from the bucket onto yourself.
- Have patience. Bucket showering is a very slow process. It takes much longer to wash shampoo out of hair when water pressure is pretty much non existent.
During this month of my water conservation challenge I have experienced a whole array of emotions towards the project. There were days where I really wished I never brought up the idea of bucket showers and other times when I thought I might be able to do this for the rest of the year. Overall, it has been a wonderful month that has brought our whole JV community together. It is very motivating to have a community of people supporting one another to accomplish this goal. It has taught me that these small acts can be done by anyone who wants to help conserve water or just challenge themselves. Although we live in a city where water is more prevalent than almost anywhere else in the world, water is still a precious resource. We have an outstanding opportunity to take our rainfall and repurpose it. There are places within our country's borders that don't have the luxury of a long shower because they live in drought stricken environments with no extra water to spare. I think we can empathize with them by trying to conserve water in our own community.
During this month of water challenges and research I have learned that it takes approximately 250 gallons of water to create 1 gallon of hot water. This gives the issue of water conservation a whole new dimension: energy. November will be a month of energy conservation for the JV House with plenty of candle making and headlamps. Look out for an update.
For Halloween this year, we asked the Sitka community to look at the Tongass, consider what they love about it, and use Halloween as a way to express the beautiful national forest that surrounds us by wearing Tongass-inspired costumes.
Clicking through the photos below, one can see the diverse ways kids represented the Tongass. Whether it be by dressing up as a Tongass critter, a float plane, or a fishermen, the Tongass supports the livelihoods and maritime culture of Southeast Alaska while inspiring us in creative ways.
[gallery link="file" columns="6"]
Thank you to Old Harbor Books, Harry Race Pharmacy, and the Chocolate Moose for providing goodies, as well as SCS staff members Erin, Tracy, Courtney, and Andrew for handing out candy and smiling a whole bunch!
More than just timber and trailsJust about everyone who has visited Kruzof Island on the Tongass National Forest leaves knowing that they experienced a magical place. Most everyone realizes that even though they just visited an island within the borders of our Nation's largest national forest, that forest is much more than just a source of timber.
The visitors and the Sitkans who spend time there know that the place is more than just its trails and cabins, forests and muskegs, rugged coastline and tide pools, brilliant scenery and world class hunting. Altogether, the ecosystems and landscape on Kruzof is the essence of Southeast Alaska's coastal temperate rainforest ecosystem: a globally rare and unique ecosystem that is indescribably beautiful.
The Forests of Central Kruzof were logged in the past. To many, the scale and scope of logging were too much. To others, the logical was the logical use of the landscape. Today, we are charged with figuring out how we manage and take care of the Kruzof landscape and plan for the use of the land and protection of the cultural, wildlife, and aesthetic resources for future generations. Doing this right will require a holistic approach to take all of the island's vital attributes and resource values into account. That is, we may be able to harvest timber from Kruzof but how much? At what scale? How fast? And how to best benefit our community. We will need to leave areas free from roads and timber harvest to protect vital habitat for spawning salmon, rutting deer, and fish-hungry bears. We will also have to invest and maintain recreational infrastructure for residents and visitors so that they can access and experience Kruzof Island and understand how special the place is.
To make sure the public lands of Kruzof are managed in the best way possible, citizens should be engaged in the planning processes that decide what will happen on public lands. They can do that by going directly to those who will decide, the US Forest Service. SCS is working with the local Sitka Collaborative Stewardship Group and the US Forest Service to give Sitkans an opportunity to brainstorm and give their ideas and input. Watch for meeting notices in early December 2012. For those who cannot attend a meeting in Sitka, they can contact:
These are decisions that will affect the ecosystems of Kruzof Island, all the myriad animals that depend on those ecosystems, and us: the Sitkans who depend on Kruzof for its excellent hunting. fishing. hiking, bear viewing, camping and more.
The Forest Service will go ahead and decide the fate of Kruzof how they see fit, unless each of us speaks up and lets them know how much we value Kruzof and its future.
Tell the Forest Service how you want to see the future of Kruzof shaped. Contact the Sitka District Ranger Carol Goularte and let her know that Sitkans want to be included in planning the future of Kruzof!
Contact Carol Goularte: byemail[email protected] or by phone 747-6671
Starrigavan Creek CabinThe Starrigavan Creek Cabin is not only the most popular cabin in the Tongass National Forest, it's also a tangible example of how sustainable second growth timber harvest can be utilized. Who needs old growth harvests when such beautiful things can be built with sustainable second growth?
Even building the cabin was a learning experience! This beautiful cabin was constructed as a part of University of Alaska Southeast's two-week log home building course. Check out a video about the building process here.
More important than being an example of the use of second growth timber, the Starrigavan Creek Cabin is a great place for family and friends to get out and explore the Starrigavan Recreation Area. There's a reason this cabin is the more frequently used in all of the Tongass National Forests - great times and great memories to be made!
What are your favorite memories from time spent at the Starrigavan Creek Cabin?
Helen worked for two summers with SCS on wild salmon education and outreach programs and advocacy. She's currently pursuing a Masters of Regional Planning at Cornell University, focusing on sustainable food systems, and working for Sitka Salmon Shares.
As a Midwesterner, I enjoy meeting and learning from local farmers committed to producing quality food in sustainable ways. In college I loved crafting meals at home, experimenting with new vegetables from my parents' Community Supported Agriculture share. Yet for all my excitement, I rarely thought about food systems beyond the Midwest.That changed when I moved to Sitka, a fishing town build on salmon, nestled within the Tongass National Forest. There I ate pan-seared king salmon—straight from the docks—at the home of a fisherman friend, with sautéed greens harvested from the backyard. I learned quickly that, in this community, the sustainability of local food means something very different than what I knew in the Midwest. The health of the Forest relates intimately to the strength of the wild salmon runs that make Sitka one of the greatest premium ports in the country. Walking through the forest, along the docks, and through the processor, you see how salmon connects the environment, culture, and economy—and the central importance of Alaska's sustainable fishery management to ensuring these relationships continue.
Returning home to the Midwest, I was excited to share this salmon and its story. From my work with Nic Mink at the Sitka Conservation Society, I helped him establish Sitka Salmon Shares, the first Community Supported Fishery in the Midwest. We link fishermen we knew in Sitka with friends and neighbors in cities like Minneapolis—folks who crave the best salmon, but want the trust, transparency, and quality they currently seek from their farmers.
As part of Sitka Salmon Shares, we collaborated this fall with the Campus Club at the University of Minnesota to hold a Tongass salmon dinner. Chef Beth Jones used produce from the University's campus farm, crafting a sweet corn succotash and a heirloom tomato relish to accent the unique flavors of coho, king, and sockeye from our fishermen in SE Alaska.
The guests that evening, however, wanted more than a nourishing meal that celebrates small-scale, sustainable food and its producers. They wanted to understand the significance of the wilderness and watersheds that give life to the salmon. Nic gave a talk called "How Alaska's Salmon Became Wild," exploring the histories of farmed and wild salmon. Afterwards, we invited guests to join us in asking the U.S. Forest Service to design their budget to reflect the importance of salmon and their habitat within the Tongass. In return, SCS and fisherman Marsh Skeele thanked them with one pound fillets of troll-caught Tongass coho.
The enthusiasm that our guests had to take part in this effort illustrated the important role food can play in forging connections. I support eating locally, but we should not forget the power that emerges when we form strong connections across regions. Our dinner at the Campus Club revealed that by starting with the allure of a boat to plate meal, we can show how the process really begins in the forest. From Sitka to Minneapolis, the value of the Tongass and its salmon holds true.
Do you kayak in Silver Bay? Hike along Indian River? Hunt on Kruzof? These are the places you know and love: how do you want to see them managed? How do you think restoration and management should be prioritized?
Your input matters! The information we gather from this survey will help guide our work. Please fill out our short 5 minute surveyonlineor using the insert in Friday's issue of the Sitka Sentinel. Paper surveys can be dropped off at the SCS office, 4J's, the Highliner, or Kruz-off Espresso. Thanks!
For the last two weeks I have stood in my shower cherishing every moment because I knew it wasn't October yet. But September has passed and October will bring lots of rain, or so every Sitkan has warned me of, and new changes in the Jesuit Volunteer House. We have decided to take challenges every month to live a more simple and sustainable lifestyle. For our community, that means being mindful of the way we live. We want to leave the smallest footprint on our world and live in a manner that uses fewer resources.
We begin this challenge by looking at our water consumption. Many ideas were tossed around for this water theme, but the one that stuck was bucket showers. It is in part to see if we could all accomplish this, but most importantly it is about forcing us to really think about our personal consumption and be more aware of the choices we make when consuming water.
My interest in water consumption began in college when I learned that the majority of the world does not have access to water like we do. Many countries can't turn on a faucet and have clean running water. I thought I understood and appreciated this. I would always make sure to turn off the water when I wasn't using it, but never had I thought about how much I was potentially wasting in the shower. I started looking at my own water usage, but not enough for me to really change my showering habits, not until now. I needed the support of a community who was willing to not only bucket shower with me, but keep me motivated to continue.
I started timing my showers in September to see how many minutes a typical shower lasts. We had no way of determining how many gallons of water we were using during a shower, so we based everything off time. My showers averaged out to be seven minutes, which I would consider a fairly short shower, but I knew that bucket showering would take considerably less time. This morning I found out how short it was. One minute and forty five seconds was the time it took to fill up one kitchen bucket. It only took one bucket to do the same thing that seven minutes of running water takes. Was it pleasant? No, not really. It was cold and kind of uncomfortable, but that was the point. We are trying to push ourselves to feel a little more uncomfortable to understand how to live more simply and sustainably.
Water availability is probably not on the forefront of everyone's mind in one of the wettest climates in the world, but it's been on mine. What if every person in Sitka decided to flush their toilet one less time a day, turned off the water when they brushed their teeth, or took a shorter shower? What if every person did just one thing every day to conserve a little water? Think of how much that could be when 8,950 people decide to conserve just a little more than usual. Think of how many thousands of gallons of water we, as a community, could conserve together every day. Could everyone make themselves a little more uncomfortable one time a day? The Jesuit Volunteer House has promised 31 days worth of bucket showers to limit our water consumption. What if the entire community would take the challenge with us? Think of the possibilities. Stay tuned for updates.