On the remote west side of Admiralty Island in Southeast Alaska sits the small village of Angoon. With fewer than 500 residents, this rural outpost is the largest permanent settlement on the island and almost entirely surrounded by the sprawling Tongass National Forest. Even though it’s only 60 miles south of Alaska’s capitol city, Juneau, the village of Angoon feels as far from civilization as you can get. The Kootznoowoo Tlingits have long inhabited this wild landscape where grizzly bears outnumber people. In fact, Kooztnoowoo means “the fortress of the brown bear,” a fitting name for such a wild place.
Despite being surrounded by public land, many of the rural youth in this remote corner of the U.S. don’t have much opportunity to explore their surroundings. A lack of proper gear and skills combined with frigid ocean water, vast forests and snow-capped mountains combine to keep youth close to the village proper. But, thanks to the Angoon Youth Conservation Corps program (AYCC), that’s changing.
In 2017, the second year of the AYCC program, six youth from Angoon got an opportunity to participate in an eight-week public land stewardship program. Through this project, the participants were provided with meaningful opportunities to engage in restoration activities within the Forest-Service managed Admiralty Island National Monument (AINM), a nearly one-million-acre complex that is almost entirely designated Wilderness.
This program offers one of the only opportunities for Angoon’s rural Alaskan Native youth to develop career and leadership skills, be exposed to employment opportunities in the science and conservation fields and earn a paycheck. It also shows them the importance of the natural resources on the public lands that surround and sustain the community on Admiralty Island. Restoration and stewardship work benefits marine and terrestrial wildlife, the local community and visitors and includes:
- Restoring and maintaining recreation sites like campsites, picnic sites and trails;
- Removing marine debris inside the AINM, a destination for sea-kayakers;
- Inventorying and removing invasive species; and
- Locating reported cultural resources for subsequent inventorying and monitoring.
Perhaps more importantly, it is a life-changing experience for each of the youth involved.
in 2016, AYCC participants went on camping trips into the Wilderness, learned outdoor skills and conducted important conservation work. For them, the opportunity is best described as a life-changing experience of "firsts": The first time sleeping in a tent; the first time drinking water from a stream; the first time going on a hike; the first time paddling a kayak; the first time feeling sore from so much exercise. As one participant remarked: "I've never spent this much time outside in a single day."
- 3 partners involved in project
- 11 miles of trail built or maintained
- 6 youth engaged
- 17 campsite maintained
- 1,200 acres of wildlife habitat restored
- 58 miles of trails inventoried
July 21, 2017 Update
During a recent field trip in Mitchell Bay, including Salt Lakd and Kanalku Bay the crew patrolled 42.5 miles by sea kayak and removed 200 lbs of trash. They also inventoried, clean up and naturalized seventeen established sites.
"The youths are becoming quite proficient in kayaking, removing debris and naturalizing impacted sites. They are also making gains in professionalism, such as getting set to start each day on time (getting up, dressed, breakfast eaten, lunch made, gear packed by 8:30am). I met with each youth individually and they all expressed increased confidence in themselves than before they had been working with the YCC." - Kevin Hood, Wilderness Program Manager, Tongass National Forest.