Sitka Tribe of Alaska, Pacific High School win National Volunteers and Service Award

Due to COVID-19 social-distancing requirements, Michelle Putz of the USDA Forest Service Sitka Ranger District planted Tlingít potatoes by herself in April 2020.

Tlingít potatoes

The Sitka Tribe of Alaska (STA) and the Pacific High School gardening class (PHS) were recognized at the Sitka Tribal Council’s Zoom meeting on August 19, 2020, for being two of seven recipients of the USDA Forest Service’s 2019 National Volunteers and Service Award. The award was earned through their collaboration with the Tongass National Forest’s Sitka Ranger District to build awareness about a traditional food source, the Tlingít potato, also known as Maria’s potato.

Sitka District Ranger Perry Edwards and Regional Forester David Schmid, and others, will present a plaque and a letter signed by USDA Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen.

“These award winners really demonstrate and put into action our agency core values of service, of conservation, diversity, of safety and our interdependence,” said Chief Christiansen, during the award announcement video on June 19, 2020. “As Forest Service employees we understand that relationships with people and communities are absolutely essential in achieving our mission. Thank you so much and congratulations for your outstanding contributions in helping us achieve our important conservation mission.”

Community members plant Tlingít potatoes in April 2019 as part of an Earth Day celebration.

Seventy-three nominations were submitted for this year’s awards, the highest number of nominations to the annual awards program in the past 10 years. Nominees exemplified the Forest Service’s core values of service, conservation, diversity, interdependence and safety.

Edwards believes the project and partnership has strengthened relationships with the Sitka Tribe and local schools, giving much of the credit for its success to tribal and school leadership.

“Tammy Young from the Sitka Tribe has been an incredible force behind this project, as have several teachers and the principal at Pacific High School,” said Edwards. “It has connected the Tribe, Sitka’s Pacific High School and the Forest Service in shared stewardship of a traditional resource.”

“Sitka Tribe of Alaska is so pleased that our District Ranger office chose some five years ago to begin this project working with our Tribal citizens on revitalizing the cultivation of our tried and true crop, the Tlingit potato,” said Kathy Hope Erickson, tribal chairman for Sitka Tribe of Alaska. “There have been local people throughout the years continuing this tradition of native horticulture, but the extra effort and outreach by the collaborators has breathed new life into this practice. For this we are grateful to our partners. We wish too, to thank the Forest Service for recognizing that the ‘forest’ includes not just trees, but all creatures in and around it, the flora and fauna who are interdependent on it and each other for a complete existence.”

Kayaaní Commission to host annual meeting on Monday, Jan. 6

The Kayaaní Commission, which is coordinated by Sitka Tribe of Alaska in partnership with other groups in Sitka, will host its annual meeting at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 6, at the Sitka Tribe of Alaska Resources Protection Building, 429 Katlian Street. The public is invited to attend. On the agenda will be elections.

The Kayaaní Commission is a group of knowledgeable community members and tribal citizens who are concerned with preserving and protecting plants and the traditional ways they are used. It started meeting in 1997 after the USDA Forest Service created a “special forest products” category for non-timber products in the Alaska region that included many of the traditional plants gathered by Alaska Natives for food, medicine and other purposes.

The meetings provided a way for the tribe to share its knowledge and customary practices using these roots, berries, bark, fungi, and other plants with federal and state agencies, so the agencies are less likely to make regulations that prevent their harvest. The Kayaaní Commission also discusses ways to sustainably harvest these plants, so the remain a vital part of our landscape. These efforts are supported by the Forest Service, Sitka Native Education Program (SNEP), Alaska Native Brotherhood and Sisterhood (ANB/ANS), National Park Service, (NPS), Southeast Alaska Indian Cultural Center (SEAICC) and many other interested parties and individuals along the way.

For more information, please contact Tammy Young at 747-7167 or tammy.young@sitkatribe-nsn.gov.

Kayaaní Commission to host community potluck on Wednesday, May 30

The Kayaaní Commission, which is coordinated by Sitka Tribe of Alaska in partnership with other groups in Sitka, will host an open potluck from 6-8 p.m. on Wednesday, May 30, at the Sheet’ká Kwáan Naa Kahidí community house. The public is invited to attend. Please bring a dish to share and a friend.

The Kayaaní Commission is a group of knowledgeable community members and tribal citizens who are concerned with preserving and protecting plants and the traditional ways they are used. It started meeting in 1997 after the USDA Forest Service created a “special forest products” category for non-timber products in the Alaska region that included many of the traditional plants gathered by Alaska Natives for food, medicine and other purposes.

The meetings provided a way for the tribe to share its knowledge and customary practices using these roots, berries, bark, fungi, and other plants with federal and state agencies, so the agencies are less likely to make regulations that prevent their harvest. The Kayaaní Commission also discusses ways to sustainably harvest these plants, so the remain a vital part of our landscape. These efforts are supported by the Forest Service, Sitka Native Education Program (SNEP), Alaska Native Brotherhood and Sisterhood (ANB/ANS), National Park Service, (NPS), Southeast Alaska Indian Cultural Center (SEAICC) and many other interested parties and individuals along the way.

For more information, please contact Tammy Young at 747-7167 or tammy.young@sitkatribe-nsn.gov.

Sitka Spruce Tips 4H Club to celebrate Arbor Day on May 20 with tree planting at Swan Lake

Arbor Day Flyer

Friday, May 20, is the 50th anniversary of Arbor Day in Alaska, and the Sitka Spruce Tips 4H Club will celebrate by planting a few trees from 3-5 p.m. at the Swan Lake recreation area (near the corner of Lake Street and DeGroff).

We will be planting maples, but giving away fruit trees for people to plant at home, said Molly Johnson, who helps coordinate the Sitka Spruce Tips 4H Club for the Sitka Conservation Society, in partnership with the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service Sitka District Office.

“4H is excited to host a celebration in honor of Alaska Arbor Day to celebrate how important trees are in our lives,” Molly said. “We see the significance of trees in the clean air and great habitat they provide whenever we explore the Tongass (National Forest). This will be a fun event to honor that significance closer in town. It is a great opportunity to come together as a community and celebrate trees!”

This event is co-sponsored by the Alaska Community Forestry Council, the USDA Forest Service, and the Alaska Division of Forestry. Because of its commitment to trees in town, the City and Borough of Sitka has been recognized as one of the Tree City USA award-winners from the Arbor Day Foundation.

• Invasive and damaging insect, the green alder sawfly, found in Sitka

GreenAlderSawflyAdult

GreenAlderSawflyLarvaFor the first time, an invasive insect called the green alder sawfly (Monsoma pulveratum) has been found in Sitka. This insect is considered a danger to alder trees in Sitka and other Southeast wetlands.

“Several days ago a positive identification has been made on the green alder sawfly in Sitka,” Bob Gorman, resource development faculty with the Sitka office of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service, wrote in an e-mail sent to Sitka and Southeast gardeners, “This invasive, exotic insect has defoliated alder trees in Anchorage and surrounding areas. It is a potentially serious threat to alder in southeast Alaska. The attached fact sheet (linked at the bottom of this post) provides details on the green alder sawfly. Distribute this information as you see fit. Thanks.”

The green alder sawfly is native to Europe and North Africa, and its preferred diet is European gray alder. It was first reported in North America in 1995 in Newfoundland, Canada. In 2004 it was first collected in Alaska near Palmer. Since 2007, the green alder sawfly has been documented defoliating thin-leaf alder (Alnus glutinosa) in numerous locations in Southcentral Alaska, eliminating alder in some watersheds. The green alder sawfly has been found in red alder (Alnus rubra) trees along Sawmill Creek Road, Halibut Point Road and Jarvis Street.

On Friday, KCAW-Raven Radio aired a story about the green alder sawfly with more details from Gorman and USDA Forest Service entomologist Liz Graham, who flew to Sitka from Juneau after Gorman sent her photos of the insect’s caterpillars.

Please report any known or suspected infestations of green alder sawfly to the Sitka office of the UAF Cooperative Extension Service by calling 747-9440 or stopping by the office located in Room 122 at University of Alaska Southeast Sitka Campus. GPS (global positioning system) coordinates of known locations of the green alder sawfly will help in determining the extent of this insect, which probably overwintered in Sitka.

• Green Alder Sawfly: A Threat to Sitka and Southeast Watersheds flier from the UAF Cooperative Extension Service