Greg Killinger fell in love with Southeast Alaska when he volunteered with the US Forest Service in 1983. During that first summer, he worked in fisheries surveying dozens of streams on Baranof and Chichagof Islands and other places on the Northern Tongass. This first summer was enough to convince him that this was where he wanted to be. He spent his next 30 years on the Tongass doing great things for our public lands and the natural world. Greg grew up in western Oregon. He graduated from Oregon State University with a Bachelor's degree in Fisheries and Wildlife Science. He went on to complete a master's degree in Natural Resource Management. Greg married his wife Lisa Petro, a local Sitkan, in 1990.
We worked very close with Greg in his position as the Tongass lead staff officer for Fisheries, Wildlife, Watershed, Ecology, Soils, and Subsistence. Greg held that post and worked under the Forest Supervisor from the Sitka Forest Service office. In that position, he oversaw and helped with all the programs across the Tongass for fisheries and watersheds. Greg was a key partner and helped build important relationships between the Sitka Conservation Society and the Forest Service. With him, we worked together on salmon habitat restoration projects like the Sitkoh River Restoration, restoration projects on Kruzof Island, and many other salmon-related projects across the entire Tongass.
Our working relationship with Greg and his employees was so close that we even shared staff. In 2011, SCS and Greg developed a position we called the Tongass Salmon Forest Resident. SCS funded the position and they worked under Greg. The position's goal was to "tell-the-story" of all the innovative and important programs that Greg managed on the Tongass that protected, enhanced, and restored salmon habitat. When SCS created the position, our goal was to shine the light on this great work. Greg put the spotlight on his staff and the partners that he worked with to make the Tongass's Fisheries and Watershed programs successful. That was the kind of leader that he was: he never wanted to take credit but always wanted to empower others and build more leadership and capacity.
That initial project led to two similar positions in 2012 and 2013. Greg worked with SCS staff to make two beautiful short films that shared the story of important fisheries management programs. One, called "Restoring America's Salmon Forest", illustrated a project Greg helped orchestrate that improved the health of the Sitkoh River—a major salmon producer damaged by past logging. The other, "Subsistence in Southeast Alaska: The Tongass National Forest's Fisheries Resource Monitoring Program", showcases the importance of Tongass salmon for subsistence use. This film also highlights important joint fisheries projects that Greg's program created with various Tribes across the Tongass. These programs continue to empower Native Alaskans to monitor important salmon runs across the region. Greg understood the importance of sharing the story of Tongass programs with the larger public. He was driven to showcase the importance of this forest in producing salmon and share how the Forest Service's staff cares for salmon, fisheries, and wildlife habitat. These films—and the many additional products that came from these partnerships—were catalyzed by Greg. Despite his heavy involvement, few recognized it was he who made them happen. Again, that was just the type of leader he was. He empowered and inspired us as a key catalyst that made things happen but did so from the background, never seeking credit or recognition.
Greg was also a serious outdoorsman. He loved fishing for king salmon in the early summer and dip-netting for sockeye in July. He was a very accomplished alpine hunter whose passion was chasing after sheep in the Alaska interior. Greg did a number of epic hunts solo. He once shared the story of a solo mountain goat hunt that he did during a particularly dry summer. He became severely dehydrated high in the mountains. At one point he was crawling into a gorge looking for water while hallucinating because he had already been without water and under the sun for 2 days (in a rainforest!). He did get his goat in the end though.
That type of solo hunting in big mountains really characterized the kind of person Greg was-- not macho and he didn't do any of that to show-off or to be the guy that got the biggest trophy-- rather, he did those hunts for the pure challenge and as the highest form of communing with the natural world of Alaska. Greg loved wildlife. He loved the land and the water and the oceans. He loved the ecosystems of Alaska and all the natural processes that tied them all together. Hunting for him was one of the many ways that he was part of those ecosystems and part of how he connected with the natural world.
Greg didn't just challenge himself on Dall Sheep hunts in the Alaska Range. Greg took on enormous challenges in the work that he did and with the same calm and unassuming manner that he talked about his extreme outdoor exploits. One isn't the type of leader that Greg exemplified or is responsible for the variety and complexity of programs that Greg oversaw on a whim. In fact, balancing all the issues and programs that Greg oversaw was more of a challenge than the hunts he loved so much. Protecting salmon habitat under pressure from development, finding the resources and coordinating the partners to restore critical salmon systems, bringing together extremely diverse interests to work together, and being responsible for defining the strategy for how our largest National Forest deals with Climate Change are just the tip of the iceberg of what Greg did in his day-to-day. In most likelihood, those extreme hunts for Greg were actually a simplification of life for him: a situation where the most logical rules of nature are paramount and where the most basic instinctual conflicts of man-vs-nature and man-vs-himself are played out amongst the most perfect and beautiful of our planet's natural creation.
Greg died suddenly, unexpectedly, and in his prime. The one and only grace of his passing is the fact that it happened on a mountainside, in the arms of the beautiful forest he loved, and on one of the most spectacular spring days there ever was in Sitka. He enjoyed that last day to its fullest fishing for King Salmon in the morning, gardening, and then a trip up the mountain.
Greg's unexpected passing left all of us who knew him shocked. We lost a mentor that we admired, a colleague that inspired us, and a friend that we could always count on. Greg came to the Tongass and when he left, he left it a better place. We will always remember him and we will always strive to be as good a person as he was.Written by: Andrew Thoms, Bethany Goodrich, Jon Martin, Kitty Labounty; May 30th, 2014
Video and Slideshow by: Bethany Goodrich, Corrine Ferguson, Pat Heur and the great help of Lisa, Su Meredith and all who scanned photos, dug through the archives and even digitized slides to memorialize Greg
Note: Greg Killinger will be added to the Sitka Conservation Society's Living Wilderness Celebration Board which honors the people who cherish and protect the wild and natural environment of the Tongass and have a passion for Wilderness. The above essay will be added to a book that tells the story of the people we honor and forever celebrate their lives and actions. In this way, we will continue to draw inspiration from Greg and all the others whose lives we celebrate.
When serving local seafood in our schools became a community health priority in the 2010 Sitka Health Summit, the Sitka Conservation Society recognized the opportunity to apply our mission to "support the development of sustainable communities." Now all grades 2-12 in Sitka serve locally-harvested fish at least twice a month, reaching up to 1,500 students. In just three years over 4,000 pounds of fish have been donated to Sitka Schools from local seafood processors and fishermen.
Fish to Schools is a grassroots initiative that builds connections and community between local fishermen, seafood processors, schools, students, and families. It's a program that we would like to see replicated across the state—that's why we created a resource guide and curriculum (available March 1st!). And that's why I went to the Capital.
Nutritional Alaskan Foods for Schools is a state funded program that reimburses school districts for their Alaskan food purchases. This $3 million grant allows schools to purchase Alaskan seafood, meats, veggies, and grains that would otherwise be cost prohibitive to school districts. It also gives a boost to farmers and fishermen with stable, in-state markets.
Nutritional Alaskan Foods for Schools was introduced by Representative Stoltze and has been funded the last two years through the Capital Budget. I went to Juneau to advocate for this funding because it's a way to ensure funding for local food purchases state-wide. Locally this means sustained funding for our Fish to Schools program.
I met with Senator Stedman, House Representative Kriess-Tomkins, and the Governor to tell them how valuable this grant has been for schools, food producers, and students around the state. I will continue my advocacy and ask you to join me. It is through your support that Fish to Schools exists in Sitka—let's take that support and make this thing go state-wide!
The Sitka School District took the lead by passing a resolution to support "multi-year" funding of Nutritional Alaskan Foods for Schools. Let's join them and advocate for a program that revolutionizes school lunches and catalyzes local food production. Please sign this letter and tell Senator Stedman and Representative Kreiss-Tomkins you support state funding for local foods in schools.
Subsistence in Southeast Alaska: The Tongass National Forest Service's Fisheries Resource Monitoring Program
Although we often associate our National Forests with trees and silviculturalists, BY FAR, the most valuable resource that the Tongass National Forest provides is in the production of all 5 species of wild Pacific salmon. Managing salmon habitat and the fish populations within the forest is one of the key roles of National Forest Service staff in Alaska. The Tongass National Forest is the largest National Forest in the United States. Its 17 million acres is home to 32 communities that use and very much depend on the resources that this forest provides.
On this National Forest, fisheries and watershed staff are probably the most critical positions on the entire Forest and are responsible for the keystone species in the temperate rainforest ecosystem—Salmon--a $1 Billion per year commercial fishery that serves up delicious salmon to people around the nation and the world, not to mention subsistence harvests that feed thousands of rural community members in Alaska. These staff also carry the legacy of thousands of years of sustainable management on their shoulders.Like nothing else, salmon have shaped the cultures and the lifestyle of the peoples and communities of Southeast Alaska. The Tlingit and Haida people who have called the Tongass home for thousands of years, have learned and adapted to the natural cycles of salmon. Deeply held cultural beliefs have formed unique practices for "taking care of" and ensuring the continuance of salmon runs. As documented by Anthropologist Thomas Thornton in his book, Being and Place Among the Tlingit, "the head's of localized clan house groups, known as yitsati, keeper of the house, were charged with coordinating the harvest and management of resource areas" like the sockeye salmon streams and other important salmon runs.
The staff of the Fisheries and Watershed program has integrated Alaska Native organizations, individuals, and beliefs into salmon and fisheries management programs on the Tongass and have hired talented Alaska Native individuals as staff in the USDA National Forest Service. Through the efforts of the Fisheries and Watershed program and its staff, a variety of formal agreements, joint programs, and multi-party projects that manage and protect our valuable salmon resources have been developed. The programs on the Tongass are case-studies for the rest of the world where lands and resources are owned by the public while being managed through the collaborative efforts of professional resource managers in government agencies, local peoples with intimate place-based knowledge, and involve multi-party stakeholders who use and depend on the resource.
The Tongass is America's Salmon Rainforest and the Forest Service's Fisheries Resource Monitoring Program is a stellar example of how we manage a National Forest to produce and provide salmon for people across the entire country as well as the people who call this forest their home.
The Summer Boat Tour Series continues on Tuesday August 13th, from 5:30 to 8pm, exploring Sitka's Salmon. Come learn about their life cycle, how hatcheries influence salmon populations, and how there are salmon in the trees!
TIckets can be purchased with cash or checks from Old Harbor Books 201 Lincoln Street for $35 or (if available) at the Crescent Harbor loading dock at time of the cruise. It is suggested that tickets be purchased in advance to assure participation. Boarding begins at 5:15 pm. at Crescent Harbor.Due to the discounted rate of this trip, we are unable to offer additionally reduced rates for seniors or children.
This cruise is great for locals who want to get out on the water, for visitors to Sitka who want to learn more about our surrounding natural environment, or for family members visiting Sitka. Complimentary hot drinks are available on board and you may bring your own snacks.Binoculars are available on board for your use.Allen Marine generously offers this boat trip at a reduced rate for non-profits.Questions? email [email protected]
The juvenile salmon behind the curved glass of the newest aquarium installation at the Sitka Sound Science Center are a pretty dour crowd. Their grey lips curl down in fishy frowns, or pucker around their next microscopic meal. But one doesn't need to look far to find a smiling face in this fish tank. A large bubble of glass is built into the bottom of the salmon's tank, allowing visitors to crawl under the aquarium and look up into the tank, smiling widely as they view the world from a salmon's underwater perspective.
This interactive aquarium is part of a larger exhibit called "The Salmon Connection" that opened last week at the Science Center. The new display includes the salmon tank, educational artwork by Ketchikan artist Ray Troll, and a Salmon Olympics competition. The exhibit is the result of a partnership between the Science Center and the University of Washington School of Aquatic and Fisheries Science. It was funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation that supports projects and organizations who communicate research to a public audience. The display highlights the work of UW researchers currently studying how a range of habitat variety in salmon streams can lead to healthier, stronger salmon populations, which in turn lead to healthier coastal communities. Science Center Director Lisa Busch says that the goal of the new display is to draw an ecological and educational connection between the Center's traditional exhibits focused on intertidal and marine environments, and its work running the Sheldon Jackson Salmon Hatchery. The exhibit will also include a video, under production, and a new game designed by Ray Troll that will be unveiled at Sitka's Whalefest celebration in the fall.
At the gala opening of the Salmon Connections exhibit, the aquarium's main room was crowded with visitors. Adults and toddlers alike slurped rootbeer floats and poked at the huge colorful starfish in the touch tanks. Locals and tourists mingled, examining the cleverly drawn interpretative signs and Ray Troll's beautiful painted mural on the back wall. Outside, competition was fierce as several dozen kids raced to perform "egg-takes," netting "female" water balloons out of holding bins, then transporting their slippery load across the yard to slice the balloons open and collect the precious "eggs" (pinto beans) that lay within. At the end of a frantic, wet 15 minutes, there didn't seem to be a clear winner, but everyone was having a great time.
Amidst all the bustle, I was drawn back inside to stand in front of Ray Troll's mural, which depicts the huge variety of rainforest flora, fauna, and fishermen that rely on Southeast Alaska's salmon runs. An illustrated salmon lifecycle chart frames the entire piece, encompassing the bears and gulls, trees and fisherfolk in a perpetual circle of death and renewal. The title arches across the top: "A Wild, Salmon-Centric World." It seems a fitting label for both the mural, and the Science Center itself.
In 2011, SCS began the Sitka Salmon Tours program. The goal of the tours was to give visitors a salmon's eye view from the forests where the salmon are born, to the ocean, the fisher and processor, and finally to our plates. We've discontinued the Salmon Tours for 2013. Instead, we have distilled all of the great facts, stories, and natural history from the tours into this manual, "Sitka: A Tongass Salmon Town." Now anyone can be an expert on wild Tongass Salmon. We hope that Sitka residents, guides, and naturalist will use this guide to share the miracle of salmon that attracts tens of thousands of visitors to this place each year.
Printed guides are available at the Sitka Conservation Society office. If you'd like us to mail you a copy, send a request to [email protected] Bulk copies are available for purchase at-cost (about $0.80 per copy).
Download a copy of the manual HERE.
SITKA CONSERVATION SOCIETY PARTNERS WITH RUNNING FAMILY!
Brett, Kris, David, and Olivia Wilcox are pleased to announce that the Sitka Conservation Society is now partnering with them as they run across America in their efforts to raise awareness about genetically modified organisms that can pose a danger to health and the environment. The Sitka Conservation Society has done extensive advocacy work opposing genetically modified salmon as well as community work to build sustainable food systems. They are partnering with Running The Country because of our joint concerns about genetically modified organisms.
The Wilcox family got their inspiration to run across the country in 2010 when David learned of a teen-aged girl who completed the transcontinental run. "I want to do that!" David said. Over time, David convinced Brett and Kris that he was serious. They decided they would run to promote healthy lifestyles and healthy food choices. "And a big part of healthy eating," Brett states, "is knowing what's in our food."
If successful, David will become the youngest person to complete this run, and David and Brett will become the first father and son team to do so.
While undertaking the run, the Wilcox's will stop at community centers, public events, scheduled talks, and in public forums, to speak about and raise awareness on genetically modified organisms, their run, and what people can do to secure a safe, non-GMO food supply.
The Sitka Conservation Society sees this project as a great partnership to raise awareness on these important issues. Executive Director Andrew Thoms is enthusiastic about the
program, "We are facing a really scary threat with genetically modified salmon in Alaska. Our community's livelihoods are intricately connected to Wild Alaska Salmon. Introducing a Frankenstein salmon into the environment could cause disastrous consequences to our wild salmon stocks and our local industry. The more people that know about this threat, the better. Running The Country will help spread the word about what people want for our food system and counter the voices of large food corporations that are pushing GMO foods."
David showed his appreciation for Alaska's wild and natural environment while speaking at a "No GMO Salmon" rally in February in Sitka protesting potential FDA approval of the mutant fish. David quoted one of his inspirations in the rally, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. when he said, "He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it."
"GMO salmon is evil, David added. "By being here today and protesting against GMO salmon, you are standing up for what is right."
"The GMO issue is especially important right now," Brett says. "California's Proposition 37 was narrowly defeated in November after Monsanto and other pro-biotech interests poured $46 million into the state, convincing people that GMO food labels would cost too much."
A 2012 poll of likely voters found that 91% support labeling. (1) "People will argue for many years about the safety of genetically modified foods," says Brett. "Safe or not, we have a right to know what's in our food. We also have a right to know who's profiting from our food choices. With Monsanto's 100+ year legacy of pollution, corruption, and lies, I personally can not morally justify spending one dime on one Monsanto product." (2)
Running across America is no small undertaking, and the Wilcox family is raising money and accepting contributions for their efforts. The runners gratefully accept credit cards, PayPal or donations by check. Donations may be made directly on the runners' web site, runningthecountry.com.
All donations are tax deductible and a receipt will be provided.
For more information regarding the run and the GMO issue, please refer to runningthecountry.com.
1. Mark Mellman, The Hill, April 17, 2012, http://thehill.com/opinion/columnists/mark-mellman/222129-majority-want-more-labels-on-food
2. Jeffrey M. Smith, Seeds of Deception: Exposing Industry and Government Lies About the Safety of the Genetically Engineered Foods You're Eating, (Yes! Books, Fairfield, IA, 2003)
The Tongass National Forest is valuable for more than old growth timber clear-cutting: it's the source of near limitless value to both residents and visitors, if used sustainably.
Energy production, recreation, tourism, hunting, fishing, education and subsistence resources all rely on the continued health of the Tongass in order to continue bringing thousands of dollars and hundreds of jobs to Sitka. As Sitka continues to grow, physically and economically, it's essential that we recognize the wide swath of valuable assets present in and around Sitka.Southeast Alaska offers a cornucopia of possibilities for making a living from (and living off of) the land, rivers and sea. Wilderness areas offer adventure and solitude rarely matched elsewhere in the US, large tracts of remote and robust ecosystems provide habitat for large populations of deer, bear, mountain goat, and more, world class salmon fisheries provides the best wild salmon and some of the bestsport-fishing,
The Tongass National Forest, and Sitka, are more than just tourist destinations, more than just timber value, more than just salmon fishing: the sum is greater than its parts. If we plan future expansion and development with all these invaluable assets in mind, Sitka has the potential to grow more prosperous, and more sustainable.
Ask anyone where the best salmon is caught, and they'll answer: Alaska.
Ask an Alaskan where the best salmon is caught, and they'll answer: Southeast.The Wild Salmon fisheries of Southeast Alaska provides nearly 30% of the global supply of wild salmon. The 57,000 plus miles of rivers, streams, and creeks throughout the Tongass National Forest provides unparalleled spawning habitat for all five species of salmon: pink, chum, coho, sockeye and king. Neighboring rivers in British Columbia and in Southcentral Alaska, as well as the salmon released each year from hatcheries throughout Southeast, also contribute to the robust fisheries we have here.
But just how many salmon caught each year are true Tongass Salmon: spawned and raised in waterways within the Tongass National Forest?
Ron Medel, the Tongass Fisheries Program Manager, found out just that. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game keeps a close eye on salmon throughout the state, and each year produce an estimate regarding how many landed fish come from hatcheries versus wild stocks. Fisheries data from British Columbia's portions of the Stikine, Taku and other salmon streams were also considered and factored out of the Southeast total harvest. Combining all this data, utilizing the power of spreadsheets and some elbow grease... Medel extrapolated that about 79% of the annual harvest in Southeast Alaska are from wild salmon that originated from the Tongass National Forest.
Even though the Tongass forest is such an important element in the Southeast Alaska salmon harvest, the US Forest Service has not allocated its funding and attention to the restoration and continued health of salmon spawning habitat within the forest. Only a small portion of their budget - only about $7 million out of the nearly $63 million budget - is spent on the fisheries and watershed program which directly impacts fisheries conditions and restores salmon habitat (timber harvest and road buildingreceive $20 million). The health of the streams and watersheds that produce nearly $1 BILLION each year throughcommercial, sport and subsistence salmon harvesting is receiving so little support from the US Forest Service - what sort of salmon fishery would we have in Southeast Alaska if the Forest Service put more of their budget to supporting salmonand restoring all of the damage that was done by the historic clear-cut logging?
Wild, Tongass-raised salmon may make up 79% of the salmon caught in Southeast Alaska each year, but those salmon forests, waterways, fisheries and markets need our support, our time, our energy, our concern in order to continue.
Take action to encourage the Forest Service to put more support into stream restoration and watershed health! Your input is needed now to help Congress and the Forest Service prioritize where the American public wants to invest our tax dollars in public land management!
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The event will take place on Saturday, February 9th, from 1:00 to 1:30 pm, at the Crescent Harbor Shelter.
This a quick get together to show public opposition to the pending FDA approval. It's not too late to comment to the FDA, come learn why and how!
I'm inviting the press, so we really want a great showing.FRANKENFISH are a danger to our wild stocks,and to the marketplace.
Find out more about this issue by clicking the link below