Welcome to the Summer 2011 Issue,
As the current issue of this newsletter goes live, thousands of us Alaskans are doing what we do when spring turns into summer: fishing. Alaska’s tens of thousands of commercial, sport and subsistence fishermen are joined by tens of thousands more visitors from around the world, all drawn to one of the world’s last great strongholds for salmon and trout.
In Bristol Bay, commercial fishing are handling millions of wild sockeye salmon, many of which will end up on the plates of American diners. And here in Southeast Alaska, local waters are expected to produce nearly 68 million salmon.
Trout Unlimited's Alaska Program has been busy protecting, reconnecting and restoring salmon and trout habitat so commercial, sport, subsistence and personal use fishermen can continue to enjoy healthy and abundant harvests.
As you’ll read in this edition of Alaska Fish Tales, the Bristol Bay campaign is heating up, with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency starting to weigh in with a scientific assessment of whether a giant, open-pit mine makes sense for an ecologically sensitive region that produces the world’s largest wild sockeye salmon run. Trout Unlimited worked extensively with tribes and fishermen in Bristol Bay to get the EPA to act. The agency’s decision to do so is a good first step. In the Tongass National Forest of Southeast Alaska, TU’s work also is ramping up. We’re collaborating with the Forest Service as it transitions away from old-growth logging to a management future that’s more about salmon, young growth timber harvesting and forest restoration. We’re particularly excited about the Sitkoh River project, spotlighted below, and the economic study we commissioned that revealed that salmon and trout are a $1 billion driver of the local economy in Southeast – something that’s definitely worth protecting and enhancing.
We love to year from you so please stay in touch and send us feedback and ideas for future issues of Alaska Fish Tales. In the meantime, happy fishing and enjoy your summer! Hopefully some of it will be spent on the water with fishing rod in hand.
Tim Bristol, Director
Support Builds for EPA Action
Trout Unlimited’s efforts to organize support for protecting Bristol Bay’s rich, salmon-producing waters from large-scale mining continue to bear fruit. What began in Spring 2010 with a request to the Environmental Protection Agency from six federally recognized tribes in Bristol Bay has mushroomed into a diverse and growing coalition of stakeholders demanding Bristol Bay protection.
Support for EPA using its authority under the Clean Water Act to protect Bristol Bay now comes from such powerful and influential sectors as the Bristol Bay Native Association, Bristol Bay Native Corporation, eight tribes, nearly every commercial fishing organization in the state, and thousands of individuals. In addition to Alaskans, over 300 sportsmen organizations and businesses, thousands of commercial fishermen and businesses from the Lower 48, over 200 chefs, and a conglomerate of jewelers have added their voices for Bristol Bay conservation. The support for EPA action to protect Bristol Bay is overwhelming in the region and continues to grow nationwide as people come to recognize Bristol Bay as a true national treasure and a huge economic engine for Alaska.
Last winter, EPA took the first step by launching a scientific assessment of the Bristol Bay watershed, with an eye toward understanding how future large-scale development projects such as the proposed Pebble mine may affect the region’s salmon, jobs and the subsistence lifestyles of its majority Alaska Native residents. The country’s newspaper of record, the New York Times, published an editorial  in support of the assessment.
In June, as EPA followed up by conducting meetings in the region, Alaska's largest newspaper, the Anchorage Daily News, also went on record  supporting the scientific review. Read more. 
Efforts by Trout Unlimited's Alaska Program to protect Bristol Bay reached the White House this Spring.
During Save Bristol Bay Week in the nation’s capital, the EPA and the Obama administration heard loud and clear from sportsmen, chefs, commercial fishermen, Alaska Natives and others that federal officials should protect Bristol Bay from large-scale mine development. As part of Save Bristol Bay events, more than 20 D.C.-area restaurants served Bristol Bay salmon all week. In addition, more than 200 chefs, retailers and leaders in the food community who want to protect Bristol Bay’s wild salmon – including Tom Colicchio, Alice Waters and Mark Bittman – also sent a letter  to the EPA urging the agency to use its authority under the Clean Water Act on behalf of Bristol Bay. Read more. 
Alaska Airlines Magazine Features Bristol Bay in June Issue
The June issue  of Alaska Airlines magazine  explores Bristol Bay and its thriving commercial salmon fishery, which is more than a century old. Seattle travel writer Eric Lucas  came to Bristol Bay along with several chefs hosted by Trout Unlimited to learn about the fishery from a sea-to-table perspective. Lucas and the chefs picked sockeye salmon from gillnets, toured processing plants, met with commercial fishermen, watched an Alaska Native elder fillet and smoke her fish, and helped prepare and dine on freshly caught salmon. His article  gives an insider’s view into the economics and history of the fishery, as well as a personal account of what it was like to spend time on gillnetter and help the captain land his catch. Read the article and more .
Bristol Bay is home to the world’s largest sockeye run. The fishery is threatened by a proposed giant copper and gold mine located in the bay’s headwaters. Trout Unlimited is working to protect the bay and invites you to get involved  in the campaign to save America’s last great wild salmon fishery.
Do You Know What’s Hitching A Ride on Your Waders?
It’s finally summer! A time of year when we can revel in being Alaskans. For anglers, summer’s long days and sun-filled nights provide unending opportunities for fishing trips – whether it is a long-weekend trip or just an evening down at your favorite local fishing hole. For many of us, a good summer is measured by days on the water, time spent with family and fishing buddies, number of fish caught, or simply by the strength of your wader funk at season’s end.
But did you know that your regular fishing excursions could inadvertently expose your favorite stream or lake to risk from aquatic hitchhikers that can devastate habitat and ultimately fisheries? Read more. 
TU Sponsors Third Year of Bristol Bay Fly Fishing and Guide Academy
The 2011 Bristol Bay Fly Fishing and Guide Academy was a huge success again this summer.
A group of 13 students from Naknek, New Stuyahok, Dillingham, Manokotak, and King Salmon spent May 29 to June 5 at Alaska Sportsman’s Bear Trail Lodge in King Salmon, immersing themselves in the art of fly fishing and learning how to be guides in Bristol Bay’s world-class sport fishing industry. Under the mentorship of professional guides, including lodge owner and operator Nanci Morris Lyon, who has been featured in national fishing magazines and television shows, the students learned how to cast a fly rod, tie knots and flies, survive in cold water and other aspects of fly fishing and guiding. In return, the students shared their Yup’ik language and culture, trivia about their communities and a look into what life is like in Bush Alaska. Read a blog post  about the fly fishing boot camp by academy organizer/instructor Nelli Williams, special projects coordinator for Trout Unlimited's Alaska Program.
The guide academy is proudly supported by Trout Unlimited, Bristol Bay Native Corporation, The Bureau of Land Management, The Nushagak-Mulchatna Wood-Tikchik Land Trust, Alaska Sportsman’s Bear Trail Lodge, Alaska Conservation Foundation, The Nature Conservancy, GCI, The Southwest Alaska Salmon Habitat Partnership, The Code Blue Foundation, Royal Coachman Lodge, and University of Alaska Bristol Bay Campus.
Gear and books were donated by Redington, Rio, Sage, Dr. Slick, Alaska FlyFishing Goods, Mossy’s Fly Shop and the Alaska Fly Fishers.
Tongass Salmon and Trout: A Billion Dollar Economic Engine
Southeast Alaska salmon and trout contribute nearly $1 billion to the regional economy and employ one in 10 people. That’s one of the main findings of a new report commissioned by Trout Unlimited and authored by respected natural resource economist Thomas Wegge of TCW Economics of Sacramento, California.
The study, released during the winter, highlights the need to change the way the U.S. Forest Service manages the Tongass National Forest — which covers more than 90 percent of Southeast Alaska — so that it emphasizes the 17 million-acre rain forest’s value as a fish factory. The Tongass produces about one-third of Alaska’s total salmon harvest and 70 percent of all salmon spawned from waters on U.S. national forests.
“This study really drives home the point that the Tongass is a huge salmon factory. It’s one of the few places left in the world where these fish remain healthy and abundant, and if managed correctly, will continue to thrive for future generations,” said Tim Bristol, who directs Trout Unlimited’s Alaska Program.
The nation's largest national forest has traditionally been valued for its old-growth timber, but the picture is changing. The U.S. Forest Service is setting a new direction, one toward forest restoration and harvesting second-growth trees, the ones that have grown back in the clear-cuts.
The study has value in that it can help forest managers make more balanced decisions on how to use Tongass resources in the future, said Wegge.
Stream Restoration Marks New Direction in Tongass
Trout Unlimited, Alaska Program, recently got involved with a major stream restoration project in the Tongass National Forest. In a unique public-private collaboration, the Forest Service, TU, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and the Sitka Conservation Society announced over the winter that they would collaborate to restore the Sitkoh River, a key salmon and steelhead producer in the Tongass that’s important to commercial fishermen, anglers and subsistence harvesters. Prime fish habitat in the Sitkoh River suffered damage from logging back in the 1970s. The Forest Service has indentified Sitkoh as one of the top watersheds in Southeast Alaska in need of restoration.
The nearly $350,000 project was supposed to start this summer, but administrative delays resulted in the work being pushed back until summer 2012. The first phase of the project, to be completed next summer, will focus on restoring 1,800 feet of critical rearing habitat. Read more. 
Tongass: Fish Should Come First
April and May were busy months for people who care about the Tongass National Forest and management of the rain forest with fish as a top priority. Congress held hearings on bills that would transfer tens of thousands of acres of public land in the Tongass to Sealaska, the regional corporation for Alaska Natives with ancestral ties to Southeast Alaska. More information about S.730 and H.R. 1408 can be found here .
Although Trout Unlimited supports settlement of Sealaska’s valid claim to lands in Southeast Alaska, we are critical of the legislation in its current form. TU maintains that the conservation of salmon and trout, and the jobs and lifestyles they sustain, needs to play a larger role in any Tongass-related legislation. Based on the economic and scientific work we have commissioned  that underscores the value of salmon and trout to Alaska, the Pacific Northwest and the rest of the world, TU advocates for stronger and more comprehensive restoration and conservation of high-value salmon and trout watersheds. Read more
In addition to the Sealaska bills, Alaska Congressman Don Young also introduced legislation to address land claims on behalf of individuals and their heirs from Haines, Ketchikan, Petersburg, Tenakee and Wrangell who were not included in the original 1971 Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. This legislation could result in the privatization of approximately 125,000 acres of Tongass National Forest lands. TU opposes the so-called Landless Natives bill because it would move large tracts of public land into private ownership and, as is the case with the Sealaska legislation, it does not emphasize salmon and trout conservation and restoration.
More information on this bill is available here :
Read an editorial  by a Southeast Alaska fishing lodge owner about why conserving the best salmon and trout watersheds in the Tongass needs to be priority number one for the Forest Service.
Profile: Heather Hardcastle
Heather Hardcastle works as a contractor for Trout Unlimited, Alaska Program, from Juneau, Alaska’s remote capital city located in the heart of the Tongass National Forest. A second generation gillnetter, Heather, her family and some close friends own and operate a direct-market seafood company called Taku River Reds. A seasoned world traveler and a marine biologist by training, Heather lived and worked in Maui as a naturalist at a whale conservation organization and later as a sustainability educator at a Montessori school on the Hawaiian island. With her husband, Kirk, who she met in Maui, Heather returned to her hometown of Juneau. In 2003, together with Heather’s parents, they formed Taku River Reds, a company known for its emphasis on high-quality fish and reducing the amount of fish waste returned to the ocean. Heather describes salmon as her “lifeblood.” Read more. 
TU’s Alaska Program picked up five awards in the National Federation of Press Women 2011 competition. TU took top honors in the media kit, brochure and radio campaign categories, receiving first-place awards for each. These outreach materials focused on TU’s Save Bristol Bay campaign. TU also received honorable mentions for press releases related to the Bristol Bay Fly Fishing and Guide Academy and our Savor Bristol Bay events.
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