National Recognition for the Tongass National Forest

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SourDough News | March 14, 2013

Faith Duncan and Jim Baichtal are presented with a national trophy.
Tongass National Forest employees Faith Duncan and Jim Baichtal are presented with a national trophy at the Western Hunting and Conservation Exposition in Salt Lake City, Utah, February 23. 2013. The trophy, which represents their conservation efforts for Sitka black-tailed deer, will be on display on the Tongass for one year.

It’s turning out to be a watershed year for the Tongass National Forest outreach and partnership development with the Mule Deer Foundation. The highlights for 2013: 

  • A Mule Deer chapter was formed in Sitka and held its first banquet.
  • Plans were made to explore additional chapters in Ketchikan and Juneau.
  • Meetings have begun with Dan McKinley, Northern Regional MDF Director (for Washington, Alaska and Idaho), which include discussions about projects and opportunities to benefit Sitka Black-tailed deer management on the Tongass.
  • The Tongass National Forest was represented at the Mule Deer Working group meetings by biologist Brian Logan.
  • The Tongass participated in the Western Hunting and Conservation Expo held February 21–24, 2013 in Salt Lake City, Utah.
     

People who enjoy the outdoors have been making attendance at the Western Hunting and Conservation Expo soar over the last four years, and the Tongass booth at the expo was busy all four days.


This year, the event was kicked off with education experiences for local urban youth. For the second year, the Tongass has been involved with the Youth Wildlife Conservation Experience, a national program recognizing that hunting and conservation make perfect partners for educating youth. On the first morning of the expo, the Salt Palace rang with the excited sounds of hundreds of school children in grades 2 through 8. There were also over 30 educators and parent chaperones involved, many of whom were contacted in 2012.


I had prepared and sent ahead packets for each participant and educator, with activities that focus on Utah State core curriculum concepts for grades 2-8. Our local Alaska Department of Fish and Game office in Ketchikan shared written and hands-on materials for the education sessions.


Bus transportation and lunches for city youth were funded by the Potterfield Foundation and Midway. The youth interacted with a variety of exhibitors, including the Utah Division of Wildlife and BLM. Middle school students were on the exhibit hall floor. Elementary students had their own “Alaska” classroom replete with sprays of temperate rainforest trees and deer browse. They were able to handle adult and fawn deer hides, look at antlers and examine rubber tracks. They learned about interdependence in temperate rainforest ecosystems, habitat requirements for Sitka black-tailed deer, and adaptations in Tongass plants and animals.


On Saturday morning, the original MDF partnership team—Dennis Neill, now retired, Jim Baichtal, Forest geologist, and I, interpreter and educator—were recognized nationally for our conservation education efforts for Sitka black-tailed deer. Deputy Regional Forester Marlene Finley presented the team with a national trophy that will be on display for the year here in the Tongass, reflecting our contributions to the public’s understanding of the Sitka black-tailed deer.

 
The Western Hunting and Conservation Exposition is one of the biggest events in the West. This year, the Mule Deer Foundation and Sportsmen for Fish & Wildlife reached some 33,000 people and raised more than $3 million for the benefit of wildlife and conservation. We made over 750 extended contacts with people for more than three minutes each, and greeted over 2,500 at the Tongass exhibit. We were proud to be invited to be part of the exhibit hall and education efforts for a fourth year. We know that our presence has made a difference to the public’s appreciation and knowledge of Southeast Alaska and species within the Tongass National Forest.

 

By Faith L. Duncan, Interpretive and Conservation Education Program Manager