What’s a community to do when outside forces and ecological realities threaten the very industry on which it’s built?
This story originally appeared in BioGraphic on Dec. 20, 2016
On a chilly September morning, Bob Christensen stopped his battered SUV outside an annex belonging to the local tribal government, the Hoonah Indian Association, picked up Donovan Smith and Phillip Sharclane outside, and headed for the woods. Thirty minutes later, the three were scrambling through a steep scrub of young trees on a slope overlooking the sea that rings Chichagof Island, in the archipelago that forms Alaska’s southeastern spur.
Dressed in rainbibs against the region’s ever-present moisture, Smith called out plant names as he scrutinized the ground. The list sounded almost like a poem: Beard lichen, bunchberry, oak fern. Christensen, who carried a fat revolver in case of any run-ins with brown bears, scribbled on a clipboard. “I’m the oldest and the laziest,” he joked,” so I do data entry.”
Sharclane paused at each young tree, his hand appearing from the leafy tangle to mark his own height against its trunk, then each foot past, his fingers flat as if in salute. “Growing up, I really would have rather ran through the woods than load them up on a ship,” the 38-year-old said. “There’s nothing better than being out here and getting paid for it.” More…