What’s a budget-strapped forest to do? Each year, members of the Forest Service recreation staff in Alaska work with more than 2 million people who visit their state’s two national forests, the Tongass and Chugach. It’s no small feat—for more than 10 years, federal funding for recreation has waned as has Agency capacity.
Fortunately, Regional Forester Beth Pendleton and her team were interested when George Schaaf, the Regional Partnership Coordinator, suggested developing a special fund with the National Forest Foundation (NFF) as a way to attract additional funds and capacity. The resulting Alaska Forest Fund (AFF) can leverage federal funding with private support in a straightforward way: the Forest Service provides funds to the NFF, which then works with corporations, foundations, individuals, and nonprofit organizations to find matching funds. The hunt for funding has been a success. In its first year, the AFF generated $381,000 additional funds for local trail restoration, conservation initiatives and cabin renovations.
To date, most of the funding has supported 5 efforts on the Tongass National Forest. One is a Youth Conservation Corps program in the Village of Angoon that provides Alaska Native youth with paid summer jobs on Admiralty Island National Monument. The work involves everything from maintaining trails to gathering marine debris and building an outhouse. The funding came from the Hecla Charitable Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the company which owns Greens Creek Mine near Juneau, Alaska. The good news is that the program will continue to offer these paid summer jobs again this year.
In summarizing the overall value of partnerships like these, Beth Pendleton noted that, “This type of place-based partnering between local industry and a local non-profit has the added benefit of community-building as well as making improvements on the ground. We’ve got to keep expanding our partnership networks to make it sustainable!”