After a summer of exploring, examining, and identifying, kids in the Alaska Way of Life 4H clubs are walking away from these 7 week clubs will a whole new skill set. During June and July, clubs in gardening, hiking, and kayaking met every week to build community, interact with their landscape, and learn new skills.
Gardening club spent every Monday at St. Peter's Fellowship farm learning how to plant, weed, water, harvest, cook, and de-slug. Every Thursday we explored other gardens in Sitka to learn different gardening techniques. We learned how chickens are helping Sprucecot Garden, saw how bees are pollinating plants at Cooperative Extension's Greenhouse, and the many different styles of gardening present at Blatchley's Community Garden. Kids walked away a little dirty and wet, but with smiles and plants in hand.
Kayaking Club incorporated more than just how to paddle a boat. We learned how to tie bowlines, clove hitches, and double fishermen knots. We had another 4H'er teach us how to build survival kits. Every kid learned how to use and put together their own kit to keep us safe on our kayaking journeys. Rangers at Sitka National Historical Park showed us why we have tides and how they change during the course of the day. Finally, after weeks of preparation, 4H'ers learned how to put on gear, get in and out of their boat, and paddle before we took to the water at Swan Lake and Herring Cove.
This summer's hiking club learned how to interact with the Tongass in new ways. We learned foraging skills and how to properly harvest spruce tips and berries. We collected leaves and flowers and created plant presses to preserve them. The kids learned flora and fauna of the muskeg before gathering labrador tea leaves. For our final hike, we learned how to use a compass and GPS to find treasure hidden in the forest. Even after learning all these new skills, we made time to hike seven different trails in Sitka.
25 kids participated in these three Alaska Way of Life 4H clubs over the summer with ages ranging from 5 to 12. These clubs were a great way to get outdoors and understand more about the amazing wilderness we live in. Look for more Alaska Way of Life 4H programs in the future! For more information or to sign up for 4H email [email protected]
Enjoy photos from the summer programs! For the full album, visit our facebook page.
Every summer the Sitka Conservation Society lures a handful of unsuspecting, environmentally minded, intrepid folk into the Tongass. They come from all over the world, hoping to experience Alaska. Little do they know that upon arrival they will be introduced to a wilderness so vast they could not hope to grasp it in one summer, and a town so welcoming that they will be taken into stranger's homes and offered homemade rhubarb crisp. This summer our media interns are a mix of local and imported young people who love storytelling and adventure.
Alex Crook flew to Alaska straight from Cambodia, where he has spent the past 10 months working as a photojournalist and freelance photographer. So far he has accomplished his subsistence goals by catching his first King and making his first salmonberry pie. Alex's other goals include using photography to give a face to the alternative energy movement in Southeast Alaska. (photo by Gleb Mikhalev)
Berett Wilber grew up fishing with her family and photographing her Southeast Alaska home. Berett's focus this summer will be collecting stories from locals about the places they love. She's interested in how the people of Southeast benefit from conservation in the Tongass.(photo by Gleb Mikhalev)
Caitlin Woolsey, another lifelong Sitkan, is excited to be back on the trails. She hopes to spend the summer hiking and writing stories that illustrate the importance of a well-preserved Tongass in the lives of Sitkans and Alaskans in general.(photo by Alex Crook)
Gleb Mikhalev has lived all over, from the midwest, to Russia, British Columbia, and New York City, and he says Sitkans are some of the most welcoming people he's ever met. Last summer Gleb crossed the Atlantic Ocean in a 32 ft. steel sailboat. This summer he's found his way to the Pacific, and hopes to spend the summer getting to know the people of Southeast Alaska. (photo by Alex Crook)
Kari Paustian was born and raised in Sitka and has spent the last few summers working on the Forest Service Trail Crew. This summer she will be the SCS liaison with the Forest Service, managing projects and writing stories on restoration in the Tongass.(photo by Alex Crook)
Lione Clare, another Sitkan, joins the intern team as a photographer. She has loved growing up in Sitka, and feels lucky to have had the opportunity to explore and get to know her environment. She wants to work to conserve the Tongass by documenting the beauty that she sees all around her and sharing it with others.(photo by Ray Pfortner)
By the end of the summer, the interns hope to cover a variety of stories, from subsistence living on Prince of Wales to the Blue Lake Dam construction here in Sitka. Stay tuned for this team's photos, stories, and films about living with the land and building community here in the Tongass.
The Tongass National Forest provides our communities with subsistence foods, a thriving economy, and an inestimable cultural heritage. 31 communities are located within the Tongass, including 22 Federally recognized tribes who have been here since time immemorial. The Roadless Rule protects the Tongass from unsustainable industrial-scale logging and fosters sustainable development in Southeast Alaska. The Trump administration has pressured the Forest Service to remove the Roadless Rule from the Tongass, which would damage the environment, economy, and way of life for communities. This decision goes aganist the wishes of the majority of Southeast Alaskans—tribal governments, local organizations and businesses, and communities—who have spoken in favor of keeping it in place.
Take Action: Write a comment to your elected officials with our comment tool!: https://mobilize4change.org/MP6rV6a
- Share the tool with friends, family, and on social media! These are all Americans' public lands; let's get everyone speaking out.
- Write a letter to the editor to tell your community why YOU are speaking out for the Tongass. Email [email protected] for support to get started.
Call your elected officials and let them know that you support bringing the Roadless Rule back:
📞 Governor Mike Dunleavy: (907) 465-3500
📞 Senator Dan Sullivan: (202) 224-3004
📞 Senator Lisa Murkowski: (202)-224-6665
📞 Representative Don Young (202) 225-5765
- Write a comment in support of the Tongass Tribes’ petition for a Traditional Homelands Conservation Rule: https://mobilize4change.org/zakXEDp
Other ways to take action
Encourage your representatives to look ahead
Tell your congressional leaders that as we recover from COVID-19 and work to strengthen our economy that you want them to support Tongass Forest Management Stewardship and Restoration.
Stay informed: Sign-up for action alerts!
Stay up to date on the issues and programs to protect Salmon and the Tongass National Forest in Southeast Alaska by joining our newsletter and following us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!
Interested in volunteering with the Community Wilderness Stewardship Project? This year we'll have a number of opportunities for you to get into the field with SCS staff and USFS Wilderness Rangers to help collect monitoring data, remove invasive weeds, and enjoy our amazing Wilderness areas.
Slocum Arm- 6 days - July 8-July 14 – 2 volunteers
Volunteers will be travelling to Slocum Arm in West Chichagof Wilderness Area to help researchers monitor plots for the Yellow-Cedar study by Stanford University. The crew will be transported by charter boat to Slocum Arm, then access field plot by kayak.
Slocum Arm – 5 days – July 14-July18 - 2 volunteers
Volunteers will be travelling to Slocum Arm in West Chichagof Wilderness Area to help researchers monitor plots for the Yellow-Cedar study by Stanford University. The crew will be transported by charter boat to Slocum Arm, then access field plot by kayak. This trip will trade-out with the previous trip on July 14th.
Port Banks/Whale Bay- 5 days – July12-July16 – 2 volunteers
After boating from Sitka to Whale Bay, the crew will off-load with gear and packrafts. After hiking to Plotnikof Lake, the crew will packraft to the end of the lake, portage to Davidoff Lake and paddle to the end of the lake, then reverse the trip back to salt water. Volunteers will assist SCS staff and collect ecological and visitor use data. At the end of the trip, volunteers will fly back to Sitka by float plane.
Red Bluff Bay- 8 days – July 21-July 28 – 2 volunteers
Red Bluff Bay on the eastern side of South Baranof Wilderness Area is a spectacular destination. The SCS crew will spend 8 days camping in the bay and traveling by kayak and foot to monitor base-line ecological conditions and visitor use before flying back to Sitka by float plane.
Red Bluff Bay- 7 days – July 28-August 3 – 2 volunteers
Red Bluff Bay on the eastern side of South Baranof Wilderness Area is a spectacular destination. The SCS crew will spend 8 days camping in the bay and traveling by kayak and foot to monitor base-line ecological conditions and visitor use before flying back to Sitka by float plane. This trip will trade-out with the previous trip on August 3.
Taigud Islands – 7 days – August 11-August 17 – 3 volunteers
Volunteers will paddle from Sitka to the Taiguds and surrounding islands to assist SCS Wilderness staff monitor recreational sites and collect beachdebrisfor future pick-up. The crew will then paddle back to Sitka. *Note: These dates are not yet firm and may be subject to change.
Arguably, to know a place is to know the plants. It's one thing to appreciate the aesthetics of a certain habitat but another to really know the plants within it. To really know a plant creates a relationship. One that's based on an understanding and appreciation of seasons, habitat, and life cycle. It's a give and take—food and medicine (among others) for protection and stewardship.
The Sitka Conservation Society created an opportunity for community members to deepen their relationship to the land through a "spring edibles plant series." This class explored edible plants in three different habitats: the forest, estuary, and coastline. Students learned how to identify plants, where they are commonly found, harvesting techniques, and preparation methods. And now, we hope, they have a deeper appreciation and connection to the Tongass National Forest.
This course was a partnership with the Kayaani Commission, which was established in 1998 to "preserve and protect the historical and traditional knowledge of the way plants are used." Kayaani Commissioners shared a customary wisdom, complementing instructor Scott Brylinsky's extensive knowledge of edibles and plants.
Click here for an online field guide to the wild edibles in the Tongass. Enjoy the tastes of the Tongass!
(photo from theSealaska Shareholder's Underground)In a recent Letter to the Editor in the Sitka Sentinel, the President and CEO of Sealaska Corporation attempted to waylay our fears that the public would not be allowed on landstransferredto the corporation's private ownership by the Sealaska Bill. He also stated that Sealaska does "not post 'NoTrespassing in any form on [Sealaska Corp.] lands," and goes on to state that "Sealaska stands on its history, having allowed access to its lands forresponsibleuse."
Update: See our full response, published May 10th in theSitka Sentinelat the bottom of the post.
The mission of the Sitka Conservation Society is to protect the public lands of the Tongass National Forest. As public lands, they belong to all Americans as National Patrimony. Although lands in public hands are not always managed how we want, the process exists for citizens to have their voices heard and give input on how the lands are managed. Most importantly, public access is guaranteed and not restricted in anyway. If important sites on the Tongass like Redoubt Lake are privatized and owned by Sealaska Corporation, they are no longer part of all our national patrimony and the public does not have a say in how they are managed. Sealaska Corporation says that they will allow "unprecedented access." Whatever that is, it is nothing compared to current access on these lands that all of us currently own as American citizens.
Our greatest fears concerning the potential in-holding parcels that the Sealaska Corporation wants to own is not what may happen in the next few years, but what will happen 10, 20, or 30 years from now. We understand that Sealaska will make many promises now when they want support for their legislation. But we can't predict what future Sealaska Corporate boards might decide to do with the land and who may or may-not be allowed to use them. These fears are what unsettles us the most about the Sealaska legislation.
Below is the current Sealaska policy for access to its lands which clearly states access is per their discretion:Click here to download the entire report.)
Letter to the Editor, published in theSitka SentinelMay 10th, 2013.
Dear Editor: Recently the Sealaska Corporation's President and Corporate Executive Officer (CEO), Chris McNeil called out the Sitka Conservation Society in a letter to the editor and called us out for causing "anxiety, anger, and opposition" to Sealaska's actions. I would respond to Mr. McNeil that we are not causing this reaction, we are responding to it as it is what most of us in the community feel when we think of public lands like Redoubt Falls, Port Banks, Jamboree Bay, Kalinin Bay, and places in Hoonah Sound being taking out of public hands and put into corporate ownership. We did put graphics with cartoon police tape over a photo of SItkans subsistence dip-net fishing at Redoubt falls. They can be seen on our website at www.sitkawild.org. These graphics represent our greatest fears: that a place that all of us use and depend on, and that is owned by all Americans (native and non-native), will have limitations put on it under private ownership or will be managed in a way where members of the public have no voice or input. Our fears come from past Sealaska actions. We also put photos on our website of Sealaska logging on Dall Island and around Hoonah; and we linked to the story of Hoonah residents who asked that logging not be so extensive and target their treasured places but were logged anyway. The case in those areas is that the corporate mandate to make a profit superseded what community members wanted. We are scared of what corporate management of these important places around Sitka will mean on-the-ground and we will continue to speak out to protect our public lands. Mr. McNeil Jr. paints the issue as native vs. non-native and accuses SCS of wanting to "put natives in a box." For us, the issue is about distrust of corporations without public accountability, not ethnicity. Mr. McNeil has an annual compensation package that is far greater than the entire SCS budget. He is flanked by lawyers who can write legal language and policy that we cannot begin to understand the implications of. Even in their different versions of the House and Senate legislation, the access policy is very different, confusing, and ultimately subject to Sealaska's whims. As SCS, we are speaking out against a corporation owning the public lands where publicly owned resources are concentrated on the Tongass. Sealaska's legislation is not good for Sitka if it means that more places like Redoubt Falls could be taken out of public hands and transferred to a corporation. Sincerely, Andrew Thoms
Check out this in-depth natural history of the Gavan Forest in Sitka, put together by naturalist Richard Carstensen. Download the report HERE.
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Salmon, water, and the Alaskans who depend on them need your help!
[dropcap]Background:[/dropcap] Right now, the Alaska State Senate is debating whether or not they should make it more difficult for Alaskans to protect the water in their backyards for salmon habitat. HB77, the In-Stream Water Reservations Bill, would convolute an already convoluted public process, eliminating the requirement for public comment periods. It would also give the Department of Natural Resources Commissioner the authority to issue General Permits for industrial operations if the commissioner determines the project will not cause "significant or irreparable harm" to Alaskans and issue permits that would directly and negatively impact salmon habitat if the commissioner determines it is in the "best interest of Alaska."
As a reminder, the Department of Natural Resources no longer values future generations—they eliminated "future generations" from their mission statement last year.
Additionally, HB77 intends to revoke certain rights from Alaskan individuals, organizations, and tribes, and gives the government of Alaska authority on whether or not salmon and water are as important as industrial development. In other words, this bill protects Outside interests at the expense of local Alaskans. For an example of DNR siding against Alaskans in favor of Outside interests, and why this bill is relevant to all Alaskans, click here.
- Alaskans need more opportunities to preserve salmon and our unique way of life, not fewer
- HB77 protects the right for Outside interests to take water out of salmon streams while making it more difficult for Alaskans to keep water in salmon streams
- The bill gives DNR discretion to negatively impact salmon habitat if it is in the "Best Interest" of the State of Alaska
- It eliminates the requirement for DNR to open public comment periods on "Best Interest Findings"
- 95% of public testimony opposed HB77, including fishing organizations, Alaska Native Tribal councils, city councils, fishermen, hunters, and every day residents
Alaska's fish and water need you to stand up and take action immediately. There are two ways you can help: You can write a My Turn in the Juneau Empire, or you can contact the Alaska State Senate Coastal Caucus and let them know you oppose HB77, a bill that revokes certain rights from Alaskans, eliminates the requirement for public comment periods at DNR, and gives DNR discretion to impact salmon habitat for the benefit of Outside companies.
[email protected] 465-3873
[email protected] 465-4947
[email protected] 465-2828
[email protected] 465-4925
[email protected] 465-3707
Over the last several weeks, Fish to Schools has been teaching 7th graders at Blatchley Middle School about salmon's journey from the stream to our plates. The students learned about salmon management, gutting and filleting salmon, how local processors operate, how to smoke salmon, and more. After learning this process, the students had incredible things to say about the local fish lunches they eat at school. Listen and read what these insightful students said:
"I like it because it takes amazing, it's fresh, and it comes from our local fishermen that spend time and
"It tastes really really good, and it's a good chance for people to try new things"
"I eat it because it's a way of saying thank you to the fishermen who catch the fish"
"Because it's healthy and good for you, and you feel good after you eat it"
"It supports our economy and it tastes good"
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