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Forested Landscapes

This season's survey route - click to see larger version

Since SEAWEAD’s inception in 1999 we have cooperated with a broad spectrum of our community in the study of several species and habitats. Based on this experience we have begun a project that is intended to weave what we have learned about the nature of Southeast into a holistic approach to landscape ecology.

 

Last season we embarked on our first field excursions in this effort. During June and July we employed our rapid survey techniques in about a dozen watersheds ranging in location from Chichagof to Prince of Wales islands. We collected information on a variety of species and habitats in each system and are taking a serious – ground-truthed - look at the challenge of restoring and maintaining healthy ecosystems while providing opportunities for sustainable development.

 

We have many partners and supporters in this effort and our goal is to create an information pool for each audience to draw from. If you are interested in this effort please visit our online discussion forum and let us know what kinds of information you would hope for. At present some of the key concepts we are looking at are: ecosystem function, habitat connectivity, high-grading/proportionality, habitat restoration, habitat enhancements and habitat buffers.

 

click here to view a slide show of a timber sale field survey. click here to view a larger map of this season’s survey route. This project is just getting started so stay tuned for more news as things develop.

 

 

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.

 

 

Forested Landscapes

This season's survey route - click to see larger version

Since SEAWEAD’s inception in 1999 we have cooperated with a broad spectrum of our community in the study of several species and habitats. Based on this experience we have established a program that is intended to weave what we have learned about the nature of Southeast into a holistic approach to landscape ecology.

 

In 2005 we embarked on our first field excursions in this effort as part of the Sitka Conservation Society's (SCS) Tongass Ground-truthing Project . During June and July our two top naturalists Richard and Bob employed rapid survey techniques in about a dozen watersheds ranging in location from Chichagof to Prince of Wales islands. We collected information on a variety of species and habitats in each system that support taking a serious – ground-truthed - look at the challenge of restoring and maintaining healthy ecosystems while providing opportunities for sustainable development.

Big tree forest on the Cleveland Peninsula

 

Since 2005 we have visited additional sites on Prince of Wales Island, Kuiu Island, Kosciusko Island, Mitkof Island, Baranof Island and Chichagof Island. During that time the focus of the Ground-truthing Project has shifted to concentrate more on the restoration of salmon and deer habitat in previously logged watersheds and identifying forest types and watersheds that are the most suitable for long-term timber management. Thus our partnership with SCS in this work has become more and more in harmony with the collaborative mission of SEAWEAD.

 

In 2007 a new project was started in partnership with the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council (SEACC) called the Hoonah Community Forest Project. For this effort we are taking what we have learned from 3 years of ground-truthing across the Tongass and applying it in the development of a guide to resilient landscape design for the forested landscape immediately around Hoonah, Alaska. 

 

We have many partners and supporters in this effort and our goal is to create an information pool for each audience to draw from. At present some of the key concepts we are looking at are: ecosystem services, habitat connectivity, high-grading/proportionality, habitat restoration, tree-farming, habitat enhancements and habitat buffers.

 

click here to view a slide show of a timber sale field survey. click here to view a larger map of the 2005 survey route.

 

 

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

   

Ground-truthing

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