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The SEAWEAD web site

Tongass Forest Restoration Report

SEAWEAD partnered with The Wilderness Society to produce a technical report on forest restoration for Southeast Alaska. You can download an 8 megabyte version of the report that is suitable for screen reading here, or you can download a 60 megabyte high resolution version that is suitable for printing here. If you would like the ability to zoom into the photos and maps without losing detail we recommend downloading the high resolution version .

forest-restorationThis report is meant to be an approachable reference on ecological restoration of Southeast Alaskan forests. Our intended audiences are resource managers, community and tribal leaders, conservationists, contractors and others interested in forest restoration. For this effort we have conducted an exhaustive literature review, interviewed experts in the field, conducted GIS analysis and drawn from ground-truthing experiences throughout the region. Key findings include:
  • Habitats that serve critical ecological  and social functions (salmon forests) and are sensitive to logging (karst forests) have been disproportionately impacted by past logging in Southeast.
  • Numerous Tongass watersheds and landscapes that are uniquely productive for species like salmon and deer have been highly degraded by past logging.
  • The effectiveness of the Tongass Land Management Plan’s conservation strategy is limited by having been designed in an already degraded forest.
  • The scientific literature documents several silvicultural tools proven effective for restoring structural complexity, biodiversity and ecological function.
  • Initial stem density reductions (e.g., pre-commercial thinning) in second-growth forests provide a critical step in ecological restoration by greatly increasing future silvicultural options for wildlife habitat enhancement.
  • There is compelling evidence that variable density thinning with skips and gaps is the most effective approach for restoring old-growth characteristics.
  • Strategic planning that prioritizes and integrates restoration actions across multiple scales enhances the effectiveness of restoration efforts.
  • There is wide ranging support for the  watershed as a particularly useful scale for orienting and planning on the ground restoration activities, especially where salmon are a species of interest.
  • There is broad support within the scientific community for acknowledging and dealing with uncertainty by employing effectiveness monitoring and adaptive management practices.
  • The benefits of employing a collaborative approach to ecological restoration are rapidly coming to light through a number of real world examples.
  • This report is meant to be an approachable reference on ecological restoration of Southeast Alaskan forests. Our intended audiences are resource managers, community and tribal leaders, conservationists, contractors and others interested in forest restoration. For this effort we have conducted an exhaustive literature review, interviewed experts in the field, conducted GIS analysis and drawn from ground-truthing experiences throughout the region.



Kake Community Forest

Kake Community Forest ProjectSEAWEAD has partnered with SEACC to put together a Community Forest Project for Kake. This project is based on a collaborative stewardship model and this webpage has been created to provide a central location for resource materials that support this effort. Here is an excerpt from the summary:

For this community forest project SEAWEAD again partnered with SEACC to conduct field surveys, gather reference material and provide tools for the collaborative stewardship of National Forest and Native Corporation lands immediately accessible to the community of Kake, Alaska herinafter referred to as The Kake Community Forest (KCF).  Our task:: 

  • Learn about Kake, what forest-related projects residents would like, the kinds of forest related jobs they would like, the community’s current capacity for conducting forest work, and their vision for long-term management of their community forest;
  • Assess the condition of the lands within the Kake Community Forest. 
  • Identify areas where wildlife habitat restoration and enhancement activities could be efficiently blended with opportunities for customary and traditional uses, sustainable logging, recreation development and the cultivation and harvest of non-timber forest products. 
  • Describe tools for community-based collaborative stewardship including: stewardship contracts and agreements, MOUs, and place-based legislation.
  • Utilize these tools to foster future stewardship activities in the Kake Community Forest that are thoroughly community-based and collaborative, are suited to the community’s capacity for doing the work, to increase capacity where desired and reflect the long-term vision the residents have for their community forest.

Click here to download a summary of the Kake Commmunity Forest Report or here to download the full report.

Appendix resources can be found below.

Read more: Kake Community Forest


Hoonah Community Forest Project

Hoonah Community Forest Project Report CoverThe Hoonah Community Forest Project emerged from a community conversation  facilitated by Southeast Alaska Conservation Council (SEACC) in February of 2007.  Twenty-one people from Hoonah attended, including customary and traditional users, charter boat operators, a bear guide, the owner and six employees of Icy Straits Lumber, a Hoonah Indian Association council member, teachers, and others.  The discussion quickly centered on how the area right around Hoonah should be managed.  People were quite aware that the biggest and best trees around Hoonah have already been logged and they’re concerned about the “footprint” of future logging.  That said, they also wanted to keep Icy Straits lumber mill going and employing people.

SEACC partnered with SEAWEAD in an effort to create a tool that can be used to communicate the needs of the community, the current state of the forest around Hoonah, and the opportunities for helping the landscape bounce back more quickly from the “footprint” left from past logging.

The purpose of the Hoonah Community Forest project is to provide tools and recommendations for management of the landscape that is immediately accessible to the community of Hoonah, Alaska i.e. “The Hoonah Community Forest" and  to support collaboration on creating a blueprint for the development of healthy social and ecological systems in the Hoonah landscape.  We sought to:

  • Identify places for logging that would have the least impact on important fish and wildlife habitat;
  • Identify areas where restoration of fish and wildlife habitat would have the greatest impact in terms of community use and ecological value; and,
  • Actively build the community’s uses and needs into a landscape design through the concept of a Community Use Area.

Existing data, experiences from ground-truthing visits and interviews with locals were synthesized in the production of a management guide map that includes three general land use designations: Wilderness Opportunity, Fish and Wildlife Priority and Timber Opportunity. Check out the report.


Short-eared Owls

Click for larger versionClick for larger versionSeveral data sources indicate that the Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus) is declining across its North American range. The primary threat responsible for this decline is believed to be degradation or loss of critical habitats such as native grasslands and coastal wetlands; however, vehicle collisions, predation, and contaminants are also likely factors. Life history information, including migratory movements, is scarce for this species of conservation concern. In an attempt to fill in some of the gaps of our understanding of Short-eared Owls, SEAWEAD and USFWS biologist Jim Johnson began a satelite telemetry study on the southern Seward Peninsula. During June 2009, we attached small solar-powered satellite transmitters to 14 owls to determine the timing and routes of migration and to locate important wintering areas.
Owls have dispersed from the Seward Peninsula and are now distributed from the southern Prairie Provinces to Central Mexico and from California to Colorado - an area encompassing 30 degrees (insert degree symbol) of latitude and 20 degrees (insert degree symbol) of longitude. Transmitter life may exceed two years and we are anticipating an exciting spring migration as we follow these birds on their northward migration. You too can follow the movements of these owls by following this link http://www.seaturtle.org/tracking/?project_id=419

For more information on this project and how to get involved contact Jim Johnson of the USFWS in Anchorage.


Southeast Chichagof Bear project

cheryl_recon_beartrail_treebb_smDuring the summer of 2005 we worked in cooperation with the Sitka Ranger District (USFS) on brown bear habitat assessments at several sites on Chichagof and Baranof Islands. The purpose of the field work was to collect high resolution habitat and signs of use data for a variety of wildlife and human use management questions. The areas surveyed ranged from pristine to highly modified watersheds and provided an excellent overview of existing brown bear habitat conditions on the northern Tongass National Forest. GIS analysis was blended with anecdotal naturalist observations in the final report.

Go to the reports page to download the final report.



richard_carstensen_and_bob_christensen.jpg Ground-truthing is a term used by foresters and geologists referring to field-verification of maps and aerial imagery. In 2005, SEAWEAD naturalists Bob Christensen and Richard Carstensen partnered with the Sitka Conservation Society to develop and support the Tongass Ground-truthing project . The purpose of this effort is to investigate past and proposed timber projects throughout Southeast Alaska and pass on our observations of the condition of the landscape, and what might be done to improve it, to the public at large.

“Ground-truthers” travel to remote watersheds where past and present timber activities are rarely observed by the public. We compile retrospective analyses of the character of logged forests and streams, and of existing old-growth stands inside future cutting units.

Ground-truthers are “eyes and ears in the woods” for Southeast’s conservation-minded community members. But we also take field documentation to the next level, analyzing patterns of logging in GIS (Geographic Information Systems), evaluating landscape connectivity for wildlife, assessing the opportunity for salmon and deer habitat restoration work, and critiquing Land Use Designations.

Read more: Ground-truthing


Sitka Sound Oystercatchers

Click for larger viewClick for larger viewIn the Spring of 2007 we helped US Fish and Wildlife Service ornithologist Brad Andres conduct a survey of Sitka Sound for Oystercatcher nest sites. Brad's interest was in revisiting islets and rocks that had been documented as active nest sites back in the 1940s. Anecdotal observations suggest there has been a decline in nest activity in Sitka Sound and Brad wanted to verify this possibility and investigate potential causes with a field visit.

On June 9th and 10th we skiffed the entire coastline of Sitka Sound scanning for oystercatcher's exhibiting breeding behavior and searched upwards of 30 exposed rocks, islets and rocky outcrops for nest sites. Click here to read the report.




Tongass Conservation Strategies

pumpkin_patch_sm.jpg The Tongass Land Management Plan (TLMP) is the primary document used to manage public lands in Southeast Alaska. A draft for the 2008 version of TLMP was recently released and is currently out for comment. 

A coalition of conservation groups (Southeast Alaska Conservation Society, Sitka Conservation Society, The Nature Conservancy, Audubon Alaska, Trout Unlimited, The Wilderness Society, Alaska Conservation Foundation, Alaska Wilderness League) is in the process of developing an alternate conservation strategy.

SEAWEAD naturalists Richard Carstensen and Bob Christensen recently wrote an independent opinion piece that compares and critiques these conservation strategies. The document covers a wide array of issues important to understanding the delicate balance between economic development and ecological integrity in Southeast Alaska. Although this document is not an official SEAWEAD report, we provide a link here for interested parties and encourage all who are up for digging a little deeper into Tongass conservation to check it out. The cover letter for this report follows...

Read more: Tongass Conservation Strategies


Landmark Trees

 The Landmark Trees Project is an effort to find, describe and understand the most magnificent remaining forests of Southeast Alaska. Founded in 1996 by Sam Skaggs of Alaska Research Voyages, Inc, the project has documented 64 one-acre sites across the Tongass under the field direction of naturalist Richard Carstensen.

Landmark Tree sites are scored according to the dimensions of the largest tree and the wood volume of the surrounding acre. They are also assessed for ecological values such as winter deer and summer bear habitat. Originally conceived as an ecotourism venture which might help to bring trees the same standing as glaciers, bears and whales, (the industry's current advertising icons) the project now involves residents throughout the Tongass who seek deeper familiarity with their backyard treasures.

Landmark Tree researchers have found trees measuring 10 and 11 feet in diameter, and up to 250 feet tall Our highest scoring stand contains two spruces much larger than the official state record. It grows on limestone bedrock (karst), but most of our sites occur on stream and river deposits (alluvium).

Landmark Trees started by finding and documenting the cream of the Tongass big forest. Although that will continue, we have quickly reached stage two; now that we know a lot about the Tongass megaforest, can we provide some way for residents and tourists to experience it first hand? The answer is more complex than we anticipated!

Read more: Landmark Trees