Red Bluff Bay is one of the most iconic places on Baranof Island. The area gets its name from the red, ultramafic (meaning high iron content) of the bedrock outcrop that marks the entrance of the bay. SCS's Wilderness Crew, accompanied by author Nick Jans, targeted the bluffs as a prime environment to survey for rare and sensitive plants. Red Bluff is also a popular destination for travelers and small cruise boats, so it was also important to monitor the base-line levels of human use to ensure that we don't "love this place to death."
Goulding Lakes are a series of three large lakes right in the middle of West Chichagof-Yakobi Wilderness area. In the summer of 2010, the SCS Wilderness Crew comprised of SCS staff and a number of volunteers, flew into the largest of the lakes with the goal of survey priority areas as they backpacked north to Stag Bay. Check out the video to see how the adventure unfolded.
On the day before Halloween, the US Forest Service announced they were going to reduce the already insufficient $1.1 million dollar Wilderness and Recreation budget for the entire Tongass National Forest by over half a million dollars.
This is "budgetary clear-cutting" with the Forest Service already proposing theclosure of 12 cabinsalongside a reduction in the staff positions responsible for maintaining trails, keeping cabins stocked and safe, and processing the permits for guides and tour operators.
Cabin closures and loss of Wilderness and Recreation staff overall signifies a lack of prioritization of the tourism and recreation industries here in the Tongass National Forest. The tourism industry alone racks in$1 Billion annuallywith thousands of visitors coming every year to experience the wilderness of Southeast Alaska.
The Forest Service is not fulfilling its promise of theTongass Transition. The Transition is a framework the agency adopted in 2010 aimed at creating jobs in sectors like recreation and tourism while moving away from Southeast's outdated timber management program. For instance, next year the Forest Service has estimates that just one timber sale will COST taxpayers $15.6 Million (that's over 25 times the entire Wilderness and Rec budget). The Transition (where it to be enacted) would dictate that sustainable and profitable programs like Recreation and Wilderness would take precedence over such wasteful timber projects.
The Forest Service enacted the Transition three years ago. Now we want them to take action to save our recreation and tourism opportunities from these budgetary reductions. We need to support what sustains our livelihoods here in the Tongass rather than reduce them year after year.
Contact Senator Begich and Senator Murkowski. Ask them to encourage the Forest Service to take action on the Tongass Transition by reallocating their budgets to make Wilderness and Recreation a priority and to push for more federal funding for the Forest Service. Email, while important, are not as effective as written letters. If you would like help drafting a letter, contact SCS at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (907) 747-7509.
SCS traveled with Forest Service personnel investigating the decommissioned cabins in Maksoutoff and Rezanof lakes. We conducted invasive and sensitive plant surveys on both Rezanof and Khostof lakes, including the main creek valley at the head of Rezanof Lake and up the northwestern slope of Mt. Hagemeister.
We did not locate any invasive plant species in the area.
The most unique vegetation type encountered on this trip was the grass dominated meadows on the eastern shore. The grasslands may be maintained by episodic flooding and/or browse of invading shrubs and trees.
Also at the upper lake shore were less frequently encountered species such as Symphotrichum subspicatum. An infrequently encountered orchid (on Baranof Island), Goodyera oblongifolia, was found in the peninsula between the Khostof and Rezanof lake.
We did relocate populations of Mimulus lewisii (on the Alaska Natural Heritage Vascular Tracking List) on the eastern shore of Rezanof Lake.
We found one adult boreal toad in the sloughs of Rezanof Creek.
Rarely documented lichen (for Baranof Island) on Tsuga mertensiana on Mt. Hagemeister: Nephroma arcticum
Historical: Located USGS markers related to hydrological project in late 1960's.
Range extension of a bryophyte, Pseudolescurea patens, previously known from Yakutat area in Southeastern Alaska.
Notable bird sightings: Great Blue Heron nest, Red Tail hawk, Lesser sandpiper, and Red throated loons.
We spent 5 days at Red Bluff bay conducting Invasive and sensitive plant surveys and solitude monitoring. Red Bluff was the most heavily used area that we visited in either Wilderness during the 2009 field season. There were 10 private boats anchored in the bay and 2 parties seen on shore.
We did not find any invasive species, but document several populations of Polystichum kruckebergii , a species of fern included on the Region 10 Sensitive plant list, on the bluffs. Additionally we found two species included on the Alaska Natural Heritage Vascular Plant tracking list, Mimulus lewisii (S2) and Asplenium trichomanes (S1) on the bluffs near the abandoned cannery site. Interesting vegetation types encountered included the strikingly sparse vegetation found on the ultramafic bluffs and stands of Populus balsamifera in the floodplain.
Cedar samples were collected for the Forest Sciences study on the genetics and biogeography of Alaska Yellow Cedar.
Notable bird sightings included: a pair of Red-throated loons, groups of Marbled murrelets, a juvenile Trumpeter Swan and a Western Screech Owl.
The most unusual animal sighting was grasshoppers (not typical of insular southeast Alaska) on the bluffs.
A sow and cubs were seen in the estuary meadow.
The Wilderness Ranger and I spent an overnight trip at Lake Diana to monitor a hunting camp and to conduct invasive and sensitive plant surveys.
We did extensive clean up of a camp site near the eastern shore of the lake, including trash collection, line removal and consolidating multiple fire rings into one site.
We hiked up from the eastern shore to the snow line on the ridge overlooking the Salmon Lake valley. No invasive or sensitive plants were seen. The most notable feature of the vegetation was the presence of several native Mtn Ash trees.
Notable bird sightings: American Pipits, Red-Tailed Hawks
Our first attempt to fly to Lake Elfendahl was not successful (due to weather) and we made camp on Lydonia Island. The second day, a float plane moved us to Lake Elfendahl where we spent 3 days.
Lydonia island is small island with a mixture of vegetation types cedar dominated young forest, scrubby mixed conifer, open muskeg and a pond with a small area of grass/sedge/herb meadow. In the small meadow we found our second invasive species of the field season, Phleum pratense .
There was sign of a camp site (tent stakes) on the island, but no trash.
At Lake Elfendahl we surveyed the outlet of the lake and approximately a mile down an unofficial trail to White Sulfur Hot Springs. Near the lake outlet we collected a buccal swab genetic sample from a Boreal Toad.
Near the outlet of the lake we collected some atypical species including Ranunculus aquatilis and Botrychium mulitfidum.
We also conducted sensitive and invasive plant surveys up the slopes of Mt. Fritz. None were found, but we did collect Cinna latifolia an under documented, but probably not unusual species of grass.
Notable bird sightings: Spotted Sandpipers, Semi-palmated plovers, and Common Loons.