Bringing Partners Together to Engage Rural Communities and Facilitate Native Alaskan Traditional Forest Use
The Tongass National Forest includes most of southeast Alaska and supports rural subsistence activities and traditional lifeways for Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian Alaska Natives. High-value wood from this forest has been used for centuries in the creation of cultural commodities, yet climatic and human-related impacts may affect distribution and access to species essential for maintaining a robust cultural way of life, especially Alaskan yellow cedar (Callitropsis nootkatensis), western red cedar (Thuja plicata), and Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis). Furthermore, the 2016 Tongass Land Management Plan aims to conserve resources of heritage value used for Native craft, but little is currently known of the threats to access and supply of these culturally important resources to Alaska Native people, making it difficult to meet this need. We assembled an interdisciplinary team of federal, university, non-profit, educational, and tribal partners to assess needs and stimulate multigenerational cultural knowledge transfer. In this project we are developing better understanding of forest resource types essential for sustaining cultural lifeways, and of the concerns communities have for future resource availability. We engaged with local cultural leaders, provided opportunities for student involvement in forest research and cultural art forms, and developed a high-school science curriculum to transfer knowledge and raise awareness in a systematic format. The outcomes of this project provide useful touchstones for better integrating traditional knowledge and needs prevalent in rural communities into forest management plans and educational strategies to foster the sustainability of cultural heritage. Presented by Justin Crotteau, USDA Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station, at the 2019 SAF National Convention, Louisville, KY.