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








Monday, May 15, 2017

Healthy Forests Grow Opportunity for Alaska
By Beth Pendleton, Regional Forester, U.S. Forest Service – Alaska Region

Water. The roar of a river has many of us thinking of fishing, rafting and adventure; icebergs calving from a glacier to plunge into the sea are an amazing sight; the sound of raindrops on a metal roof soothes us to sleep; and a tall, cold glass of fresh, clean water keeps our growing children healthy. Abundant, clean water is an essential resource in Alaska. While our state makes up about 17 percent of the land mass of the United States, it accounts for one-third of the U.S fresh water supply; much of it located in Southeast and Southcentral where the coastal mountains receive abundant amounts of rainfall. Healthy children grow here.
2017 Forestry Academy students on Prince of Wales.
The U.S. Forest Service works with the Alaska Division of Forestry;
 the Alaska Department of Commerce, Community & Economic Development;
and Sealaska’s Spruce Root to offer workforce development
 training - preparing rural Southeast residents for natural resource jobs.
Photo courtesy Sustainable Southeast Partnership.

National forests were originally created to protect valuable watersheds. In the United States, there are 155 National Forests comprising almost 190 million acres of land. Alaska has 12 percent of the nation’s national forests, with the largest national forest, the Tongass covering over 17 million acres, and the second largest, the Chugach covering over 5 million acres. Much of the water that ends up in the rivers and streams comes from forested watersheds that filter the water through vegetation and soil as it flows to the ocean, carrying valuable nutrients through the forest ecosystem out to sea. Alaska's water can take many forms; rivers, lakes, glaciers, ice fields, estuaries and wetlands. Forests also help control soil erosion by slowing the rate at which water enters streams. Healthy watersheds grow healthy forests here.

Our lakes, rivers and streams are teaming with life – wild Alaska salmon, trout, and steelhead spend a portion of their life cycle here -- spawning and laying eggs which will soon hatch, grow, and many head out to sea becoming the bounty of many a skilled fisherman’s harvest. From bears to eagles to whales, many animal and marine species rely on nutrient-dense fish that thrive in healthy forest watersheds. And Alaska’s people rely on them as well. Statewide, seafood harvests brings Alaska over $5.9 billion in economic activity and 41,000 jobs, second only to Alaska’s oil and gas industry. Wild salmon runs grow here.

People visiting Alaska to hike, camp, kayak and fish represent other user groups that rely on healthy forests and watersheds – the visitor industry statewide provides 37,800 jobs and contributes $1.3 billion dollars to Alaska’s economy. Jobs grow here.
The U.S. Forest Service manages for multiple use, and healthy forests can sustain many different activities, among them: timber harvest, mining, renewable energy biomass and hydropower, recreation, tourism, and subsistence harvest. Diverse economies grow here.

Many of Alaska’s rural communities are located within or near a national forest and their residents rely on the forest for the harvest of fish, plants, and game for subsistence uses; following age-old family and cultural traditions. Communities grow here.

Although there can often be competing interests on any forest, one common thing all resource users require to succeed is a healthy forest with healthy watersheds. Water helps power seafood, tourism, jobs, communities and economies. And to honor Alaska’s Arbor Day, where we traditionally celebrate by planting and caring for trees, we can also celebrate Alaska’s healthy national forests because opportunity grows here.
This article ran in the May 15 edition of the Juneau Empire