Reflections from Ian Johnson, Community Catalyst in Hoonah
The community of Hoonah is currently working to determine if a district biomass heat-loop and biomass-linked greenhouse are right for our community. We are hoping to save energy and cultivate more local produce here in rural Alaska.
Lucky for Hoonah, schools on Prince of Wales Island are already pioneering biomass-heated greenhouses. The Sustainable Southeast Partnership is great because it helps connect ideas and successes from one community, and share them with change-makers across our region. The Biomass Greenhouse Tour arranged by Shaina Kilcoyne and Lia Heifetz of the Sustainable Southeast Partnership, brought 5 community members from Hoonah and 21 other participants from Alaska and Canada to Prince of Wales to examine their biomass linked greenhouses. The experience was powerful.
We started in Coffman Cove with the gardeners of the future – the kindergarten class is tasked with feeding the chickens each morning and collecting eggs. It was delightful, heart-warming, and inspiring to see their bond with the chickens and the enjoyment of their work. From there we learned from the high schoolers and Principal, Colter Barnes how the local biomass sourcing provides money to the local economy ($175/ cord) while warming the greenhouse at a cost savings compared to diesel – a $175 cord of wood is equivalent to about $500 in diesel.
We then moved to the large greenhouse in Coffman cove and were given a tour by the middle-schoolers who run it’s aquaponics operation and harvesting. The excitement was truly electric as it became evident that the Coffman Cove model creates student involvement, provides to the local economy during the lean winter months, generates food security, and provides money to the school through produce sales. These were just SOME of the benefits of their incredible operation. We continued our learning by visiting the greenhouses at Thorne Bay and Kasaan to learn about how we can scale our greenhouses and about slightly different boiler systems. Ending the day at the the Whale House in Kasaan was just icing on the cake!
I can’t thank enough Shaina and Lia for putting together this incredible event. I know it will cause quite a stir in Hoonah and we begin to look at our greenhouse options here.
Since the field season of the Hoonah Native Forest Partnership (HNFP) concluded in late October, 2016 there has been a lot of hustle-and-bustle behind the scenes as partners analyze the datasets generated by crews throughout the summer. Three of the key analyses hinge on the use of LiDAR data which was flown over >200,000 acres of the island. One analysis seeks to determine vegetation characteristics based on timber stand characteristics. The other two analyses focus on creating an intrinsic potential model of Pink and Chum Salmon habitat and modeling barriers to fish. Each of these analyses will provide direct information leading to better management of the landscape and rivers.
The goal of the HNFP Vegetation Study is to provide a very detailed map of both forested and non-forested vegetation types for use in timber, fish and wildlife planning as well as to support local residents in their efforts to gather resources for their households and businesses. The methodology being used combines field data collection and aerial photo classification with LiDAR derived vegetation structure and landscape position data. This is the cutting edge of vegetation mapping on planet earth. The use of LiDAR to model vegetation structure and topographic features can dramatically cut the amount of time that traditional methods take to reach the same end. In order for the LiDAR data to be useful, crews surveyed random forest plots (n=111),as well as stratified sampling for non-forest plots (n=208) across the landscape. Forest plots were created from the LiDAR data by combining the openness of the forest structure (open, sparse, gappy, closed) and the height ( short, medium, tall) and a random selection was generated from that. Non-forest plots were selected to cover the range of spectral signatures that occur in four-band orthoimagery acquired for the project area.Plot categories were linked to landscape characteristics that drive plant community dynamics such as elevation, aspect and slope. Because of this stratification across topographic characteristics crews had to survey from sea-level to mountaintops at 3,000 feet. At each plot the crew followed a Forest Service protocol requiring them to identify every species of plant within the plot, as well as its percent composition. They also measured the diameter at breast high (DBH) and height of each tree within the plot.
The data generated by the crew proved to be invaluable to the analysis. Vegetation study leads Conor Reynolds and Bob Christensen are using this analysis to estimate potential for future timber harvest, model deer habitat values under various management scenarios, identify locations to promote blueberry production and estimate future wood availability for salmon habitat maintenance in riparian stands.. This is particularly important in streams where logging occurred up to the river’s edge (before the establishment of the Alaska Forest Practices Act) and large logs are not falling into streams with enough frequency to maintain fish habitat.
“The benefit of the forest inventory to land managers would be that we’ve created a uniform dataset covering the variability of the entire landscape that effectively tells us the size and density of forest cover. This allows for more targeted scheduling of management activities mitigating the negative effects of intermediate stand stages on other resources such as deer and berries.”
— Conor Reynolds
Creating an Intrinsic Potential Model
In order to manage a landscape effectively, it is important to forecast future scenarios and to know the potential of existing habitat. Due to the access difficulties and prohibitive costs associated with conducting extensive on the ground population surveys across large area of rugged southeast Alaska, decision makers are turning toward tools based on remote sensed data for evaluating the associations between salmon populations and their critical freshwater habitat. Bernard Romey, a graduate student, set out to create an intrinsic potential (IP) model that predicted habitat suitability at the landscape level for spawning chum and pink salmon based on LiDAR derived persistent habitat characteristics such as slope and mean annual flow. Previous intrinsic potential models have been created in Oregon for steelhead trout and coho salmon, however, the IP models created through the HNFP will be the first Southeast Alaska specific chum and pink salmon models. They are likely to benefit communities and land managers across the Tongass National Forest.
“Our chum and pink salmon Intrinsic potential models, paired with the NetMap stream network analysis software, are powerful leading-edge GIS-based tools that will allow decision makers a ‘first step’ approach for predicting broad-scale areas of potential high quality salmon spawning habitat.”
— Bernard Romey
Modeling Barriers to Fish
The ability for a salmon to travel upriver to its original spawning ground is truly remarkable, but even their exceptional skill is limit as streams become steeper, skinnier, or laced with barriers. Knowing the upper limit of salmon distribution is important for guiding management decisions to avoid disturbance of spawning habitat and to protect salmon populations. The fine-scale resolution of the LiDAR can be used within the NetMAP toolset to predict the presence of passage barriers such as waterfalls or steep cascades. Crews walked upstream to survey the height and gradient of potential barriers. These data are being used along with Lidar to refine the barrier prediction model and to develop a map of all salmon streams in the region.
A Model for the Future
The products derived from the LiDAR for the Hoonah Native Forest Partnership are an emmense benefit. It is our hope that as future LiDAR projects are flown, that our results and methods may be used in future community forest products looking to streamline the process of collecting forest metrics and modeling habitat.
“The results of the vegetation mapping work we are doing for the HNFP are important because it provides a much higher resolution, and more detailed vegetation map for all private and public lands that surround the community of Hoonah. Consistent, reliable and up-to-date natural resource data in the jurisdictional patchwork of public and private lands that is common in areas surround rural communities in southeast Alaska has simply been non-existant up to this point. Historically, this state of affairs has undermined resource assessments that are best conducted at the watershed scale so we are particularly lucky to have access to this new product for the HNFP.
Furthermore, the additional detail in this vegetation map will support much more strategic, collaborative and cost effective project planning and implementation for timber, fish and wildlife resources. In the end, these results will save land owners and managers money, enhance returns on their investments over time, and integrate improved outcomes for residents and visitors who utilize these lands for hunting, fishing, recreation and entrepreneurial endeavors.”
— Bob Christensen
When the citizens of Hoonah, Alaska and surrounding Southeast communities arrived at Bartlett Cove in Glacier Bay National Park during the morning of August 25th, 2016, it was a homecoming over 250 years in the making. The powerful events of the day were the culmination of nearly two decades of collaboration between Hoonah Indian Association and the National Park Service which helped heal the past and prepare for the future.
Glacier Bay National Park is the traditional homeland of the Huna Tlingit. In the early 1700’s, Sit’k’i T’ooch’ (“Little Black Glacier”) in Glacier Bay National Park surged forward and pushed the Huna Tlingit from their homeland by destroying their settlements, including L’eiwshaa Shakee Aan. This forced the Huna Tlingit out of their homeland and they eventually settled in Xunniyaa (“Sheltered from the North Wind”) which is today known as Hoonah. Eventually the glacier receded and the Huna Tlingit began to hunt, fish and gather in Bartlett Cove where there had once been ice. However, in 1925 the establishment of Glacier Bay National Monument and regulations that followed ultimately led to a strained relationship between the people of Hoonah and the National Park Service. This was coupled with ongoing cultural loss due to integration into Western society. Through a tragic portion of American and Tlingit history much of the language and culture was lots due to repression. Fortunately in recent years patience and collaboration with the NPS has led to development of many program that have helped to strengthen the relationship and served to bring back traditional activities in the park boundaries. In 1995 the concept of a tribal house in the Park was first suggested and the dedication of Xunaa Shuká Hít on August 25th brought that dream to reality.
Entering the Park
The ride over to Bartlett Cove was marked by a Fire Bowl Ceremony symbolizing “feeding the ancestors” and remembering those who were no longer with us. This somber entrance was a reminder to me that this day was not only about going forward for the future, but also to commemorate and embrace those not able to see the day themselves. After the ceremony we continued to the shores of Barlett Cove and walked up to the Tribal House site.
To begin the ceremonies in Bartlett Cove the traditional donning of regalia commenced. Following tradition the opposite moeity members dressed each other while stating “this is not me placing this on you, but __________”, filling in the name of an ancestor. The regalia marked the clan that each was from with incredible artistry and color. The oldest robe was over 100 years old and its faded colors stood in stark contrast to the vibrant new shawls, but was no less incredible to see.
Canoe Landing Ceremony
After donning regalia hundreds of people walked down to the beach of Bartlett Cove and lit a welcome fire for the canoes. As I mentioned in my previous article, these hand-carved dugouts were commissioned for the entrance into the park and their emergence from the far shore was remarkable to watch. The heavy fog of the morning shrouded Bartlett Cove in a thick haze, and by squinting you could see the canoes appear through the curtain of fog. Custom-carved and painted paddles dipped seamlessly into the flat water and the three, vibrant-red boats glided closer to us. On the shore, many members of the community and kids from school were dressed in traditional colors, robes, tunics, and headbands. They stood on the shore waiting expectantly and with anticipation. The canoers approached with their paddle blades raised in the air to signify they came in peace. As the bow of the canoe slide onto shore and the first feet set onto the beach drums broke out, and with paddle blades raised the pullers danced while the throngs of people and brilliant color swayed to the music. As the songs receded the canoe was hoisted onto many shoulders and brought to the Tribal House. A beautiful, hand-woven Chilkat Robe was presented to Master Carver Wayne Price. He was the first of many to wear the robe to celebrate canoe journeys as the robe will travel to future events which include canoe journeys.
Without the correct process the dedication of the tribal house would not be complete. Per tradition, the tree ceremony acknowledged the resources that were required to make the tribal house and canoes. Without the yellow cedar and spruce nothing would have been possible.
Screen Ceremony/Naming Ceremony
All of the artwork in the Tribal Households symbolize stories that are just waiting to be told to be told. During the screen ceremony the clan leaders described the exterior screen of the Tribal House to let the people know what the design symbolized. Finally the name of the Tribal House was announced and breathed life into the Tribal House. Xunaa Shuká Hít. The crowd repeated it three times and it gave me goosebumps. The name approximately translates to “Huna Ancestors House’”. It could not be a more fitting name for a building made to tell the story of the past and prepare for new generations.
It was a privilege to walk into Xunaa Shuká Hít with the Tlingit People. The inside smelled of fresh cedar and spruce, and throngs of people packed around the edges to leave room in the middle for the elders. Each clan leader began to tell the story of their clan as expressed on the interior house screen and house poles. Their stories mingled with the low murmur of the crowd. As they concluded the drums started to pound and the dancing began. The sound made the walls of the tribal house throb and pound. It was a joyous end to a dramatic and memorable day.
For me one of the most incredible pieces of the dedication was the art and colors of traditional Tlingit ceremonial clothing. Many of these pieces of regalia are only exhibited during special events. The blankets and robes depict clan crests which are images that document a significant event in a clan’s history and stake claim to a particular bit of territory. An example of this may be seen in the Chookaneidi regalia. In it, the octopus design is meant to memorialize an event in which two Chookaneidi men gave their lives to defend the community against a giant octopus. The crest then stakes the Chookaneidi claim to the Inian Islands where the event occurred.
The Future of Xunaa Shuká Hít
The tribal house dedication is only the beginning of a greater and better relationship between Glacier Bay National Park and the people of Hoonah. This photograph of Tribal President Frank Wright shaking hands with NPS Superintendent Philip Hooge says a lot about a relationship that is starting to bud and provides hope that future trips to Xunaa Shuká Hít will continue to remember the past while preparing for the future.
Special thanks to Mary Beth Moss of the National Park Service for her review of this article. All photographs taken by Ian Johnson. More are available to view online at : http://ianajohnson.com/past-future-xunaa-shuka-hit/
By Alana Peterson
One key element to a successful partnership is communication. In the Sustainable Southeast Partnership, our partner organizations model deliberate communication that results in action. We meet on a monthly basis through Google+ video hangouts where we share ideas and information to strengthen our collaborative efforts. We also participate in daily dialogue on our Google+ community page. Our blog posts, emails, phone calls, and community visits all contribute to a network of individuals and organizations that are highly collaborative, sharing resources, and learning from each other along the way. Finally, we commit to communicating through in-person visits as frequently as possible and commit to two full partnership meetings twice a year (once in fall and once in spring).
This year’s autumn retreat took place in Hoonah, Alaska from October 3-7th. We used this time to develop year-long work plans for our individual and collective projects, learn about projects in Hoonah, and strategize ways to grow and strengthen the partnership in 2017.
Our retreat included a site visit to the new deep water dock and Icy Strait Point, a cruise ship destination that includes adventure options, a zip line, restaurants, a museum and shops. The group was not only inspired by the expansive project that is unique to see in a small SE village, but was also excited to learn about how cultural values and the community have been a priority through the development and implementation of the tourism site. Our group was led by a local Huna Totem shareholder, Brittany who started working at ISP as a ticket taker, and has moved up in the ranks to now working administrative functions in the office. It was clear she has pride in her work, and impressed our entire group in her knowledge and ability to answer all of our questions. We learned that decisions at ISP are made based on a filter of authenticity. Icy Strait Point was built to be as true to the culture and community it represents as possible.
We also spent time learning about the Hoonah Native Forest Partnership, a powerful new model for land management in SE Alaska.
The retreat also included a day-long workshop for community engagement. The workshop, led by Element Agency, gave each partner new skills and tools to plan successful community events such as meetings, workshops, etc. We put the new tools to use by planning and facilitating a community meeting in Hoonah. The goal of the community meeting was to introduce our partnership and outline the current projects in Hoonah. We then opened up discussion to the participants to learn about priority projects that the community has identified, and support those efforts through the SSP network. The meeting concluded with a beautiful performance from the Mt. Fairweather dancers who also prepared a tasty dinner for the event.
Other outcomes of this years retreat included a review of 13 successes from last year’s projects. Between all SSP partners, over 50 projects are taking place in 2017. A full list of those projects can be viewed by clicking here. The partners also dedicated four hours to identifying four priority areas to strengthen the SSP in 2017, they include:
(2) Catalysts & Partners will engage the community, new partners and new demographics to increase community ownership of the Sustainable Southeast Partnership.
(3) All partners will work towards making SSP self-sustaining by improving and implementing our metrics to communicate success for potential funders and by building capacity to fundraise within partner organizations (this includes capacity building activities).
(4) All partners will demonstrate success in projects this year through strategizing community outreach through each communications output and achieving one clear project success in each community this year.
For each of these four initiatives, each participant wrote down one or two actionable steps they will take as individuals this year to move the partnership forward on each initiative. Though tired and drained from a long week of collaborative work, each partner left Hoonah reinvigorated and excited about the year of work ahead.
A key component of the Hoonah Native Forest Partnership (HNFP) is local workforce development in natural resource assessment. The goal of the workforce development is to create capacity within the community for future projects and assessment. This benefits the HNFP model by addressing the “triple bottom line”: building social capacity for natural resource assessment, creating a model based on management needs and community values, and striking a balance between timber production and subsistence resource production. An important aspect of workforce develop is asking and gauging what “success” looks like. I spent a day with the HNFP crew reflecting on the summer and gain their insight as one way to measure success and also areas for growth.
How did this work benefit you?
- Useful hands-on experience on our land
- Got in shape
- Learned new skills that I can use in the future
- Learned a lot of new spots to get berries
- Am now very confident on navigating our road systems
- Plant ID
- Experience and knowledge of our surrounding natural resources
What was the most useful skill learned this summer?
- Alpine experience
- Plant ID and what deer prefer to eat
- Navigation and extensive knowledge of our road system
What Projects would you like to see implemented based on the work that you did?
- Stream and river maintenance
- Trail blazing to harvest areas (both game and berries)
- Informing community of road maintenance needs
- Alder Thinning
- Beach cleaning
- Stream maintenance through wood recruitment
- Fixing culverts and installing new ones to possibly prevent landslides
- Identifying for the community the location of berries and fish for subsistence
What is the Purpose of HNFP?
“Using past and present knowledge to determine best ways to sustain and utilize our forests, stream, and rivers.”
— Phillip Sharclane, HNFP Crew
The HNFP crew completed an array of natural resource assessments to quantify deer, fish, and vegetation. They worked through many conditions during a field season spanning from March through October. Their work included quantifying deer and slash, road maintenance and hydrology inventory, fish monitoring, and vegetation plots from the sea to the alpine. The video below highlights the work their summer and also shows off that we can have a bit of fun doing it, too!
An important part of the Hoonah Native Forest Partnership is learning from the experiences we had so that other future projects can pick up where we left off. The field season was long and complex with some ruts in the road. One of the great aspects of the project was digital data collection, however, four different platforms were used to collect data (EZ Tag, DataPlus Mobile, Fulcrum Data App, Cyber Tracker App). Each of these applications required new learning by the crew and new data management steps. Also, since the technology would fail from time-to-time, they asked for greater ability to adapt to technology failures. Working with the data programs could be included in a more extensive pre-field season which they asked for to better prepare them. More of their observations are recorded below.
What could be improved for the next year?
- Forest Plots – find a way to better collect the data and give more options for where to conduct the surveys
- Drivers should be higher paid
- Be able to adapt to the technology failures
- Have better Westport accessibility and vehicle logistics
- HIA should provide all the gear needed for the position – cork boots, rain gear, Xtra Tuffs
- Better navigation maps would create more efficiency for the crew while in the field
- A weekly plan/ planning further ahead so that the crew can make changes to the plan in the field as needed
- More pre-season planning with the crew to make sure they have the necessary training
- Have a structure for raises
- Leaders and project points should come into the field more to lead the work
Memories from the field:
- “Get certified in Electro-shocking, locate and identify plant species. Going to the Alpine to do vegetation plots and getting to experience many fantastic views.” Donny Smith
- “Being left in the ditch after a bear growled at us and everyone ran to the van” Charlie Wright
- “ I enjoyed being out in the field going to many locations that I had never been to, nor had I even thought that I would ever need to go to. Also had my first experience hiking to an alpine…in my life!!! “ Rosita Brown
- “ALL OF THE BLUEBERRIES!!!!!” Rosita Brown
- “See a deer fawn in the river during Tier 2”
- Charlie’s famous words “just five more minutes”.
- Road surveys have opened everyone’s eyes to some amazing views and knowledge of roads that need work.
- All the hiking had everyone losing weight. YAY!!!!!!!!
- Charlie getting upset about not being informed about needed hip waiters and then having to walk threw a river
- The time we were doing a forest plot next to a river and a bear ran down the hill into the river scaring the crap out of us.
- The time I slid down rock pit hill on my butt and I was going faster down the hill then Charlie walking down the hill.