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.
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.
Tongass Conservation Strategies
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...