National Forest Foundation

Angoon Youth Conserve the Fortress of Brown Bears Through Alaska Forest Fund

NFF Grant Partners and Projects


For eight weeks during the summer of 2016, native Alaskan youth helped steward their public lands on Admiralty Island through the Youth Conservation Corps. For the four students from the village of Angoon, the opportunity provided paid employment, offered career building skills, taught them conservation lessons and exposed them to new outdoor experiences.

The program was implemented through a partnership between the Forest Service, National Forest Foundation, the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council and the Chatham School District. Along with Forest Service support, the program received funding through the Alaska Forest Fund from Hecla Charitable Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Hecla Mining Company. 

Kootznoowoo, in Tlingit, translates to "fortress of brown bears.”

The native village of Angoon, with a population of approximately 500, sits on the western coast of Admiralty Island. Currently there isn’t an airport on the island, and Angoon must be accessed by boat or float plane. The island, located south of Juneau, Alaska, is home to the 955,000 acre Admiralty Island National Monument. The Monument includes the Kootznoowoo Wilderness and is managed by the Forest Service as part of the Tongass National Forest. Admiralty Island is the ancestral home of the Kootznoowoo Tlingit group. Kootznoowoo, in Tlingit, translates to "fortress of brown bears”, which aptly characterizes the island even today, with brown bears outnumbering human residents by more than three to one. 

While there are not many local employment opportunities for the younger residents of Angoon, there is a great need for environmental stewardship on this 1646 square mile island. Marine debris is a major concern along the shorelines of the National Monument, causing problems for both terrestrial and ocean living wildlife. There are also recreational trails and cabins that require maintenance, cultural sites that need inventorying and invasive species to be eradicated. The four youth were able to assist in each of these areas, while also earning their first paychecks and experiencing many other firsts. 

Despite having grown up on the island, none of these youth had paddled a kayak, none had been hiking, and not one of them had slept in a tent. “I’ve never spent this much time outside in a single day,” remarked one of the youth. Through this program, the youth were able to go on camping trips into the wilderness, learn outdoor skills and conduct important conservation work.

The youth learned how to use cook stoves, bear spray and a cross-cut saw. They gathered marine debris that was littering the shoreline, including derelict fish net and line. They helped build a new outhouse, and assisted with trail maintenance by tearing out old bridges and lopping back brush. Travel to work sites on this island exposed the youth to over 50 miles of sea kayaking.

The youth also learned about the concept of wilderness and natural ecology and were given the chance to explore their ancestral island beyond the boundaries of their village, which none of them had previously done. The lessons that they each learned broadened their horizons and will help instill a respect for nature and a stewardship ethic that will last a lifetime.

The Alaska Forest Fund is a partnership between the National Forest Foundation and Region 10 Forest Service to conduct forest health projects and recreational enhancement projects on the Tongass and Chugach National Forests with the help of local partners. To support this work, please contact Dayle Wallien at

Related Posts

Growing Green Gold in Appalachia

Over the past year, Rural Action, in collaboration with the National Forest Foundation, organized volunteer-driven restoration plantings and monitoring efforts for ginseng on the Wayne National Forest in southeastern Ohio. The

Read more

Building Capacity for Watershed Restoration in Southeast Alaska

In March of 2018, more than 70 people, representing 31 organizations met to advanced watershed restoration and stewardship at the 2018 Southeast Alaska Watershed Restoration Workshop in Juneau, Alaska. The workshop was made possible by the National Forest Foundation's Community Capacity and Land Stewardship Program and organized by the Southeast Alaska Watershed Coalition.

Read more

Giant Reed, Greater Need to Fight Off Invasive

​Since late 2015, the LA Conservation Corps has been fighting against environmental degradation in the Big Tujunga Canyon Watershed. The hands-on and in-the-field conservation work has also educated and engaged disconnected urban youth as environmental stewards with the help of the NFF's Treasured Landscapes, Unforgettable Experiences campaign. ​

Read more

New Mexico Youth Conservation Corps Receive Orientation for Season Ahead

The Forest Stewards Guild manages six Youth Conservation Corps crews that enable 46 youth from northern and central New Mexico to gain experience in natural resource management. Each crew is based out of a Forest Service Ranger District. The crews received orientation and training in Hyde Memorial State Park, where the crews camped for two nights while preparing for their summer.

Read more

Share this post on social media


Support on-the-ground conservation

Help ensure the NFF and our partners can continue doing important work like this on our National Forests.

Donate Now