Background: The Alaska Congressional Delegation has introduced bills in the House and Senate that would take tens of thousands of acres of prime Tongass lands and privatize them by passing them over to the Sealaska Corporation. The Sitka Conservation Society opposes this legislation and sees it as a threat to the Tongass and to the ways that we use and depend on the lands and waters around us.
Beyond the over 80,000 acres of prime forest land that they are trying to take that will surely be clear-cut, they are trying to take land in ways that could be even more destructive. One of the worst aspects of the legislation is that it would give Sealaska the opportunity to select over 3600 acres of land in small parcels throughout the Tongass as in-holdings within the National Forest. We are already seeing what this means as Sealaska is working to privatize the important fishing site at Redoubt Lake. Here they can strategically select only 10 acres and virtually "control" the entire watershed. It is frightening what they could do if they had thousands more acres to select. We already know that they are planning on cherry-picking the best sites. Around Sitka, we already know that they want to select sites in all the sockeye producing watersheds and sites in important use areas like Jamboree Bay and Port Banks.
Most chilling is that Sealaska is mixing the issue of race and culture into their own corporate goals. They are cynically calling the 3600 acres "cultural sites." While it is true that there are important sites that were used throughout history by Native Alaskans, they should not be privatized by a corporation with the mandate to make profit. They sites should stay in public hands, be protected by the Antiquities act, and be collaboratively managed by the clans who have the closest ties to them.
Further, sites that were important in the past because of their fish runs and hunting access are still important for the same reasons today. They should not be privatized. They should be honored by their continual traditional uses and their public ownership.
Take Action: You can take action by writing letters to Congress and to the Forest Service Chief telling them to oppose the Sealaska Legislation.
Please write to Chief Tidwell:Tom Tidwell Chief of USDA Forest Service US Forest Service 1400 Independence Ave., SW Washington, D.C. 20250-0003 email@example.com Please also write you congressmen. If you live in Alaska, write to:
[dropcap]Background: [/dropcap]Earlier this month, the head of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game's Wildlife Conservation Division, Corey Rossi, resigned after being charged with 12 violations related to illegal bear hunting. Rossi was controversial and divisive in his position in the agency, marring ADF&G's respectability as a science-based organization.
[dropcap]Take Action:[/dropcap] Rossi's resignation opens up a new opportunity for Governor Parnell to learn from past mistakes and appoint a new candidate for the position who is honest, experienced, respected, and above all, qualified.
Please consider emailing the Governor to encourage him to select a qualified candidate. Click here to go to the Governor's contact page.
Sitka Conservation Society's letter is posted below. Feel free to use the points addressed to develop your own message to Gov. Parnell.
Dear Governor Parnell,
We were disappointed to hear about the charges brought against former head of the Division of Wildlife Conservation, Corey Rossi. Rossi, who resigned after he was charged with wildlife violations, was obviously not fit to hold authority over laws he himself could not abide by. This case points out how the Alaska Department of Fish and Game has lost credibility as a science based wildlife organization, and was instead headed by a big game guiding business owner who used his position to perpetuate the profits of himself and his colleagues, apparently sometimes illegally.
The Sitka Conservation Society would like to ask you to appoint a new leader for Rossi's position that will not make the same mistakes.
Specifically, we encourage you to appoint someone who:
Our members of the Sitka Conservation Society hunt, fish, and trap for subsistence and to maintain their livelihood. We hope that you will recognize the importance of appointing a leader who will take Alaska's people and wildlife into account over his or her own agenda
- Is honest, respected and, above all, qualified
- At minimum, holds a Master's degree in wildlife biology or a closely related field
- Has at least 10-15 years of experience in wildlife management
- Has a proven track record of basing decisions from science and not personal agenda.
We look forward to the qualified candidate you appoint to make needed changes to the Alaska Department of Fish and Wildlife.
For the month of January, the Alaska way-of-life 4H club focused on tracking and trapping in the Tongass National Forest. These important skills further connect us to the natural environment as we notice the habits of the animals and birds in our shared ecosystem. Tracking as a skill gives us more capacity to understand the workings of the forest and thus the compassion to protect it. Traditionally this activity was fundamentally crucial, and continues to be, as a source of food and animal pelts (for clothing, warmth, and trade).
We began the unit earlier this month by gathering around a table overflowing with animal pelts. We identified the animals native to the island and began matching each animal to its print. Ashley Bolwerk from the Science Center taught us the steps involved in tracking animals: 1) know your location and the animals native to it, 2) note the size, pattern, and type of track, 3) check for distinguishing details like number of toes, nails, etc., 4) note other animal signs like scat, fur, feathers, eating patterns, etc.
In addition to learning the basics of tracking, Kevin Johnson and Tyler Orbison, both local trappers, met with the older 4H group to show them the fundamentals of tracking mink and martens. They got to practice setting up the different traps (more difficult than one may think) and directed question after question to our guests.
On Saturday, we got to put study into action. We had a blast roaming the coastline and snowy forest searching for tracks and signs of animals nearby. We successfully saw the tracks of deer, mink, marten, squirrel, raven, and swan including scat and signs of grazing. The older kids were joined once again by trapper, Kevin Johnson, who demonstrated where and how to place traps in the forest. He also, to our delight, showed 4H members how to skin a marten in the field. Everyone was awe-eyed and attentive as he quickly removed the hide from body, an excellent lesson in anatomy.
Check out the pictures—they tell a better story than words ever will. These activities would not have been possible without the help of: Kevin Johnson, Tyler Orbison, Jon Martin, Kent Bovee, Ashley Bolwerk, Andrew Thoms, and the Science Center. THANK YOU!
**Although a bit out of order, 4Hers have learned how to identify deer tracks, skin and butcher a deer, and in February will learn how to tan hides and can deer stew. A forest to plate series!
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This winter, students from Sitka High's Field Science Class worked with the Sitka Ranger District to target wildlife habitat restoration activities. We mapped occurrences of Vaccinium species (Blueberry) and other deer forage plants in young growth forests. We then used data analysis and mapping technologies to identify potential locations where the Forest Service can create canopy gaps. Gaps provide more light to the forest floor and encourage the growth of plants deer eat to survive snowy winters.
BACKGROUND: Clear-cut logging of the forests near False Island between 1967 and 1972 led to fast-paced, even-aged growth of new conifers, shrubs and herbaceous plants that is today causing serious problems for deer and other wildlife. After about 25 years of growth in a previously clear-cut area, conifers become so thick that understory shrubs and herbs are shaded out, virtually eliminating vital deer forage for over 100 years. Restorative thinning of the kind completed during the Ocean Boulevard project can help maintain a more open canopy and better habitat for the deer and other wildlife that local communities depend on for subsistence.
Ocean Boulevard was the first of an ongoing series of projects in the False Island landscape aimed at addressing a wide range of resource opportunities related to subsistence, ecosystem restoration, and recreation. Ocean Boulevard benefited from early collaboration with community stakeholders that went above and beyond the traditional U.S. Forest Service process (learn more here).Related projects include the Sitkoh River Restoration and Peril Landscape Opportunities Project.
STATS: In 2011, local contractor TM Construction thinned 334 acres of young growth forest with treatments that included 25 x 25 foot spacing and canopy gaps. Many of the downed trees were removed by ground-based equipment and either stored in a sort-yard for future sale, or tagged for in-stream use in the Sitkoh River Restoration Project that will be completed in 2012; others were cut into smaller pieces and left to decay in the forest.
INNOVATIONS: The U.S. Forest Service took an experimental approach with Ocean Boulevard, using it to test the costs and logistics involved in removing and storing downed trees after thinning. Better understanding these costs will help the Forest Service and community more realistically assess future opportunities to use "restoration byproducts" from the Sitka Ranger District for biomass, lumber, and other timber products.
FUNDING AND SUPPORT:Ocean Boulevard was funded by the America Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, and
was the first U.S. Forest Service project to involve input from the Sitka Collaborative Stewardship Group (SCSG).
Check out our briefing sheet to learn more about community input on the Ocean Boulevard Project: Ocean Boulevard Briefing Sheet.
In the summer of 2011, the SCS Wilderness crew traveled north to Russell Fjord Wilderness to assist the Yakutat ranger district in Wilderness monitoring. Check out the video, report, and photos to learn more about the project and this uniquely rugged Wilderness.
From Disenchantment Bay, at the upper end of Yakutat Bay, heavily glaciated Russell Fjord penetrates about 35 miles inland, but the advance of Hubbard Glacier is slowly squeezing it off from the sea... Within the area, which lies between the Fairweather and Brabazon Ranges, you'll find forested river valleys rising to alpine meadows and snowcapped peaks... At the northwest boundary of Russell Fjord, the Hubbard Glacier, one of the largest and most active tidewater glaciers in North America, is advancing to Gilbert Point. Twice in the last 40 years, the Hubbard has closed against the Puget Peninsula. Eventually, this unique event will become a long term situation converting Russell and Nunatak Fjords to immense freshwater lakes. --from Wilderness.net
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Report of the trip prepared by Scott Harris [issuu width=300 height=194 shareMenuEnabled=false backgroundColor=%23222222 documentId=120119203551-2f08f962105f47748ce816f3f2203b9d name=russell_report_aug2011_med username=sitkawild tag=conservation unit=px id=9e7bcab3-1c05-cf82-bd2b-d7540be50fa4 v=2]
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The land enclosed in the borders of South Baranof Wilderness Area is steep, remote, and difficult to travel. Other than the intrepid mountain goat hunters, this area of the Wilderness receives almost no foot traffic.
In August of 2011, as part of the Sitka Community Wilderness Stewardship Project, as expedition was organized to collect baseline plant and recreational use data. Thanks to packrafts donated by Alpacka Raft Company the Sitka Conservation Society Wilderness crew completed a pioneering transect along the southern boarder of the Wilderness Area. See the slideshow and read the full report below. [hr]
Report: Tongass Wilderness Stewardship: Packrafting across Baranof Island
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Check out the pictures from the talk below.
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Make Management and Protection of Wild Alaska Salmon a Priority in the Tongass National Forest!Background: 5 species of Pacific Salmon spawn in the Tongass National Forest. For thousands of years, those salmon have played a key role for the peoples and cultures that make their home on the Tongass. Today, the connections and traditions between communities and salmon is still one of the most important associations that we have with the natural environment of the Tongass.
Take Action: Management of the Tongass National Forest is currently at a critical crossroads. As we begin to move beyond the ill-fated, industrial logging phase of Tongass Management, the region and the Forest Service is striving to define a new paradigm for Tongass Land Management. The decision makers who govern the Tongass need to hear from you now that management for Wild Alaska Salmon is the most important use of the Tongass National Forest.
You Can Help Now: by writing letters to Alaska State Senators, the Undersecretary of the Department of Agriculture, and the Alaska Regional Forester telling why Salmon are important for SE Alaska and how our dependence on the lands and the waters of the Tongass revolves around Salmon.
Here are some of the important points that you can highlight:
- Salmon are the backbone of the economy of SE Alaska
- The economic value and the jobs created by commercial harvest of Salmon is much greater than the economic value of the Timber industry—even though more money and resources are spent on the timber program ($30million) than salmon management and restoration ($1.5 Million).
- Salmon are important for both the local seafood industry, the SE Alaskan visitor industry, and rural communities who depend on subsistence fishing
- Subsistence harvest of salmon on the Tongass is one of the most important protein sources for SE Alaskans--- outline how subsistence caught salmon are important for you
- Forest Service management of subsistence fisheries (such as Redoubt Lake) have enormous benefits for Sitka and other SE Alaskan Communities-- expanding this program is critical
- Salmon Habitat Restoration Projects—such as the work being done in the Starrigavan Valley and Sitkoh River in Sitka—are the most important efforts currently being conducted by the Forest Service on the Tongass. This work should be continued and expanded.
- The success of Tongass Management should no longer be tied to "million-board feet of timber produced" but rather should be measured on the successful rehabilitation, enhancement, and continuance of Wild Salmon Runs on the Tongass
- Continued and expanded research and investigation on Alaskan Salmon is a huge priority to assess how we will manage salmon in the face of climate change
Send Letters to (email is fine):
[wpcol_1third id="" class="" style=""]Senator Lisa Murkowski 709 Hart Senate Building Washington, DC 20510 Email to staff: firstname.lastname@example.org Senator Mark Begich 144 Russell Senate Office Building Washington, DC 20510 Email to staff: Bob_Weinstein@begich.senate.gov [/wpcol_1third] [wpcol_1third id="" class="" style=""] Undersecretary Harris Sherman Department of Natural Resources and the Environment U.S. Department of Agriculture 1400 Independence Ave., S.W. Washington, DC 20250 Email: Harris.Sherman@usda.gov Tom TidwellChief of USDA Forest Service US Forest Service 1400 Independence Ave., SW Washington, D.C. 20250-0003 email@example.com [/wpcol_1third] [wpcol_1third_end id="" class="" style=""] Beth Pendleton Regional Forester Alaska Region 10 firstname.lastname@example.org [/wpcol_1third_end]
Please send a copy to us at the Sitka Conservation Society offices at email@example.com. We will keep track of the letters that are received by decision makers and work on getting them delivered in person by a fisherman to decision makers in Washington, DC.
The Sitka Conservation Society is working hard during this Forest Service budget preparing season to advocate for a shift of Tongass funding from a disproportionate logging program to a focus that manages our largest National Forest for Salmon. It is high time that we made this shift because salmon are the lifeblood of our region for our ecosystems, our economy, and our way-of-life. Now is a critical time to write letters supporting the Tongass's Fisheries and Watershed program and ensuring that the Forest Service is putting Tongass funding in the programs that benefit our wild, Alaska Salmon and the communities within the Tongass.
You can help by writing a letter, click here to Take Action.In December, SCS was able to help Matt Lawrie, a local Sitka Troller, travel to Washington, DC to take copies of letters that Fishermen and community members wrote asking for a shift from Forest Service spending on Old Growth Clear-cutting in the Timber program to the Fisheries and Watershed program to restore and protect Tongass Salmon Habitat. Matt personally delivered the letters to Harris Sherman, the Undersecretary of Natural Resources, Senior Staff at the USDA Rural Development offices, staff from the President's Management and Budget Office, and spoke personally with the Chief of the Forest Service and delivered the message on the importance of Tongass Salmon.
The meetings were frustrating because everyone acted like they agreed that funding needs to shift from Timber to Salmon, but everyone seemed to point the finger that someone else had to step up and demand the change was made. It seemed that some of the decision makers that were visited (The Forest Service Chief and the Undersecretary) were genuinely happy that commercial fishermen were visiting DC and speaking up on the budget because they are slowly recognizing the importance of the Tongass National Forest's role in producing salmon and sustaining a sustainable fishery and sustainable livelihoods and that they agree that this shift needs to be made.
Officials were also glad that commercial fishermen and concerned community members were finally visiting because the timber lobby visits at least twice a year to keep the programs funded that log the Tongass!We always knew that timber had a big lobby and it is likely why more money is going to cut down the Forests that salmon depend on than restoring the damage that pulp mill clear-cutting has done to the Tongass that needs fixing.
The fact that Matt and the other fishermen visited the same offices as timber shows us that we are doing the right thing. It was really good that young fishermen stand up and speak too because he represents a new generation on the Tongass that is looking ahead to the future and thinking about sustainable management of Tongass resources--- the opposite of what we've had with clear-cut logging.
We are going to try to send more fishermen back to Washington in February to advocate for a Forest Service budget that focuses on Salmon and Watershed restoration. We want to take back at least 200 letters from fishermen in February. That would be 40 more letters than there are timber jobs in Southeast Alaska (160 timber jobs, over 4000 jobs related to Salmon).
You can help us by writing letters to the regional forester, the undersecretary of Natural Resources, our Alaskan Senators. Tele Aadsen did a really good blog post that outlines the issue calls fishermen to action. It is a great post to point people to for motivation:
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Kettleson Memorial Library, SitkaAdam Andis from the Sitka Conservation Society leads the Sitka Community Wilderness Stewardship Project. The project seeks to involve the community to monitor on-the-ground conditions in local Wilderness Areas. In the summer of 2011, the SCS Wilderness Crew spent countless hours bushwhacking in the field, including pioneering a new route across Baranof Island.
The route paralleled the southern boundary of South Baranof Wilderness Area and followed two watersheds from sea to source. To cover the terrain, the team used packrafts, lightweight backpacking techniques, and lots of chocolate.
Come learn a little bit more about your local Wilderness areas and join in the expedition Across the Island!