by Beth Giron Pendleton, Alaska Regional Forester
ALASKA — The holiday season is a time to appreciate family and friends as well as good neighbors. Alaska is a large state with a relatively small, dispersed population. Alaskans pride themselves on being can-do individuals and self-reliant, but also realize more can be achieved by working together. In Tlingit, this is called woosh.ji.een. The Forest Service in Alaska wants to recognize and thank its good neighbors.
To celebrate cooperation and partnerships this holiday season, Alaska Forest Service employees are supplying a holiday tree to the governor’s house to highlight the special relationships between the Forest Service, the Alaska Native community, the state of Alaska and rural communities. The tree will be on public display at the governor’s holiday open house Dec. 5. The tree is a Sitka spruce from Yakutat and was harvested with a special blessing from the Yakutat Tlingit Tribe that gives it back to the earth. Ornaments for the tree were hand-crafted by school children from Yakutat and residents of the Pioneer Home in Juneau.
Speaking of being good neighbors, Alaska Forest Service employees are working closely with others to improve the lives of all Alaskans. The Forest Service has worked together with the state of Alaska on a good neighbor such as with young growth timber sales. The state prepared, awarded and will administer timber sales on National Forest System lands, such as the recent Kosciusko timber sale near Edna Bay. The region works with the state and other federal agencies on joint wildland firefighting efforts, protecting forests for industries and communities that rely on them for healthy watersheds, timber, recreation and jobs. The State and Private Forestry program works with land owners across ownership boundaries statewide to research and combat invasions of insects and disease on Alaska’s vast landscapes and to perform forest inventory work. Alaska Forest Service employees provide technical assistance and grants to assist rural communities in taking charge of heating their public buildings with local wood to achieve more reliable energy and provide local jobs. Pacific Northwest Research Station employees and the Forestry Sciences Laboratories work worldwide with other researchers to share scientific findings about everything from climate to new ways to use forest-products in building materials and more efficient methods of heating homes and businesses.
The Tribal Relations Program works hand-in-hand with Alaska Native tribes and corporations whose members have resided on Alaska’s lands since time immemorial, and who carry forward the traditional knowledge about Alaska’s unique forests, wildlife and fisheries. They partner with tribes on workforce development training to put that traditional knowledge to work, recognizing the original stewards of our state’s natural resources. They protect and preserve priceless cultural heritage objects and sites in areas across the forests in partnership with tribal organizations, local historical societies, and nonprofit groups. They have a seat on Alaska’s Federal Subsistence Board, and share scientific research with other federal and state agencies so Alaska’s forests are managed to support healthy populations of fish and wildlife.
The Alaska Region operates the Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center, with help from the Friends of the Chugach, to provide critical safety information about avalanche danger at Southcentral Alaska’s Turnagain Pass area. The Law Enforcement and Investigations teams work tirelessly to keep people using Forest Service campgrounds and recreational areas safe from hazards and harm, often in partnership with other federal law enforcement, Alaska State Troopers and local municipal law enforcement agencies.
The Alaska Region works with the National Forest Foundation, which established the Alaska Forest Fund to leverage private funding to support work on forest and stream restoration, trails and cabins. They work with state and municipal governments to maintain infrastructure such as bridges and roads that sometimes provide the only access to National Forest System lands for citizens to benefit from economic opportunities such as fishing, guiding and seafood processing. They maintain other infrastructure such as recreational cabins, trails, shelters and docks for guided outdoor experiences.
Every day, citizens help focus Forest Service work by giving input on projects from timber harvest to facility planning through resource advisory committees and other public engagement opportunities.
The Alaska Region is grateful to the communities in Alaska and partners for woosh.ji.een, working together to achieve more with the help of good neighbors.
Beth Pnedleton serves as the Alaska Regional Forester where she shares her leadership experiences and stewards the whole of what makes the Alaska Region a choice place to work, live and build community.