Celebrating Earth Day
SourDough News | June 20, 2013
Staff from the Sitka Ranger District use a simulated watershed and stream table to demonstrate hydrologic processes on the Tongass National Forest. Photo by Andrew Thoms.
Two girls at the April 22 Earth Day event in Sitka check out the Parade of Species exhibit. Photo by Andrew Thoms.
For more than a decade, kids in Sitka have celebrated Earth Day by dressing up as their favorite animals and marching down the main street of town in a Parade of the Species.
The Sitka Conservation Society started the event and is still the main organizer, but as popularity has grown so has the number of participating organizations. This year the Forest Service was one of a dozen organizations to be involved in the post-parade celebration at Sitka Fine Arts Camp Campus lawn, where local organizations had Earth Day themed exhibits and games.
Marty Becker and Benjamin Mann of the Sitka Ranger District Fisheries and Watershed program did two demonstrations that highlighted the role the Tongass National Forest plays in producing and maintaining Southeast Alaska’s world-class salmon fisheries.
The pair demonstrated stream function and hydrologic processes with kids and parents by creating a simulated watershed and stream on an inclined table. As water was pumped through substrate on the table, Becker explained how flow moves sediment, scours the bottom, cuts the banks, and inevitably changes the shape of the stream. Using stones and small branches, kids were able to see how in-stream structures cause changes in flow, erosion, and sediment transport, processes that continually change aquatic habitat. They were asked to point out where they think that salmon and fish would spend time in the watershed on the “structures and pools” created by the action of the water on the model watershed.
The Forest Service Fisheries and Watershed staff also demonstrated a fish-ladder with a model which illustrated the function of the fish passes they build on Forest Service lands. They used the opportunity to talk about the important work that Tongass staff is doing for stream and fish monitoring and habitat enhancements.
The National Park Service also participated in the Earth Day festivities with a salmon game, where kids matched salmon cutouts to their correct name using various identifying features. Ryan Carpenter, a Park Ranger for the Park Service, said “The goal of the game was to heighten awareness of the five different species of salmon throughout their lifecycle.” A game focused on salmon was intentional, Ryan said, “because it was an opportunity to teach students about the conservation of salmon.” While the younger kids were excited to play a matching game, older students walked away knowing the importance of keeping rivers clean so generations of salmon can continue to come back [to Indian River].” Ryan said, “It is our role to be stewards of the environment and to protect the habitats of salmon.”
SCS executive director Andrew Thoms said his organization works closely with Tongass Fisheries and Watershed program staff on salmon programs, so he was pleased by the Forest Service and Park Service’s choice of demonstrations on Tongass watersheds and salmon this year. Thoms said Tongass salmon are critical to the economy and way of life in Sitka and Southeast Alaska, so he believes it is critical that both the Forest Service and Park continue to work on salmon issues and educate the public on how important the Tongass is for providing and producing salmon.
“We think about future generations every day and perhaps some of the kids that attended this Earth Day event will be Forest Service salmon stewards or captains on their own commercial fishing vessels,” Thoms said.
Mann said he appreciated being a part of the event and hopes to be back for another Forest Service demonstration next year. “This event creates a true celebratory spirit in participants and spectators alike while maintaining the message that we all need to be doing our part to help protect the environment,” Mann said.
By Andrew Miller, Sitka Conservation Society