On a warm, bluebird day in April, Southeast Island School District and the Sustainable Southeast Partnership led a 25 person tour to Coffman Cove, Thorne Bay and Kasaan on Prince of Wales Island to see their biomass and greenhouse projects in person. Tour participants from Hoonah, Kake, Hydaburg, Klawock, Petersburg, Tenakee Springs, Ontario and the Yukon each had in hand a Biomass Heated Greenhouse Handbook. This comprehensive handbook outlines how to turn these inspiring greenhouses from dream to reality. It was unveiled a day prior at the Alaska Wood Energy Conference in Ketchikan and is a free resource available to schools and anybody who is interested in building a Biomass Heated Greenhouse locally. The USDA Forest Service and the Alaska Energy Authority commissioned the Handbook, in part to share successes and lessons learned from the Southeast Island School District and help streamline the process for future projects. Nobody wants to re-invent the wheel, and handbooks like these provide the tools so that interested local leaders don’t need to!
“We teach retention, other schools teach compliance” –Colter Barnes
Back on the tour on Prince of Wales Island, five to seven year old students confidently walked out to the chicken coop to do their morning chores – collecting and counting eggs, feeding chickens and ducks, refilling water. Two high schooler’s run outside to the biomass boiler shed to stoke the fire between classes. A middle school class weighs goldfish, calculates the amount of fish food to feed them (3% of their mass), and tests the water levels in the aquaponic greenhouse.
Of the 500 plus schools in Alaska, four on Prince of Wales Island are now displacing heating fuel and imported foods with local woody biomass and greenhouses. According to Principal Colter Barnes, the $200 earned from delivering a cord of wood can make a big difference for families in these high cost communities, and produces about the same amount of heat as $500 worth of diesel fuel. Students fund sports travel and even requested more duties stoking the boiler and hauling and cutting wood a couple of weeks ago to save up for prom.
These greenhouses are truly inspiring. They are creating jobs and economic development, generating clean, affordable, local energy, teaching nutrition and culinary arts, applied learning, and community engagement. This is a story of building healthy, culturally vibrant communities and a more resilient region and the newly published handbook will help take this fantastic island-wide project to the next level.
Partners and collaborators met in Juneau for a two day bi-annual SSP workshop in March. This workshop coincided with SE Conference’s Mid-Session Summit. The success and utility of the SSP network relies heavily on the commitment of partners to meet in-person twice a year. Spending time together to share information and ideas always leads to improved collaboration across the region. We saw over 50 people participate in the two day event, and many of them noted that it was a priority to attend because they see the value it brings to be tapped into the SSP network.
We used the two days to explore specific ideas including; ideas for improving the network in 2017, reflection on how we as individuals and organizations both provide and receive benefits through the partnership, and building an SSP story bank. Southeast Alaska has a rich history rooted in the use of storytelling for sharing knowledge, skills and inspiration. The SSP prioritizes sharing compelling and progressive stories to strengthening projects and connections between our rural villages across the region. We spent one afternoon brainstorming storytelling ideas based on our projects and work and started to discuss and map out strategies for sharing those stories to inspire positive change.
Government, business and non-profits collaborate on workforce development Second Forestry Training Academy on Prince of Wales Island is underway
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 21, 2017
(Thorne Bay, AK)— This week on Prince of Wales Island, 13 students attending the second Forestry Training Academy are proof that collaboration can be more than just a buzzword. The Forestry Training Academy is two weeks of training to prepare students for local jobs in natural resources. The U.S. Forest Service, state Division of Forestry, state Division of Economic Development, Sealaska Timber, Spruceroot Community Development Fund and Sustainable Southeast Partnership are working together to support the academy for a second year.
Why are federal, state, private and non-profit groups all invested? Each share a common objective to support sustainably-managed forests and sustainable communities with healthy economies. The academy puts local people to work in local jobs, gathering valuable data about area timber stands. Land managers across the region have forestry jobs to fill and the partners believe that keeping jobs local is good for industry, good for communities and good for Alaska.
“We are interested in a strong regional economy and working forests managed by a trained, local workforce,” said Sealaska President and CEO Anthony Mallott. “Maintaining a focus on sustainable harvests helps achieve that.”
The academy is an outgrowth of the Tongass Advisory Committee (TAC), a federal advisory committee formed while the Forest Service was amending the Tongass National Forest management plan. The TAC brought together stakeholders from the timber industry, environmental groups, Sealaska, and the State of Alaska to advise the Forest Service on how to support the transition to young-growth timber harvest and provide for a viable forest industry in Southeast Alaska. Among its final recommendations in late 2015, the TAC recommended investing in a skilled local workforce as an integral piece of developing a more sustainable timber industry.
“The workforce academy is a key element of the new Tongass Land Management Plan, put into action. It’s good for the region and it is an improvement in forest management,” said Andrew Thoms, a TAC member and executive director of the Sitka Conservation Society.
Last year, eight students graduated from the academy equipped with place-based natural resource skills and knowledge immediately transferable to local careers. The Division of Forestry immediately hired six graduates and Sealaska Timber offered a position to another. In December, two of the graduates working with the Division of Forestry on young growth inventory were offered long-term positions with the Forest Service.
Collaboration has proven essential for supporting the academy and the partners also believe that collaboration across land managers is good for sustainable and effective land management.
“This is part of the USDA’s All-lands approach to land management. The Forest Service is working together with the State of Alaska and adjacent land owners to develop a more robust and sustainable approach to forestry across our region,” said Beth Pendleton, Regional Forester for the U.S. Forest Service-Alaska Region, currently serving as the Acting Associate Chief of the agency in Washington, D.C. “The Forestry Academy also helps carry out the U.S. Forest Service Alaska Department of Natural Resources TAC’s recommendations to develop a local workforce and to support the inventory of young growth timber,” she said.
Harrison Voegili working on the Young Growth Inventory on Prince of Wales Island in 2016. Voegili was one of the graduates of the 2016 Forestry Training Academy. Photos can be credited to Kendall Rock, Sustainable Southeast Partnership.
Alaska State Forester Chris Maisch added, “This team effort is producing impressive results in both the classroom and in the woods. No single organization has the required talent and capacity to accomplish the training and the ensuing project work on its own. The new hires have a great work ethic and pick up new skills rapidly through their work with our forestry team.” The second Forestry Training Academy started on Monday, March 20 and is underway until March 31. It will cover basic forestry skills, best practices, U.S. Forest Service safety requirements and Division of Forestry inventory protocol. The training will also offer students classroom and in-the-field instruction to practice, develop and test skills. Twenty-eight applicants competed for 13 openings this year. All 13 students are from Alaska: four from Ketchikan, one from Haines, one from Metlakatla and seven from Prince of Wales Island.
“Prince of Wales is my home and I am motivated to help sustain and safeguard what is left of the Tongass. I am ready for new challenges within the dynamic environment that the Forest Service represents,” said Christa Hambleton, an academy participant from Port Protection. Hiring local workers allows people in rural communities to stay, work, and raise families in their traditional homes. And many of the natural resource jobs are year-round and well paying. Hiring local allows more money to circulate in the economy and helps create more sustainable communities. Graduates will qualify for immediate employment opportunities with the Forest Service, Division of Forestry and others.
CONTACT: Reporters interested in interviewing academy participants, going into the field or visiting the Forest Academy between March 20-31, 2017, should contact U.S. Forest Service Public Affairs Specialist Dru Fenster at 907-209-2094 or firstname.lastname@example.org. For photos from this year’s academy, please contact Sustainable Southeast Partnership Communications Director Bethany Goodrich at 907-747-7509 or email@example.com.
Written by Alana Peterson, Program Director
I can’t believe 2017 is already here! I have a good feeling about this year, especially for the work we are doing together as a network. With limited resources and an unknown political climate, each of our organizations must prioritize our efforts on projects that will move our communities and region forward. No big deal… Right?
Our shared mission of creating resilient Southeast communities is achievable if we each commit to this model of collaboration and partnership. I know that SSP can serve as a successful model for other areas of Alaska. When they ask us how we achieved success, we will say the greatest challenge to making this network a success was through effective and deliberate communication. This means being thoughtful in every interaction. Effective communication can occur at any time, it can be during a meeting with staff, in a presentation to a group of people, through an email, or even through a monthly google hangout meeting. It is in those brief interactions that we make connections, and share ideas that create solutions or spur innovation within our collective efforts.
The point is, if we plan to make 2017 the best year SSP has had, then we need to start the year off right by sharing and communicating as effectively as we can. I hope to provide some opportunities to grow your individual communication skills during our monthly google hangouts as well as during our in-person meeting in Juneau March 16 & 17.
Here are ways you can become more involved and start communicating with the partnership on the work your organization is doing:
- Newsletter Contributions
This is an online platform that works much like a private group on Facebook, where SSP partners can communicate in a public forum on a daily basis. I encourage you all to engage in the dialogue that is happening on the Google+ page daily! The more people contribute, the more useful it becomes. If you have an idea please share it with us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, please subscribe to this seasonal newsletter by clicking here.
- Google+ Community
This is an online platform that works much like a private group on Facebook, where SSP partners can communicate in a public forum on a daily basis. I encourage you all to engage in the dialogue that is happening on the Google+ page daily! The more people contribute, the more useful it becomes. Partners, please continue to contribute and follow along by clicking here.
- Midyear Meeting
We have scheduled to hold our next in-person meeting March 16 & 17 to coincide with Southeast Conference’s Midsession Summit in Juneau. I will send along an agenda in the near future. If you have attended our annual retreat in the past, you know how valuable these face-to-face opportunities are. This event is where we connect, improve our ability to work collectively, and get some relevant skills training (communication skills and much more!). If you know of someone or other entities that would like to participate in this event, let me know and I can make sure they get an invitation. I am also welcoming ideas for this meeting; if there is something of particular interest to you or your entity, let me know and we can try to make it happen!
- Deciding the Future of SSP
In 2017 we will develop a plan to make the SSP a self-sustaining network that no-longer relies (solely) on grant funding; we are creating a steering committee called the SSP Sustainability Planning Group. This group will meet in person in Juneau on February 2nd and 3rd. This meeting will determine how to best utilize the remaining years of funding that are available and leverage those funds in the best way possible. This group will not be responsible for making the sustainability plan, but they will help to inform the plan that gets produced. Please send me an email letting me know you would like to participate in this 2-day working group. We would really like to get as much input at this stage, so all are welcome to join (we can do video conferencing as well). Also look for a draft agenda to come in an email in the near future.
This partnership is inclusive, so if you know of someone or an entity that would like to be a part of SSP, send them my way and we can get them connected as well!
Written by Chandler O’Connell
In Sitka, Alaska a favorite coffee shop among locals called the Backdoor Café did a little renovating this season. Alana Peterson, who is both the owner of the Backdoor Cafe and the program director of the Sustainable Southeast Partnership installed brand new benches using locally sourced red alder wood. By sourcing local, Peterson supported local businesses, kept more money in the region, and showcased environmentally sustainable timber. The Backdoor Cafe is also modeling what a market for young-growth products looks like in Southeast Alaska, as the Forest Service moves to shift focus from old growth to young growth timber harvests.
The Tongass Transition, announced by the Department of Agriculture in 2011, is meant to bring an end to unsustainable old-growth logging and implement a more holistic management plan that focuses on young-growth trees that grow after clear-cuts, as well as integrating and valuing non-timber forest outputs. The Tongass Transition will ensure that the remaining old growth forests on the Tongass stay standing to provide wildlife habitat, sequester carbon, support subsistence lifestyles and recreation, and produce prodigious quantities of salmon. The transition also provides opportunities to develop new timber products.
Click through the posters that the Sitka Conservation Society created to hang in the Backdoor Cafe along with a local youth wood arts project to inform customers about the significance of these new benches.
“Mills and entrepreneurs have successfully experimented with young growth forest products over the last few years since the transition was announced,” said Beth Pendleton, Regional Forester, Alaska Region-Forest Service. “They have found that there are applications for young growth wood products from the Tongass and that local utilization and manufacturing can be part of our regional economy. Red Alder is one of the Tongass Young Growth products that has a lot of potential for value-added applications,” she added.
The Backdoor Café worked with Icy Straits Lumber & Milling out of Hoonah, Alaska to source their red alder. Icy Straits is part of a cohort of local mills, including Tenakee Logging Company, TM Construction and Good Faith Lumber that offer a diverse range of second growth products. Local businesses and individuals planning their next construction project should check out these sourcing options – they may be surprised by the high quality and competitive pricing that is available right here at home. And they’ll enjoy the added benefit of knowing that by buying local they’ve kept more money circulating in the Southeast economy.
From Forest to Café: Art Display Inspired by Second Growth Benches
The red alder benches served as inspiration for a storytelling and art display currently showing at the Backdoor Café. The display, a project of the Sitka Conservation Society and the Alaskan Way of Life 4H Club, highlights the benefits of choosing local young growth products, and tracks the benches from forest to café, sharing stakeholder reflections at each step: management, harvest, construction and purchase. The 4H students contributed relief prints made from “cookie” cross sections of fallen trees and short stories on life as a tree on the Tongass.