We take our responsibilities as stewards of this land seriously. Because our culture is forever connected to the land, we are committed to nurturing and protecting it for future generations of all Alaskans.
Sustainable forest management is an integral part of our stewardship for the future, which is why Sealaska practices silviculture.
What is Silviculture? Silviculture is to the forests what agriculture is to the farmer’s fields. It is a commonsense approach to sustainable timber cultivation and harvesting. Practicing it benefits both forest wildlife and Sealaska's continued profitability.
Silviculture practices govern all our forestry practices—how we grow trees, how we maximize their growth and return and how we manage relative numbers of tree species within the forest.
What are the Benefits of Silviculture? Sealaska takes care of our forests so that our forests can continue to take care of people. When we do this our forests produce:
better quality lumber
shorter time between harvests
increased volume of sustainable harvest
greater abundance of fish and wildlife habitat
We reap benefits today, but our silviculture practices are also guided by our respect for the future.
Our silviculture practices assure compliance with the Alaska Forest Practices Act and our own responsibility as stewards of the land.
How Does Silviculture Work? Silviculture practices help to regenerate and maintain healthy forests for long-term sustainability. They include hand planting, pre-commercial thinning, basal pruning and fertilization.
Hand planting Following the harvest, the natural forest life cycle in Southeast Alaska ensures that new trees quickly take root. Even so, each year we plant new seedlings by hand in harvest areas where this natural process takes too long. To date, Sealaska has hand planted over 1.6 million seedlings on 8,300 acres.
Pre-commercial Thinning (PCT) Thinning, or PCT, is a practice familiar to gardeners the world over. Careful thinning improves the growth, quality and health of remaining trees. These trees are less crowded and grow to maturity more quickly.
PCT also allows more sunlight to reach the forest floor, creating a much greater abundance and diversity of undergrowth, including herbs, shrubs and other vegetation. This brush provides an abundance of new wildlife habitat for deer and smaller animals.
PCT is our most important and main treatment for forests areas we clear cut. When PCT is practiced in our even-aged harvest areas, it marks the beginning of a new forest. From 1992 through 2010 we have pre-commercially thinned over 41,200 acres. This is nearly half of our even aged forest but it is more important to note that we are current with this treatment, meaning we have pre-commercially thinned all harvest areas that are old enough to be so treated. We prepare a five-year PCT plan every year to ensure we stay current and are prepared to adapt to annual administrative and budget situations.
Basal Pruning Like any careful gardener or arborist, Sealaska often prunes its trees. When we do this we remove all the lower tree branches up to 13 to 17 feet, but we leave 60% of the branches so these trees continue to grow well. Removal of these lower branches also lets more sunlight reach the forest floor helping to maintain the greater diversity of undergrowth, including herbs, shrubs and other vegetation that got started as a result of our PCT. Pruning improves the health and strength of the tree, and the timber harvested from pruned trees tends to have a straighter grain and fewer knots.
Sealaska began basal pruning in 1996, and as of 2010 we have pruned more than 2,730 acres. This is an expensive treatment that we cannot afford to do over all our even aged forests. So we have prepared a five-year plan for those even aged forests that are old enough and tall enough, on our highest growing south facing sites that are less than 500 feet in elevation. That makes the best forestry investment but also focuses on deer winter range habitat improvement. Deer winter habitat is the limiting factor for this important wildlife resource.
Fertilization Fertilization increases yields at harvest age and can reduce the length of time required to produce successive timber crops.
Sealaska has fertilized over 3,000 acres, some areas more than once. Fertilizer is applied by hand as well as from the air by helicopter. Sealaska will continue to investigate broad scale fertilization.
Shareholder Crews Keep Forests and Communities Healthy Tree planting and other silviculture work on Sealaska land is completed by contractors and this creates a business opportunity for local shareholders. All of Sealaska’s contractors are shareholder owned companies. This seasonal work offers an employment opportunity to our shareholders and local residents, often near their home communities. Sealaska has learned that pruning can be done over most the winter months. This means we can create longer, nearly year round, employment for our shareholders and local residents.
As just one example, last year CSC Tree Service, a shareholder-owned company in Kake, pre-commercial thinned 2,000 acres and pruned over 500 acres. This produced ten nearly year round jobs and other seasonal jobs. These jobs are very important to our villages where we experience some of the highest unemployment in the nation.