Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Helping Out in the Virgin Islands

On September 6, 2017, hurricane Irma struck the U.S. Virgin Islands and just two weeks later, September 20, hurricane Maria struck the islands. Within days resources and personnel were sent to help rebuild and recover from the devastation. The U.S. Forest Service sent Law Enforcement Officers and specialists as first responders to help. Unfortunately, there was still a sustained need for more aid. The Alaska Military Department was asked and responded to send troops from the 1-297 Infantry Battalion’s Forward Support Company (FSC) to provide logistical and maintenance expertise and resources. More soldiers volunteered than there were spots available. As an infantry officer, I was willing to help - one of many soldiers eager to help in any way possible. In total 54 soldiers left their homes in Alaska to support their fellow Americans in the Virgin Islands.

The initial mission of the FSC was to repair Virgin Island National Guard vehicles and equipment and sustainment operations including distribution of goods, materials, and fuel. I was assigned as the Headquarters element as Platoon Leader, which included the operations command personnel and the Quick Reaction Force that consisted of the volunteers and soldiers with skills ranging from infantrymen, paralegal specialists, cooks, radio operators, and medics to name a few. We were designated with accomplishing all the other assigned tasks that fell outside the FSC’s specialty. 

As soon as we hit the ground, we were immediately tasked with cleanup missions and other non-logistic tasks. The day we arrived we began to clean a community park in downtown Frederiksted, St. Croix. Within hours of finishing our clean up, families began playing and using the facilities. Along with my platoon, I participated in many cleanups at local parks, beaches, cemeteries, and schools. We provided 24 hour security for several days at facilities whose own security systems or fences were destroyed by the hurricanes. We also helped provide personnel and vehicles to the American Red Cross for their relief and aid efforts distributing tarps, water, food, and bedding.

Everywhere we went we worked with the local citizens of the communities and they constantly thanked us and reminded us why we left our homes to help others.

Our 30 day mission concluded with our participation in the Veterans Day parade through Frederiksted. We did a lot of great work in that month and I am grateful that I had the opportunity, but there is still a lot that needs to be done. I hope the recovery of the Virgin Islands maintains the high level of morale and good spirits that we experienced in our time there and I hope more great people continue to work together to rebuild this wonderful part of the United States.

2LT Mathew R. Maxey is a fisheries biologist on the Glacier Ranger District - Chugach National Forest

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Becky Nourse, Acting Regional Forester, at the Alaska Arbor Day Celebration in Juneau

 (The following remarks are from a speech Becky Nourse, Acting Regional Forester gave at a Arbor Day celebration in Juneau on May 15, 2017)

Good afternoon, I am Becky Nourse the Acting Regional Forester for the Alaska Region of the Forest Service, and you might say my job has a lot to do with trees.
I want to thank the Juneau Urban Forestry Partnership and Juneau Garden Club for hosting Alaska’s Official Arbor Day Celebration this year.
Arbor Day celebrations first began in a Spanish village in 1594. The tradition was furthered when in the 1800s, a priest, according to chronicles, “convinced of the importance of trees for health, hygiene, decoration, nature, environment and customs, decides to plant trees to give a festive air.” He drafted a manifesto in defense of the trees to spread the love and respect for nature.
The first Arbor Day in the U.S. was held in 1872 in Nebraska City, Nebraska, when an estimated  1 million trees were planted. To celebrate the 100th anniversary, the Arbor Day Foundation was formed.  In 1990, the Forest Service began working with the foundation to plant trees in America’s national forests in need of reforestation. The Foundation, through the generous donations of its members and corporate partners, has since helped plant 50 million trees in national, state, and county public forests.  
We are here today surrounded by one of Alaska’s National Forests. The Tongass National Forest, at over 17 million acres, encompasses Alaska’s Southeast Panhandle, and is the world’s largest temperate rainforest. It is a land of spectacular beauty and provides habitat for all five species of Pacific salmon, and some of the largest concentrations of brown bears and bald eagles in North America. The Chugach National Forest is nearly 5.4 million acres, and is the most northerly national forest, located in Southcentral Alaska from Prince William Sound to the Kenai Peninsula. The Chugach is the home of rivers teaming with salmon and trout, the flyway and nesting grounds of millions of migratory birds, and is a recreational paradise for boaters, hikers, and sportsmen.
Alaska’s forests are an amazing place that allow people to reconnect with themselves and nature. They are a place where Alaska Natives connect with their land and culture. They offer abundant opportunities for recreation; connecting people to the outdoors. They are also the economic foundation of many of Alaska’s rural communities: providing timber, jobs, and clean water for healthy fisheries and mariculture industries; providing energy through woody biomass and hydropower; and minerals and other natural resources; and act as a buffer against climate change. The Forest Service sustainably manages the forests to provide all of these opportunities for the public.
Alaska’s forests are made up of many species of trees, one of which is Alaska’s State tree, the Sitka Spruce. We’re also fortunate to have Yellow Cedar and Western Red Cedar, trees that are dense and resistant to rot from all our Southeast rain. These trees are used to build ceremonial tribal houses; and totems which tell the stories and history of the local people.
As Alaska celebrates its Arbor Day, we think back to the origins of our first celebration in 1966. The first ceremonial tree planting was a Jack Pine planted by Governor Egan, Senator Egan’s father, in memory of Governor Frank Heintzleman, at the city museum. It was a fitting tribute because Governor Heintzleman began his career and his service to Alaska as a member of the Forest Service. He was Alaska’s fourth Regional Forester, serving in that role from 1937 to 1953. He balanced the need to use timber and power development for economic growth with the public’s desire to manage national forests for recreation and wilderness values.
Today, our forests are still managed for multiple use, which helps to sustain our rural communities. The region is providing services and natural experiences for one million annual visitors to the Tongass and Chugach. There is a surge in new proposals for renewable energy, including hydroelectric and biomass, which aid remote communities that still depend on diesel as a heat source. Both the Chugach and the Tongass are designated as Children’s Forests, actively engaging thousands of youth annually. Significant investments are being made for science,  research and education. We are also working with the State of Alaska, Sealaska’s Haa Aani and the Spruce Root Community Development Fund on workforce development and natural resource job training on Prince of Wales Island.
We take heart in the seeds planted in the first Arbor Day celebrations – as the forests provide us with unequalled opportunities for growth: to connect with ourselves, our families and culture, and with nature. And to enjoy all the abundance that Alaska, its forests, and its trees have to offer. With Alaska’s forests, OPPORTUNITY GROWS HERE.


Monday, June 5, 2017

Meet Kristin Link, 2017 Voices of the Wilderness Artist in Residence

Every year since 2010, the Voices of the Wilderness Artist in Residence competitive program has paired an artist with a wilderness specialist from a particular area. Alaska’s Voices of the Wilderness residency, a combined effort by the National Park Service, Forest Service, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service offers nearly a dozen annual residencies scattered across Alaska.

This year’s 2017 Voices of the Wilderness Artist in Residence on the Chugach National Forest, is science illustrator and artist Kristin Link from McCarthy, Alaska. (You can read the official news release here.)
Kristin is teaming up with a wilderness ranger in the Nellie Juan-College Fiord Wilderness Study Area and they are bringing their combined skills to bear on stewardship projects, research, monitoring, and education. And while all that is going on, she will be creating art informed and influenced by the unique lands of the Chugach National Forest.

We asked her a few questions, hoping to get to know her a little better before she went to work.

Here's a big question: Tell us a little about yourself.

I live in a cabin outside McCarthy, Alaska on the edge of the Wrangell-St. Elias, with my partner Greg and our dog Jack. This week I’ve been working on putting in our garden, and trying to notice as many as possible of the birds and flowers that are coming backing each day. I didn’t grow up living in rural areas, but it was always a lifestyle that I admired, and I grew up doing a lot of hiking and camping and always enjoyed it. I grew up in Belgium, New Jersey, and London and moved to Alaska after graduating from college. When I was in high school I worked for a summer on an SCA (Student Conservation Association) crew, building a trail in the White Mountains, north of Fairbanks. After that experience I was fascinated by Alaska and wanted to spend a winter here, so I convinced a friend of mine to move up here with me in September. We spent our first winter working as dog handlers and learning about sled dog racing in Willow.

Some artists come to it late and some early. What’s your story? Have you always felt you would make your way as an artist or did you discover your talent?

Since I was little I’ve always loved making art, but I didn’t think I would necessarily work as an artist. Both of my grandmothers taught me a lot about making things, and my mom’s mom was a watercolor painter. She used to let my siblings and me paint in her studio and gave us our first lessons on painting and drawing. My parents aren’t very artistic, but they have always been very encouraging of me pursuing my art. I loved art classes in school. I didn’t plan to end up working as an artist, but I always enjoyed doing art so much, that it was hard to stop. I completed a double major in environmental studies and studio art, and then got a degree in science illustration. I’ve done other work in addition to being an artist, but it has always been something that is important for me to make time for.

What media do you like to work in? Do you have a favorite?

I like to work in a lot of different media. If I am sketching in the field for example I might use watercolors, colored pencils, pens, and pencils all to make one drawing simply because each tool can achieve a certain effect best. I also work with acrylic and gouache (which is basically opaque watercolor), digital media, and recently have been playing around with making cyanotypes from my drawings. I will say that I love to draw and drawing is the basis of most of my work. Even when I am painting, I tend to treat my paintbrush as a pencil. For that reason, probably my favorite medium right now is pen and ink.

What interests you about the Chugach? I see that a lot of your work pays close attention to detail, the many small things that make up the world around them. Do you think your inspiration will be similar as artist-in-residence on the Chugach National Forest?

Place plays a big role in my work. A lot of my work is about McCarthy and the Wrangell-St. Elias because I live there. It can be rewarding to step away and go somewhere new, both to see new scenery and to reflect on my usual surroundings. I’m especially excited to spend time in the Chugach because I feel connected to the stretch of land between myself and the ocean. The Nizina River that I live right next to drains in the Chitina and the Copper which drain into Prince William Sound. I’ve spent a bit of time in Prince William Sound and have been so blown away by the richness of the ecosystem there, especially coming from interior Alaska. I’m excited to spend more time there.

I do tend to observe the world up close, and most of my personal work reflects that. A single rock or clump of vegetation can tell the story of the landscape as well as a panorama, and that is where I tend to focus. I like to spend time walking around and seeing which rocks, plants, or animal signs catch my eye. I’ll record my observations in my sketchbooks but also spend a fair amount of time researching and looking up things I’ve found in field guides. Then I like to make work about the ones that seem to have stories to tell, sometimes I know the stories, sometimes I work on uncovering them as I am drawing.

The Alaska Region, National Forest Foundation & Partners Celebrate the Success of the Alaska Forest Fund

Becky Nourse
Acting Alaska Regional Forester
Acting Alaska Regional Forester Rebecca Nourse welcomed leaders from the Forest Service, the National Forest Foundation, and community partner organizations to a celebration of the Alaska Forest Fund. Launched in 2016, the Alaska Forest Fund is an innovative partnership designed to accomplish priority restoration and recreation projects in the Alaska Region. “The Fund provides the means for the Forest Service, its partners, and individual community members to share in the stewardship of the Tongass and Chugach National Forests,” said Beth Pendleton, Acting Associate Chief of the U.S. Forest.

Managed by the National Forest Foundation, the Fund strategically leverages Forest Service funding with private support from corporations, foundations, individuals, and nonprofit organizations. In its first year, the Fund has matched federal investments by 150 percent for a total more than $250,000 reaching the ground. By 2020, the goal is to build on success and top $1,000,000 of combined public and private investment to accomplish restoration and recreation objectives on both Forests. Marcus Selig, Vice President for Field Programs at the National Forest Foundation, shared that the Fund is designed to achieve project objectives as well as build capacity in communities by supporting local organizations, and in some cases contractors, who are the recipients of the grants and carry out the projects in partnership with the Forest Service.

The results are already in. Admiralty National Monument Ranger Chad VanOrmer and Mike Satre, Manager of government and community relations at Hecla Greens Creek Mine, highlighted the success of the Angoon Youth Conservation Corps. Supported by the Fund, the Angoon YCC is beginning its second season of shared stewardship of forest resources, creating jobs for local youth, and building capacity in the local community. The Angoon YCC is a 5-way partnership between the Forest Service, the National Forest Foundation, Hecla Mining Foundation, the local School District, and the community of Angoon, Alaska.
Across the Alaska Region, the Fund has also engaged other partners including the Copper River Watershed Project, The Nature Conservancy, Sitka Conservation Society, Trail Mix, Rasmuson Foundation, Alaska Brewing Company, REI, Walmart, and individual donors.

Laurie Cooper, Alaska Region PAO Specialist