Incredibly, it is here and gone. The 2018 field season of the Hoonah Native Forest Partnership is in the books! The hard work and dedication of the six crew members during the fourth summer of the partnership continues to provide a working example of how investing in a local workforce can provide for a community and aid in land management. This summer the crew focused on inventorying Sealaska, Huna Totem, and Forest Service lands and implementing timber stand improvements. They also gathered resources for the very successful Huna Traditional Food Fair.
Coho Work Provides Improved Fish Model
In 2016 and 2017 the HNFP crew collected data to predict where spawning habitat and rearing is best for Pink and Chum Salmon. That model help predict across the entire HNFP study area the quality of habitat for those species. However, further work was needed to improve the model for Coho Salmon – an important salmon resource for people in Hoonah. Bernard Romey and UAS Intern Eva Bingham led the work, and for five weeks crew members Ricardo Contreras, Talia Davis, and Shawn Merry hiked dozens of miles and captured 1000s of coho fry. The data will be used to create a model predicting quality coho spawning and rearing habitat.
Why does this work matter? With a good model, the partners of the Hoonah Native Forest Partnership can predict where stream restorations, timber treatments, or roads improvements can have the greatest benefit for coho. Improving key resource locations can have a direct benefit to returns of coho, pink, and chum salmon to Hoonah. Those returns feed our homes, economy, and ecosystem.
Timber Stand Improvement and Future Layout
If you heard the sound of a chainsaw outside of Hoonah in the Spasski Valley, this summer there is a good chance you were listening to the progress of timber stand treatments. In cooperation with Huna Totem Corporation, crew members implemented timber treatments aimed at improving wildlife habitat and timber value. These treatments were different than standard pre-commercial thinning as it required the crew to reduce the amount of slash to make the stands immediately usable to deer and wildlife.
A timber stand needs to be improved when the canopy closes in – a condition not good for wildlife or timber. The crews are thinning those stands and installing 70 foot diameter gaps to get light to the forest floor. It is a hard job! However, the work can be rewarding, and for Phillip Sharclane “the thinning and being out in the field” was a highlight of the summer. The crew worked in three different stands thinning over 35 acres and installing over 40 gaps.
These stand treatments will improve habitat for deer and bear and in 2019 field season the crew will be installing many more through the Fish and Wildlife Service Tribal Wildlife Grant.
By the end of the summer tasks completed in timber stands included:
- Laid out >600 gaps for future pre-commercial thinning in and around Spasski River
- Finalized thinning in the 40 acre Spasski Pilot Project. The treatment will improve the riparian stand conditions for wildlife create a high-quality stand for timber. We will need to monitor the effectiveness of the girdling technique.
- Implemented 15 acre GAP unit near Spasski. The treatment will improve the timber stand condition and create wildlife habitat.
- Implemented 25 Gaps on Gobbers Knob. The treatment will improve the timber stand condition and create wildlife habitat.
Collecting Resources for Huna Food Fair
Ecotrust Intern Miakah Nix led the coordination of Hoonah’s first traditional food fair. From the onset she envisioned an event rich in food and fun, culminating in a community food distribution. She knew she would need help gathering resources for the event, and thanks to funds received by Hoonah Indian Association from SEARHC to pay for crew time, the HNFP Crew was just the group to help. In three-and-a-half days of gathering the crew helped collect blueberries, coho, and beach asparagus to be used at the event.
Beach asparagus is a small plant found in tidal flats. It is a traditionally harvested plant full of macro and micro nutrients. It can be canned, pickled, or frozen and then used in cooking. The crew, community members, Miakah, and Amelia Wilson (Huna Heritage Director) successfully picked 15 gallons during a single morning. For the rest of the afternoon the crew helped clean and process the Beach Asparagus resulting in over 70 pints of canned goods!
Distributing at the Food Fair
Although autumn days are notoriously dreary, on September 8th it was sunny and beautiful. It helped feed the celebratory atmosphere on the day. For four hours kids played at games, and adults and elders chatted over food and coffee. On the menu was vast quantities of deer stew, halibut chowder, and blueberry crisp.
At the end of the day the awards were handed out for the food competition, and the HNFP crew stepped in to distribute the resources they had gathered. Community members accepted the canned good with smiles and appreciation. It was rewarding to see the crew serve the community of Hoonah.
Looking Back and Moving Forward
As with every summer season of the HNFP we learned from our work and will integrate our learning into next summer’s work and the final watershed plan. For instance, Donovan Smith’s favorite activity of the summer was the stream surveys – those will be used to create a better stream layer for the land management plan. This is Donovan’s 4th year with the HFNP and he has always been attracted to fish and stream work. Part of the reason Donovan liked the stream work was “we had improved teamwork, everyone knew their role and that made the work efficient”.
There is a lot of exciting work coming up for the HNFP. This winter the watershed management plan will be finalized and with it a long list of projects will be suggested. These will improve the watershed condition and provide opportunities for the community. In 2019, the crew will be focusing on a few of those projects including restoring 3 stream segments and improving the timber stand in the west side of Spasski. The work will be conducted under the Fish and Wildlife Service Tribal Wildlife Grant which was awarded to Hoonah Indian Association for $181,000. The map below shows where restoration activities will be taking place in 2019.
The crew identified needs for next summer to help things go smoothly or will advance the ideals of the HNFP:
- Upgrade gear for thinning
- Getting the community involved in land management – perhaps in brushing
- Doing preventative maintenance on roads to maintain access for cheaper
- Building community smoke houses
- Harvesting alder wood for community smoke houses
- Collecting further resources for the Huna Traditional Food Fair – seaweed, gumboots, mushrooms, cow parsnip, spruce tips, stink eggs, hudson bay tea
- Improve the time card system – perhaps a digital system
Thank you to the HNFP crew for making this season enjoyable and possible. Thank you very much to the technical team and project partners for continuing to advance this important work!