SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

Addressing Climate Change in Southeast Alaska


October 18, 2016
Tuesday AM

(SitNews) Ketchikan, Alaska - Southeast Alaska residents have concerns about climate change - with most of those concerns connected to water. Safe natural resources are a prime issue, in face of changes such as heavy rains causing flooding, ocean acidification, warmer waters, and snowfall variation, as well as invasive species, toxins, and warm spring seasons followed by frost affecting wild berry production.

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To help communities address concerns, Davin Holen, the Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory coastal community resilience specialist, collaborated in organizing the Southeast Alaska Climate Change Summit held last month in Ketchikan. Holen invited researchers who work on resources that are culturally important - salmon, yellow cedar, berries, shellfish, cultural sites, and human health.

Participating in the conference were 50 environmental managers and coordinators from Southeast Alaska tribes, and 30 professionals representing federal and state agencies, the University of Alaska, and nonprofits. Ketchikan Marine Advisory agent Gary Freitag gave a talk on aquaculture opportunities.

Chris Whitehead and Esther Kennedy from the Sitka Tribe of Alaska described current activities monitoring ocean acidification and testing for paralytic shellfish poisoning, and Ray Paddock from the Central Council Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska (CCTHITA) discussed plans for a 2017 survey to monitor fish consumption rates and water quality, to better understand seafood contamination.

One of the summit outcomes is that local groups will collaborate with each other and with the U.S. Forest Service and Southeast Alaska nonprofits, such as the Southeast Alaska Watershed Coalition, on citizen science monitoring and encouraging the engagement of youth. Monitoring programs on stream flow and temperature are possibilities.

“Tribes in Southeast Alaska have recognized impacts from climate change for some time and have taken a proactive approach by involving environmental coordinators from tribes that are funded by the Environmental Protection Act to monitor, mitigate, and adapt,” said Holen. “By the end of the workshop, projects and partnerships were emerging and many new ideas were being discussed as a way to move forward with monitoring to establish a baseline for understanding climate change.”

The Bureau of Indian Affairs will fund Central Council Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska to draft a climate adaptation plan for Southeast Alaska, which is the next step in the process. The regional plan will be a resource that tribes can draw upon to draft their own plans. “This is exciting as it will be a unique framework and tool for tribes as they decide how to move forward in building more resilient communities,” said Holen.

Central Council Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska (CCTHITA) hosted the summit with funding for tribal participants from the EPA. The North Pacific Landscape Conservation Cooperative funded travel for agencies and others. The summit took place September 22-23, 2016. in Ketchikan at the Cape Fox Lodge.



Editing by Mary Kauffman, SitNews


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