On January 16, 2013 at 6:30pm at Centennial Hall, Sitkans can share their ideas and priorities with the Forest Service regarding the future management of Kruzof Island. Over the next few years, multiple habitat restoration, timber management, and recreational developments and maintenance can occur on Kruzof Island. The community survey we conducted also identified the Central Kruzof - Iris Meadows area as the #3 priority for future restoration work. As part of this process, we sent a small crew to Kruzof Island to ground-truth these opportunities. You can read their report here....
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Intern Job Title: "Using Story-telling and Media for Social Change Organizing" Internship
Location: Sitka, Alaska Description and Goals of Assignment:
The native people who have occupied Southeast Alaska for thousands of years learned to live with the land and the resources the landscape provided. For them, living locally wasn't a trendy thing to do, but was a reality that was dictated by geography, climate, and available resources. Southeast Alaska as a place—the actual landscape—helped to define the culture of the people that lived there. One of the cultural developments that the landscape helped create was the use of story-telling as a method of passing along customs, practices, skills, and ideals from one generation to the next and amongst clans and extended cultural networks and groups. As anthropologist Thomas Thornton notes in his seminal work Being and Place Amongst the Tlingit, "Events, beings, objects, [ideals] and places typically become at.óow(sacred) when they are crystallized as encapsulating images and consecrated through use."
At the Sitka Conservation Society, we have learned from and adopted these story-telling customs as a way to share our conservation ideals and conservation ethic and the story-telling practice continues to be an important part of our Southeast Alaskan landscape. As noted by the Island Institute's Gary Holthus in 2010, "One secret of creating an enduring culture is to choose those healthy stories…" For the Sitka Conservation Society, for the Native People of Sitka, and for the diversity of groups that constitute Sitka and Southeast Alaska, those healthy stories that create an enduring conservation culture are the stories that teach us how we can use and depend on our natural environment while also protecting and preserving that environment. Some of the stories that we tell that exemplify this include:
- The stories of the original activists who stepped up despite all odds to save a part of the landscape that was slated for destruction
- The right way to hunt, fish, trap, and gather resources from the environment to both be successful and to ensure that the resources aren't depleted so that we can provide for the continuity of that resource for future generations
- The story of the lives lived that exemplify community and conservation ideals and service to the community to built and sustain
- The stories of the animals, plants, fungi, and processes of the ecosystem and their interrelatedness and how they work together to create the whole
As part of our work for the Fish, People and Place Campaign on the Tongass in 2013, we will strive to integrate and recreate the native cultural traditions of shagoon, our sense of place and being, across our community and region, using storytelling. We will use stories to both help define and shape who we are as a community and a place; we will also use these stories to tell others who we are, to share the lessons that we have learned, to inspire in others, and to promote a sense of a need to protect and conservation this place and the livelihoods and lifestyles that are unique to the Tongass and Southeast Alaska. We will tell these stories using 21st century media and we will reach new and varied audiences in innovative and effective ways.
- Community Organizing: build relationships and networks amongst community members who use and depend on the natural environment of the Tongass
- Share stories that exemplify our conservation ideals and demonstrate people finding ways to live sustainably within the natural environment of the Tongass and build their communities
- Use diverse media to share our stories and reach diverse audiences (local, regional, state-wide, and national)
Document the ways that the people who live in Southeast Alaska exist in a close relationship with the natural environment that surrounds them. Document the conservation ethic and values that have evolved alongside the lives and livelihoods of people of Southeast Alaska that co-exist in a close relationship with the natural environment. Use photography, audio, video, and media to share these stories and values.
- Spend time with Sitkans and Southeast Alaskans who use and depend on the natural environment including fishermen, tour guides, subsistence gatherers, scientists and researchers, land managers, contractors, etc.
- Use informal interviews to collect and document unique stories and relationships
- Use photography, writing, video, and other media to document stories
- Use innovative media to share stories and ideals with larger audiences
- Use creative and innovative approaches to tell new types of stories that foster increased knowledge and understanding and promote civic and environmental action.
- Ability to effectively work with people of diverse backgrounds
- High level of problem solving ability; high level of ability to work independently; high level of ability to adapt and innovate
- Demonstrated ability to document stories and represent ideals through writing, photography, and/or video
- Knowledge of Southeast Alaska
- Ability to work for extended periods of time in the outdoors, especially in maritime and Wilderness environments; WFR, Leave No Trace training, or Wilderness Leadership experience/certification preferred
- Master Degree level experience in field pertinent to the position
- Demonstrated knowledge and experience in conservation issues and philosophy
This is a paid internship. Amount to be determined by Alaska Conservation Foundation.
Sitka has brought a myriad of new experiences for me in the short amount of time I have been here. I've learned I can home make my own jam or fruit leather from berries. I can process my own deer and have meat. I can harvest mushrooms and use them for a meal. These things were never a part of my upbringing. If you saw a berry on a bush in Chicago, you probably only ate it if you were dared. I have the opportunity to interact with the Tongass in more ways than just hiking the trails. Home making my own products seems much easier now than ever before.
To build off the idea of making my own foods or products, the other JV's and I have decided to try a chemical challenge for the month of December. There are too many harsh products with destructive properties in household items. We are spending one month exploring alternatives to these products. To help protect our streams and ocean from these harsh chemicals that will inevitably make it there after it's sent down the drain, we will create our own environmentally friendly products.
We are making one new homemade product or cleaning supply each week. This will include things like counter disinfectant, shampoo, toilet bowl cleaner, and more. After some research, we have found some common threads in homemade cleaning supplies, such as baking soda and vinegar. We have started collecting these types of ingredients to create some new cleaning supplies. Each week we will build off the previous product so by the end of the four weeks we will be consistently using four new cleaning solutions. Our goal is produce less harmful runoff and less of a footprint on our environment.
Salmon is an integral part of our community and it is the underlying backbone of what sustains us here in Sitka. Fisherman, processors, and fish eaters all have an investment in the livelihood of salmon in Alaska. Approximately 48 million wild salmon are caught every year in the Tongass. In order to keep our salmon healthy and safe, it is crucial that we protect our waters. Salmon are obviously hurt by trash and litter in the waterways, but chemicals are also effecting them. This could be overlooked because at a glance a river would look healthy and safe, but chemicals leaving our homes through the pipes or trash are making there way to the water. The EPA considers runoff to be the largest threat to water quality in the country currently. Investing in environmentally friendly products will help not only salmon, but the whole Tongass ecosystem. Check back at the end of the month to hear all about our new products and to get recipes to do this yourself!
Salmon are the backbone of the economy and the way-of-life in Southeast Alaska. Many of our regional leaders recognize the importance of salmon for Southeast Alaska and recently worked with the Sitka Conservation Society to articulate why Salmon are important and the efforts they are taking to protect and sustain our Wild Salmon Populations. With support from the State of Alaska Sustainable Salmon Fund and Trout Unlimited Alaska, SCS helped to produce a series of "Targeted, effective, and culturally competent messages on the importance of wild salmon and salmon habitat will be created that are customized to appeal to specific Southeast Alaska communities."
The work of the Sitka Conservation Society strives to find the common ground that we all have to the natural world that surrounds us. We work to build upon this common ground to chart a course for policy, practices, and personal relationships that create an enduring culture of conservation values alongside natural resource management that provides for current and future generations. In Alaska, we have in Salmon an opportunity to do things right. We are proud when are leaders recognize and support this vision and take actions that manifest this support. Listen to what they have to say:
Listen to: Senator Mark Begich
"We have an incredible salmon resource in Southeast Alaska. Did you know that salmon provide a 1 Billion dollar industry that powers the local economy? And that catching, processing and selling salmon puts 1 in 10 Southeast Alaskans to work? Salmon is big business throughout Southeast Alaska and symbolizes the richness and bounty of the Tongass National Forest. Healthy and abundant salmon--something we can all be proud of!"
Listen to: Senator Lisa Murkowski
"Since I was a young girl growing up in Southeast the region has been sustained because of the diversity of our economy, and a key part of that diversity is our salmon which fuel a 1 Billion dollar commercial fishery annually. Not to mention the sport fisheries' economic contributions. Catching, processing and selling salmon accounts for 10% of all regional jobs. Everyone is lucky to live in a place that produces such bountiful fisheries. Healthy and abundant salmon--something we can all be proud of!"
Listen to: Dale Kelly - Alaska Troller's Association
"Did you ever think that an old log lying in the stream might be good for salmon? Turns out it is! A fallen tree creates pools and eddies where salmon like to lay eggs. These areas are also nurseries for young salmon. Back in the day, people used to clear logs from salmon streams, but that's no longer allowed and restoration work is underway in some rivers. Healthy forests mean healthy salmon--something we can all be proud of!"
Listen to: Bruce Wallace - United Fishermen of Alaska
"Did you know that conserving and restoring salmon habitat means jobs for Southeast Alaskans? Salmon already employ about 1 in 10 people here. Restoring salmon watersheds damaged in the past means more fish, bigger overall catches, and more jobs. With support from the Alaska Sustainable Salmon Fund, forest restoration projects are underway in the Tongass National Forest. Healthy forests mean healthy salmon--something we can all be proud of!
Listen to: Sencer Severson - Salmon Troller
"Southeast Alaskans love our rare spells of hot, dry weather, but heat and sunshine can be bad for salmon--in fact, they like shade. That's why our towering trees in the Tongass National Forest are so important for our salmon to reproduce. Leaving trees along salmon streams provides essential shade. It also prevents erosion and keeps rivers in their natural channels. In the Tongass, healthy forests mean healthy salmon!"
"Alaska's sustainable salmon management depends on good information. That's why technicians may ask to look at salmon you've caught. Fish with the adipose fin removed usually means the salmon had a tiny wire ta implanted in side when they were juveniles. These tags provide managers with important information on the origin of the stock. Healthy and abundant salmon--something we can all be proud of!"
Background: The US Forest Service has adopted the Tongass Transition Framework, a program intended to shift forest management away from the out-dated and ill-fated old growth logging paradigm toward management that support multiple uses of the forest, including recreation, restoration, subsistence, and second-growth management. This is an encouraging recognition of the region's important natural resources, but the figures don't match the Forest Service's transition plan. Check out the figures here.
For example, the Forest Service still spends over $22 million a year on logging and road building, but only $6 million on recreation and tourism and $8 million on restoration and watershed. Our fishing industry relies on healthy watersheds and restoring damaged salmon stream. Our tourism industry relies on recreational facilities and wildplaces for visitors to get the Alaska experience. It just so happens that these are also the two biggest industries in Southeast, together supporting over 15,000 jobs and providing just under $2 BILLION to the local economy. Logging on the other hand only supports 200 jobs.
Take Action: Please ask the Forest Service to follow through with their Transition Framework and put their money where their mouth is. Write to the Undersecretary of Natural Resources, Harris Sherman.
Contact:Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell U.S. Dept. of Agriculture 1400 Independence Ave. S.W. Washington, D.C. 20250 Please also send a copy to SCS at [email protected] so we can hand-deliver all of your letters to the Undersecretary himself in Washington, DC.
Some key point to include in your letter:
- Tourism and fishing are the two largest economic drivers in Southeast Alaska.
- Logging and road building cost tax payers $22.1M annually, while the Forest Service only spends $6.1 M annually on tourism and $8.1M annually on fisheries and watershed management. BUT, the timber industry only supports 200 jobs— tourism supports 10,200 and fishing supports 7,200.
- The Forest Service has adopted the Tongass Transition Framework, a program to transition from timber harvesting in roadless areas and old-growth forests to long-term stewardship contracts and young growth management. This is an encouraging recognition of the need to protect the region's natural resources and fundamental economic drivers: tourism and fishing, BUT the Forest Service needs to reflect this transition in their budget.
- Be sure to include your personal connection to the Tongass, it's forests and natural resources.
- Also, be sure to include how you rely on the Tongass—for subsistence, recreation, business, etc.
"Do you know what the best part of energy fasting day is? When you open the refrigerator and there is light!" This is what my roommate told me as we sat in a dark kitchen with a few White E and homemade candles burning. This rather permanent state of darkness we had created for ourselves was starting to have its effects on us. As the sunlight got shorter and shorter every day, I had noticed my patience for darkness was doing the same. I loved being challenged by only using one light after 5pm, but it was not an easy way to live for a month. It is the best way to learn how often you use lights or energy. Even on the last day of November, I still would forget to take my headlamp into my dark room and would have to feel around for what I needed.
We only made one exception to our set of guidelines. We decided that on Thanksgiving we could use one main light and a bathroom light, but not before we had a long conversation as a community about changing our rules for a holiday. For every other day, it didn't matter if a friend stopped by or if we had a guest staying with us, we made everyone play along with our challenge. Reactions to this new way of life were mostly positive.
I learned that this month took some preparation. Every Wednesday our community did a complete energy fast using only the refrigerator and heating. Anything else that had to be plugged into the wall or used energy was off limits for those 24 hours. On Tuesdays we made food that we could eat cold the following day. Usually that consisted of cold rice and vegetables or tacos. We learned our lesson after not preparing for our first energy fast and some major scrounging had to happen in order to eat dinner.
Sitka relies on hydropower from dams to give power to the city. This is an amazing opportunity that we receive. We are not forced to use coal, and we only rely on a limited amount of oil. Most of the country does not have the opportunity to use something as environmentally friendly as hydropower. Sitka still has experienced times of energy shortages. In times like those it is important to remember that energy challenges are completely doable. It is possible to live for a month with one light and without power once and a while. It is a challenge that everyone should try to help promote conservation and to come to a better understanding of how many lights are on in a home at any given time. Look out for more updates on next months challenge!
SCS staff members Andrew Thoms and Ray Friedlander went on Raven Radio with Chris Leeseberg, a USFS fisheries biologist, on November 26th to talk about the Forest Service's Kruzof Island project and a public meeting that will be happening at 6:30pm on January 16th 2013 at Centennial Hall. This upcoming meeting is unique in that it is allowing the public to voice project ideas and opinions for how they think the Kruzof landscape should be managed rather than let the decisions solely be made by the Forest Service.
Click on the link below to hear the interview and read the article Raven Radio posted about it:
Kruzof Island is an important community resource that provides Sitkans and visitors with a wide range of recreation, subsistence, and economic opportunities. Attending this Kruzof public meeting in January is a prime way to participate in democratic land management processes and get your voice heard. The Sitka Collaborative Stewardship group has already taken some steps to gather ideas. In July 2012, there was a field trip to Kruzof Island that led to some project brainstorming: salmon habitat restoration work in Iris Meadows, wildlife habitat restoration in 2nd growth stands, picnic shelter at North Beach, additional mooring buoy at Mud Bay, hardened camp sites at North Beach, hardened trail to access North Beach, wildlife viewing platform at Iris Meadows, and a culture camp for the tribe. These are only some of the many possibilities that can occur in on the Kruzof , Krestof and Partofshikof Islands, making your opinions and ideas just as important as what has already been proposed.
For more information on the Kruzof public meeting and other ways you can participate in public lands management activities, please contact Ray Friedlander at [email protected], (907) 747 – 7509.
[tentblogger-vimeo 53985704] Sitka Conservation Society board member Richard Nelson spoke on salmon during Sitka Whalefest on the theme of "Cold Rivers to the Sea: Terrestrial Connections to our Northern Oceans." He spoke on the subject of one of the greatest manifestations of the connection between the terrestrial forests and the oceans: our Wild Alaska Salmon. His eloquent words remind us of why we care so much about and treasure salmon so deeply. Salmon are the backbone of the ecosystems of Southeast Alaska. For all of us who live here, Salmon are an extremely important part of our lives. Many of our jobs are directed related to salmon through fishing, processing, shipping, guiding, or managing salmon stocks. All of us are connected to salmon as the food that we eat and prepare for our families. For the Sitka Conservation Society, it is obvious to us that the Tongass is a Salmon Forest and that salmon are one of the most important outputs from this forest. For years we have fought against a timber industry that wanted more and more of the forest for clear-cutting and log export. It is time to turn the page on the timber dominated discussions of the past. Sure there is room for some logging. But, the Tongass should no longer be seen as a timber resource to be cleared and moved on. Rather, the Tongass should be managed with salmon as the priority, with the Forests left standing as the investment and the interest that it pays out every year being the salmon runs that feed our ecosystems, fisheries, and our families. Please help us protect Tongass salmon and help us make a new vision of Tongass management a reality. We need you to write letters telling decision makers and land managers to make Tongass management for salmon and salmon protection a priority. Here is an action alert that tells you how to write a letter: here. Or, if you need help, please feel free to visit or call our office (907-747-7509). You can read some letters that local fishermen wrote for inspiration: here Thanks for your help and support. Together we can ensure that are Wild Alaska Salmon are protected!
Former Sitka Reporter Andrew Miller recently attended a presentation in Juneau by Dr. Robert Lackey on "The Future of Pacific Salmon." Of course, the Sitka Conservation Society is extremely interested in the future of pacific salmon. Salmon are the backbone of the Tongass ecosystems as well as a critical component of the economies of the communities of Southeast Alaska. Andrew wrote the following dispatch from that presentation to summarize the findings of Dr. Lackey:
For me, the biggest takeaway from a recent lecture by Dr. Robert Lackey on the future of wild salmon was the critical importance of educating the public about our wild salmon runs.
Dr. Robert Lackey, a fisheries scientist at Oregon State University, explained how little awareness there is about salmon among the general population in the Pacific Northwest and how that effects policy decisions there. As an example, he noted how quickly policies to protect salmon on the Columbia River were reversed during an energy shortage in 2001. He said it was a no-brainer for decision makers when posed with a question of whether to increase the power generation of Columbia dams even if doing so would prevent fish passage. The salmon didn't get a second thought.
Lackey is the co-editor of Salmon 2100, a book that explores what steps must be taken to ensure we still have wild salmon runs in the year 2100. He was a guest of the Alaska Fish Habitat Partnership in Juneau in early November.
Although Lackey had a bleak outlook on the future of wild salmon worldwide, he expressed some optimism about the future of Alaska's wild salmon, which reinforced in me how important it is to be a vocal advocate for Alaska salmon and policies that help protect and enhance wild salmon runs.
Lackey listed a few advantages wild Alaska salmon have always enjoyed over salmon elsewhere, which have helped them to continue to thrive while wild stocks throughout much of the world have depleted to near extinction.
For one, he said, Alaska has always had an enormous salmon population. Bristol Bay alone produces more salmon than all of Oregon and Washington did when salmon runs there were at their historic highs.
Also, Lackey said, Alaska still has unmatched salmon habitat. He said natural resource development will always be a threat to habitat, but he is confident large dense populations in critical habitat areas will never develop. He said just about everything that people do is bad for salmon, and in the Pacific Northwest, where there are millions of people in giant cities along the coast, salmon habitat hasn't been much of a priority.
Finally, he said that people in Alaska care about salmon. He said people here are aware of salmon and want them to survive. This awareness absolutely needs to continue.
Lackey spoke a little about external threats to salmon, notably climate change and ocean acidification. To my surprise, he did not say these things necessarily spell doom for Alaska's wild salmon.
Lackey showed a graph of world temperatures over the last 2,000 years, which consisted of four or five cycles of warming and cooling. Current global temperatures are about high as they have been in any prior period of warming, and Lackey acknowledged that the warming is most likely going to continue for a long time, but, he said, in past warming salmon always adapted, often seeking new ranges farther north.
On a related topic, he said he wouldn't jump to conclusions about poor returns for some species of Pacific Salmon this last year. He said there are too many external factors to know what causes populations to rise and fall in a given year, and scientists really need to look at 30 year trends to assess the health of a species.
I can often be a cynic, but I left Lackey's lecture optimistic. I was reminded how fortunate we are to have our wild salmon runs in Southeast Alaska, but that it is up to us to keep them here. I know it's something we can do.
Of course, after the public is educated on the state of salmon and what we need to do to protect them, we must follow up with action to ensure that resource managers and decision makers are doing the right thing. If you want to help SCS protect salmon, we can help you take action. Check out our take action page and please think about writing a letter or making a call to tell Congress and Federal Agencies to protect our salmon stocks. Follow this link: here or call us to find out more. With your help, we can ensure that the future of Pacific Salmon is Alaska is good and that future generations can experience a wild Tongass filled with Salmon!
A new month has brought an end to bucket showering and replaced it with an energy challenge for the JV community. As the sun sets earlier and earlier in Sitka, we have all realized how frequently our lights are utilized. So we thought, how about we take a dark month and make it a little bit darker. After many discussions about what was tolerable and what was going to compromise our sanities, we decided that everyday at 5pm we would limit ourselves to one light on at a time in the house. So if one person is making dinner in the kitchen and another has to go to the bathroom, someone needs to get a headlamp. We chose 5pm because that is when most of us get home from volunteering at our sites. This has proved to be an interesting challenge that can immediately show someone how often they flip a light switch. Aside from the one light on in the house, we can use candles, headlamps, or flashlights.
But we thought this was a little too easy to do all the time, so we have added one day per week of total energy fasts. This means from the moment you wake up no lights, stove, microwave, toaster, space heaters, phone chargers, nothing. This also means that we have to plan ahead with charging our computers or phones, having food that we can eat without cooking at all, and having candles ready. Both of these energy limitations have really showed us how dark November can be. So far I have realized that bucket showering really only impacted 10 minutes of my day, but living with very littlelight for several hours a day is a constant reminder of our challenge. It has mostly made us all want to go to sleep at unreasonable hours because we get tired when we sit in darkness for too long. It has also helped to bring our community together. We find ourselves spending more quality time with one another. We also flock to our one light like moths.
Energy consumption is a topic that many people in Sitka can relate to. The expansion of the blue lake dam has been a point of conversation for quite some time. It is a good source of energy that required expansion to meet the needs of our community. Sitka relies on the two dams for the bulk of our energy. The JV House is hoping to remove some of that burden in the month of November to further our goal of becoming a sustainable community that works towards conserving resources. It has been a very informative, fun, and frustrating challenge thus far. Just doing it for one night can show someone how many light switches they flip after the sun sets. I encourage everyone to try this challenge, even just for one night, to understand the amount of energy a household uses between lights, laundry, and cooking. Check back for an update at the end of the month to hear about our funny stories and progress.