It is getting to be that time of the year when Sitkans begin to digtheir dipnets out of the shed and get them ready for the return of Sockeye at Redoubt Lake. Luckily, it is still in public hands this year and we can still fish there. We hope that will be the case forever and it will be in public hands and have public access. Here's some background on this issue.
If you want Redoubt to continue to be in public hands, please help us by taking action. Below is a letter that SCS is sending to the Sitka assembly following a visit from the Sealaska Corporation to a recent assembly meeting.
Please let us know if you would like to sign on to the letter. Or, consider writing your own letter to the Sitka assembly at this address: [email protected]
June 6th, 2012
Dear Assembly Members:
In comments to the Assembly last month, Sealaska Corporation attorney Jaeleen Araujo gave the same assurances as she has in the past regarding continued public use of Redoubt Falls following a conveyance of the property to the corporation. We appreciate Ms. Araujo's comments, but there are still no guarantees about the future of Redoubt Falls.
At this point, the Redoubt conveyance has been put on hold, while a color of title petition filed by the trustees of Sheldon Jackson College is being resolved. The delay is a blessing, providing us an opportunity to again consider the best scenario for continued public use of Redoubt.
For now, Sealaska seems intent on entering a Memorandum of Understanding with the city and the Sitka Tribe, which would promise long-term public access to Redoubt. Unfortunately, Section 17(b) of ANCSA specifically states that access cannot be granted -- only an easement to pass over the land is allowed. This means the MOU would be an empty promise with no long-term guarantee.
The City's legal team itself has said that an MOU is insufficient. It has argued a deed restriction with a strict conservation easement and access language is the only thing that comes close to giving the public the same access as it has now. The only thing that we can see that would allow the access the Sealaska is promising is a deed restriction. The City Assembly and City Staff must demand a deed restriction and not settle for an MOU that does not hold long-term, binding commitments.
However, our preferred alternative remains that Sealaska withdraw its selection of Redoubt Falls and enter into a cooperative management agreement with the City, Forest Service, and Sitka Tribe. Under such an agreement Sealaska and the Sitka Tribe could develop a management scheme to protect the historic properties on the parcel, while language would also protect continued public access the shoreline for fishing and for the Forest Service to access and operate its fish weir and preserve any cultural and heritage resources at the site (including Russian American operations at the site).
We ask that the City steer away from the proposed MOU and instead work toward a solution that will guarantee the public will continue to have access to the subsistence fishery at Redoubt Falls for generations to come.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Executive Director, Sitka Conservation Society
When I first moved here seeing devils club would make me cringe. I would lament at its pervasive cover. Inevitably when hiking, I would grab onto a stalk for support or bushwhack through a thicket of them. I noticed on a recent hike that my feelings for devils club had changed significantly. I was excited to see the plants, the larger the stand the bigger my grin. Now I see devils club as a medicine, a prolific and powerful resource in the Tongass. Its healing qualities seem to cure any ailment and have been used by Tlingits for thousands of years.
Last week, I met with one of our families to learn the process of harvesting the plant. Always harvest from a large stand and leave little impact. Be careful to harvest stalks above new buds so the plant can put energy into those shoots. Before clipping a branch, thank the plant for its medicine and healing properties.
Over the weekend, 4H Alaska way-of-life members located a stand of devils club, harvested a few stalks, scraped off thorns, and peeled off the green bark. I had already made the devils club oil by heating the dried bark gently in a double boiler for three hours (the longer you infuse it the stronger the medicine). Together, we added beeswax shavings to the warm oil to make a salve. Its applications are limitless: chapped lips, sore muscles, bug bites, buns, etc.
**It is of utmost importance to be mindful in your harvest, maintain respect for the plant and its natural environment, and harvest only what you can use.
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In the Tongass, people live with the land. We are constantly learning from it--learning how to build communities that are part of the landscape rather than a place away from it. In this blog we want to share with you some of those lessons we've learned and the experience of learning them first hand.
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The Energy Star Rebate Program kicked off in late February and provided electric users with the opportunity to upgrade to an Energy Star appliance and receive a rebate ranging from $165-$1,500. The program was well received by residents in the first few months and is already showing great potential to make a dent in Sitka's electric consumption.
The program grants rebates for five Energy Star appliances, which were chosen to maximize energy savings. Residents can choose between Energy Star refrigerators, freezers, washing machines, heat pump hot water heaters, and air or ground source heat pumps. After dropping off the old appliance at Scrap Yard and receiving a receipt of disposal, you are ready to complete the application. The application consists of a one page form that can be downloaded on the Electric Department page of the City website or can be picked up at the Electric Department at 105 Jarvis Street. One participant even described the application process as "surprisingly painless and very easy to follow". After the information provided on the application has been verified, the City will write a check made payable to the applicant and mail it to the address provided – it's as simple as that!
After only three months since the program start date, 47 participants have taken advantage of this opportunity and upgraded to an Energy Star appliance. The result: almost 50,000 kWh have been removed from the electric grid annually! The energy savings are expected to continue increasing as the remaining 75% of the allotted funds are used by homeowners seeking energy efficiency upgrades. To maximize the energy savings of the $100,000 in the initial fund, $70,000 is allocated for air or ground source heat pump rebates and the remaining $30,000 will go towards all other appliance rebates. Therefore, although a majority of the funds remain in the program, only $22,475 is available for appliances other than air or ground source heat pumps. Rebates will remain available until funds are used in each category or until June 30, 2012.
Are you on the fence about purchasing an Energy Star appliance? Now is the time to act! Make sure you get a rebate for an Energy Star refrigerator, freezer, washing machine, or heat pump hot water heater before funds run out! To learn more about the program, including frequently asked questions, visit www.cityofsitka.com.
The Sitka Conservation Society's Fish to School Program has nearly completed its first full school year with raving reviews, community support, and strong partnerships. These local fish lunches are served as a hot lunch option through the school lunch program. Lunches are available to all students, totaling about 700 students with about half of those students consistently eating hot lunch.
In just one year we have seen local fish lunch consumption rates almost double at Blatchley Middle School (BMS), at an average of about 39%. I remember a lunch at BMS where a student tempted her friend to try the fish fillet. She was very skeptical but after trying it couldn't get enough and began to feed her other friends! Check out this video on Fish to Schools at BMS by local filmmaker Hannah Guggenheim.
At Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary (KGH), where fish was introduced this fall, we are seeing rates of about 30% participation, with a few lunches peaking above 40%. Students consistently rave about the local fish lunches. One elementary school student at a recent lunch said, "I don't like the fish lunches, I love them!" Other students tell me that they always get fish when it's on the menu even though they generally pack lunches from home.
This spring we were delighted to collaborate with two new schools, Pacific High School (PHS) and Mount Edgecumbe High School (MEHS). PHS has a unique school lunch program with students serving as cooks for their classmates while learning commercial kitchen skills that lead to a job-ready Food Handlers Certification. In this program, they prepare unique dishes, including Caribbean rockfish with sweet potato fries, rockfish marinara, and crispy-baked rockfish.
MEHS finished off the school year with their first fish lunch after a year-long, grassroots student campaign to get local fish into their school. Student organizers from the Alaska Youth for Environmental Action (AYEA) Club led the charge by raising awareness about the environmental benefits of eating locally-harvested fish and polled students to see if they wanted to see fish at their school. 90% of students said, "Absolutely, yes!" Their efforts culminated in mouthwatering fish tacos this April.
Education programs were integrated into the third and seventh grade classes along with fish lunches. Students followed the cycles of fish from their native habitat to their lunch tray by interviewing local fishermen, hearing stories from Alaska Natives, dissecting and filleting salmon, and preparing tasty dishes with a local chef. Cultural knowledge, nutrition, and food systems were woven throughout the program. Local fish lunches paired with the Stream to Plate Curriculum brings students closer to their culture and the backbone of Sitka. Serving students local fish and exposing them to the fishing culture, connects them to their home and develops a sense of pride for being a part of a community that supports itself on the best (tasting and managed) seafood in the world.
The Sitka Fish to Schools program was awarded the Best Farm to School Project in Alaska for the 2011-2012 school year. It is a community-wide honor, recognizing all of the stakeholders involved in the program: food service, local seafood processors, fishermen, school district, principals, teachers, and community volunteers. Alaska's First Lady, Sandy Parnell, came to a local fish lunch to recognize our local efforts in Sitka. We are thrilled that she personally came to show her support for our creative use of local foods in the school lunch program. We hope her interest will continue to increase the profile of this program and that we will see continued support for these efforts statewide.
The Sitka Conservation Society hopes that this program will create closer connections between our community and the natural resources from the environment around us. Through its implementation, youth and stakeholders will gain an increased understanding of how we use and depend on the land and waters of the Tongass. With the fish on our plates at home and at school, we will, as a community, make better decisions on the management and future of those resources that we intimately depend on. Further, we hope that this program will influence the USDA, and the policy makers who direct it, to focus on a more sustainable school lunch food system by using local sources for food. And, importantly, our school districts will teach children about local natural resources and the jobs and livelihoods in our community by using hands-on, real-world learning experiences.
CALVIN CAVE is named for Jack Calvin one of the original founders of the Sitka Conservation Society who helped to protect West Chichagof as a Wilderness area. The following report and map were produced by Kevin Allred with the Tongass Cave Project. Kevin joined the SCS Wilderness crew on a trip to West Chichagof in the summer of 2011. See videos of the trip here.
DESCRIPTION: Calvin Cave was discovered on June 19, 2011 by Kevin Allred, and the Sitka Conservation Society Wilderness crew: Adam Andis, Tomas Ward, and Ben Hamilton, while searching for caves as part of the Sitka Community Wilderness Stewardship Project. The cave is located at the lower edge of a large muskeg which provides acidic waters where it flows onto the band of Whitestripe Marble of Triassic age. After a meandering stream slot, the small stream enters the cave, which is a winding narrow crack downcut into the marble. Down the slope are a series of sinkholes which indicate the downstream course of the underground stream. After about 60 feet the cave ends in too tight constrictions at the bottom of the first of these sinkholes, and daylight is seen in several places. There is an excellent example of the underside of a "sealed" sinkhole with its characteristic humus plug here. The cave was surveyed by Kevin Allred and Tom Ward. Its vertical surveyed depth is 10 feet and it has 63.8 feet of surveyed passage. The resurgence of this cave stream is not known, but is probably somewhere adjacent or under the nearby gorge of Marble Creek.
BIOLOGY: Fungus gnat webs were noted throughout the cave, but no insects were seen. No bones were seen.
MANAGEMENT RECOMMENDATIONS: Due to its remoteness, Calvin Cave is not likely to be negatively impacted by visitation. It is protected from logging under Wilderness Area regulation.
On May 1, students from the Science Mentor Program, Sitka High Field Science Class, and Mt. Edgecumbe High School shared their research with the community. Nearly 50 people attended. Standing room only! Students projects included research in microbial fungal communities in young growth forests, vegetation mapping to target wildlife habitat restoration prescriptions, whale acoustics and more! Through these annual programs, Sitka youth are engaging in ecological research, resource management, and are learning to become active stewards of our local environment.
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Each May in Starrigavan Valley, nearly 100 7th Graders from Blatchley Middle School in Sitka spend a couple days doing hands-on stream restoration and monitoring. In the classroom, the students learn about watershed ecology and salmon habitat. Then they hit the field and help professional watershed managers actually install in-stream wood structures to rebuild fish habitat. They also monitor water quality and changes is stream structure. This project has a slew of partners that includes the Sitka Conservation Society, Sitka Ranger District, Sitka School District, Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game, National Park Service, and others.
Weatherization 101 is a six part series produced by the Sitka Conservation Society and the City and Borough of Sitka Electric Department to help Sitkans increase their energy awareness, conserve electricity, and save money. Links to all six videos are below.
The State of Alaska has set a goal of achieving a 15% increase in energy efficiency per capita by 2020. This effort is especially important in Sitka because the demand for electricity exceeds supply. This effort is also important because the community has set goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In an effort to help Sitkans take steps to reducing their energy use and save money on energy costs, SCS has teamed up with local partners to create a series of "how-to" videos. The partners in the project include the City of Sitka Electric Department, Sitka Girl Scout Troop 4140, and local contractor Marcel LaPerriere.
Weatherization 101: Programming your HeaterYou can save up to 10% of your space heating bill by turning your heater 3 degrees lower for only 8 hours a day. This video demonstrate how to use a programmable thermostat on a Toyo Heater.
Interested in volunteering with the Community Wilderness Stewardship Project? Here are a couple of ways to get your hands dirty protecting you local Wilderness Areas:
Heading out into the Wilds on your own? If you are planning to get out hunting, hiking, fishing, paddling, etc. in a designated Tongass Wilderness Area (like West Chichagof-Yakobi or South Baranof) please consider downloading, printing, and filling out our Encounter Monitoring Form (PDF). Recording how, when and where folks are using our Wilderness Areas can give us a base-line to chart increases or decreases in human impact. Just follow the instructions on the form and record the boats, planes, people, and human impacts you find. Then, return the forms to us.
Want to join the SCS Wilderness Crew on a trip? Occasionally, we have extra room for volunteers to join the Wilderness Crew on research expeditions. If you would like to add your name to the list of volunteers we contact when such opportunities arise, fill out the Volunteer Form and Medical History Form below and return it to [email protected]. Also, be sure to take the short (10-15 min) course which allows volunteers to ride in Forest Service aircraft (most of our trips involve small plane flights) and watch the Boat Safety Video. Please keep in mind that only current SCS members can join a Wilderness trip, so make sure you join or renew your membership!
Volunteer Form (MS Word)
Volunteer Form (PDF)
USFS Flight Protocols: A-102: USFS Alaska Region Fixed Wing Safety Course * see instructions at the bottom of this post.
Volunteer Gear Checklist (MS Word) If you will be attending a trip, be sure to check out this gear checklist.
* Aviation Training Instructions
1. Go to this link and register as a user: https://www.iat.gov/Training/
2. Once registered, make note of your user name and password and log-in to the website.
3. Go to the "On-Line Courses" list and scroll down to USFS ALASKA/REGION 10 SPECIFIC COURSES. Click on "A-102: USFS Alaska Region Fixed Wing Safety"
4. Complete the course. At the end, click on the link to take a short quiz. After passing the quiz, you will receive an email from "IAT Admin" that includes some instructions for locating your completion certificate. Please email an electronic copy of your certificate to [email protected].