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Southeast communities gather in Wrangell to discuss sustainability

Representatives from conservation groups and government officials from small Southeast towns have been meeting in Wrangell this week.

The group has been discussing projects in their communities that focus on using natural resources in a responsible, sustainable way. The Tongass Stewardship Coordinator Peer Learning Network includes agencies such as the US Forest Service, Nature Conservancy and the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council.

Representatives of Tribal governments from Kake, Hoonah, Wrangell, Sitka and Hydaburg also took part.

SEACC Community Organizer Jeremy Maxand shared some of the projects happening in Wrangell including a music wood business, exploring the possibility of a biobrick manufacturing facility and a focus on the city’s recreation system.

He, along with representatives from the Wrangell Resource Council and Wrangell Cooperative Association, says long-term timber production is especially a focus.

“How do you create a long term, viable industry that creates wealth that doesn’t jeopardize fish and wild life, but that creates opportunities for people to make a living on the natural resources? So it’s been a really interesting couple of years to try and one, learn the ins-and-outs of the timber industry because it’s one thing to say you want to do ‘this and this and this’, but it’s another thing when you sit down and you look at the numbers and you talk to the industry people. You listen to what the small-mill guys really need and what they really don’t need. That’s really eye opening,” he said.

Maxand said he would like to see SEACC and the community move toward a direction they both agree with. He said he hopes there will be more dialogue about capacity building within the industry during a workshop next month.

“Bring the assembly, the city staff, the tribe, the chamber of commerce, the small mill guys, conservation people, just everyday people on the street who are interested to learn more about what the transition means and what opportunities are available. And what that means for Wrangell,” he said.

The Wrangell workshop was the first time participants met in-person to discuss projects. Kake officials mentioned their push for alternative energy like wind power and ways to provide more jobs for their residents. Hydaburg officials have been exploring ways to protect their subsistence lifestyle while supporting commercial industries. The village also is taking part in the state’s marine debris program.

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