Sealaska understands the true value of the forest is much more than the economic opportunities it provides. The land holds a powerful Native value that cannot be measured in dollar terms. We understand that we share this value with all who call the Tongass Forest home. Therefore, we take our environmental management seriously, utilizing best practices and funding research to achieve sustainable resource management. We are committed to clean water for local communities and fish habitat now and forever into the future. We are committed to sustainable wildlife habitat now and forever into the future. We treasure these for our tribal member shareholders and for all who live in Southeast Alaska.
We also know that we cannot achieve sustainability without our full land entitlement. Sealaska seeks to do what’s right for our tribal member shareholders, what’s right for the environment, what’s right for our neighbors and what’s right for our region.
Sealaska strives to carry out the best possible land stewardship practices. We are proud to have reinvested some $19 million from timber harvest revenue into management of the next generation of trees. We have also received several state and federal grants to pursue silviculture treatments such as tree planting precommercial tree thinning, and wildlife habitat improvement activities and another for alternative energies studies. These benefit Sealaska but they also benefit the public too, this makes for a good partnership.
Beginning in 2007 Sealaska has received contracts from the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service Environment Quality Improvement Program (EQIP) and the Wildlife Habitat Improvement Program (WHIP) to help pay for silviculture treatments on our harvested forest lands, and while this benefits Sealaska it benefits the public as well.
Sealaska is proud to have teamed with forest scientists from Oregon State University in 1999 to undertake a 12-year study of the benefits of various thinning intensities on:
Deer browse and understory plant vegetation
Tree form and growth
We are very proud to report that two peer review articles from this study have been published in the professional scientific literature (team let's put a link here for these studies). Sealaska, in cooperation with wildlife biologists from the University of Washington and the USDA Forest Sciences Laboratory, developed of a new way to measure how many deer the forest can support. This 'deer model' (called FRESH) is based on the nutrition requirements of deer and the understory vegetation capacity to provide this nutrition. Timber harvest and silviculture treatments such as precommercial thinning and basal pruning greatly increase understory deer browse.
Effectiveness Monitoring and Research Sealaska Corporation is an industrial leader in relying on science to evaluate the effectiveness of forest practice regulations for the protection of fish habitat and water quality. In response to the revised Alaska Forest Resources and Practices Act (amended 1990), Sealaska initiated a forest and fish monitoring/research program in 1992, which continues today. Research studies are facilitated by a team of contract scientists under the guidance of Dr. Douglas Martin. To do this important work objectively and in an accredited scientific manner, Sealaska has teamed with State and Federal Agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency, Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Alaska Department of Natural Resources, the United States Forest Service, the Alaska Forest Association and other Alaska Native Corporations. Agency and outside partners have provided valuable input to assure the best work possible has been done.
Fish Habitat Conditions
The combined body of work below documents modern Alaska Forest Practices Act law and regulations employed on Sealaska lands are doing a good job of protecting important anadromous fish habitat.
A key component of the monitoring program is the examination of the effectiveness of modern Alaska Forest Resource and Practices Act buffer zones for protecting fish habitat. A primary question is: do the 66-foot wide buffer zones protect fish habitat over the long term? To address this issue, Sealaska established a network of study sites that are representative of forestlands in northern and southern Southeast Alaska (i.e., Hoonah and Craig areas, respectively). Trends in fish habitat condition have been monitored for 20 years years now, before and for many years after logging. Sealaska is very proud to report that as a result of this work four articles have been published in professional, scientific peer reviewed journals, 30 reports, 11 professional society presentations and contributes material to a class in fisheries management that Dr. Martins teaches at the University of Washington.
Windthrow Another important question about buffer zones is their survival from tree windthrow following logging. Buffer zones are special management areas next to the streams where trees are not harvested and protected from disturbance to protect important anadromous fish stream habitat from disturbances as a result of timber harvest. To investigate this issue, Sealaska teamed with University of Washington investigator Dr. Richard Grotefendt to employ an innovative approach using large-scale low-elevation aerial photography to compare windthrow levels between buffer zones and unlogged areas. For this study, Sealaska contractors collected a large random sample of riparian stand conditions from all private timberlands in Southeast Alaska. An assessment of the study findings is available in a report, Buffer Rep NS Combined, and published in the Canadian Journal of Forest Research. In addition to supporting studies, this low-elevation photography memorializes stream conditions at that time for future reference for anyone as these photos are available upon request. Future similar photography could be compared with this photography to accurately document changes over time. The photo pair shown illustrates the West Port Fredrick modern Alaska Forest Practices Act anadromous fish stream buffer system in 1999 and again some 12 years later in 2011 that the buffers remain and are functioning.
Large Woody Debris The quantity and distribution of large woody debris in streams is important for the formation of fish habitat and overall habitat complexity. Because streams in Southeast Alaska are geographically diverse, resource managers have raised questions about the importance of buffer zones on streams of varying size and gradient, and the functions of large woody debris in different streams. To address these questions, Sealaska contractors conducted cutting-edge research on woody debris abundance, recruitment processes and patterns of transport. The results of these studies were presented in a report, LWD Recruit & Transport Game Creek Final Report, and were subsequently published in the Transactions of the American Fisheries Society and the North American Journal of Fisheries Management.
Landslides In addition to studies of buffer zones, Sealaska contractors investigated the occurrence of landslides in association with logging and answered the question; How often do landslides caused by logging impact salmon streams? This study used aerial photos from the 1960s to the 1990s to inventory the history of natural and logging related landslides in the same basins where habitat trends are being monitored.