Conservation Group Hosts Diverse Audience At Community Forest Collaborative Workshop
October 30, 2012
The workshop focused on opportunities for ongoing sustainable ecosystem service work, including locally suitable timber sales, thinning, road and bridge maintenance, recreation, renewable energy, berry harvesting, guiding, and fish passage improvements. Potential contracts on both public and private land were presented to local businesses, contractors, tribal representatives, and loggers. Forest Service contracting officers and a Sealaska representative spoke about the size, scope, and composition of such contractual work opportunities on their respective lands, and advised local operators on ways to be competitive in the bidding process.
Central to the ongoing dialogue and collaboration amongst nontraditional allies like conservation groups and mill owners is the development of trust and respect. The two-day event in Hoonah facilitated a greater understanding of the values and goals of the participating stakeholders. A common theme throughout the workshop was a desire to see long-term sustainability and resiliency in Southeast communities.
According to the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council , the workshop resulted in several tangible outcomes. First, six local Hoonah contractors and loggers directly communicated with Forest Service contracting officers, resulting in immediate education and feedback on the contracting process. Second, the Tenakee Logging Company was able to speak directly with Forest Service sale administrators. This was followed up with a field visit by forester Chris Budke who will work on a Stewardship Agreement for the Tenakee loggers that could include both harvest of sustainable quantities of timber, as well as second growth restoration activities.
The tone of discussions during the workshop was optimistic but realistic. Hoonah District Ranger Rich Jennings appreciated the candidness of the gathering, noting that he gets, “…concerned about painting a picture about a ‘rose garden’ that, in reality, has many thorns.” Jennings emphasized the need to have multi-dimensional conversations that did not focus exclusively on ecological restoration or economic productivity, and was pleased with the conversations and outcomes of the week’s events.
Of central concern to Hoonah residents is the Kennel Creek Restoration Project, a collaborative effort between the Forest Service, the Hoonah Indian Association, the City of Hoonah, and SEACC. The project is focused on improving deer habitat in the Kennel Creek watershed through the thinning of 250 acres of second growth forest. It is anticipated that this work will employ 6-8 Hoonah residents. All participants want to ensure that this work is not just a ‘flash in the pan,’ but rather a valuable training opportunity for Hoonah residents to learn skills applicable to future thinning, restoration, and small scale timber work.
Conservationists see workshops like the one in Hoonah as a sign that progress on the Tongass Transition Plan is being made, even if slowly.
“The transition on the Tongass won’t occur overnight,” said Daven Hafey, community organizer for SEACC. “We must continue to organize diverse voices in our rural communities, like Hoonah and Wrangell, to realize an ecological and economical success for Southeast.”
Thirty participants attended the workshop, including the US Forest Service, Hoonah Indian Association, Icy Straits Lumber and Milling, Tenakee Logging Company, Game Creek Construction, the Icy Strait Lodge, Sealaska, the Organized Village of Kake, the Wrangell Cooperative Association, SAGA, and several local contractors and workers.
The Southeast Alaska Conservation Council (SEACC) has worked in the region since 1970. As a coalition of 15 member groups in 11 communities, stretching along the coast from Ketchikan to Yakutat, the goal of SEACC is "to safeguard the integrity of Southeast Alaska’s unsurpassed natural environment, while supporting the sustainable use of our region’s natural resources".
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