Hoonah Indian Assocation Addresses Community Energy, Natural Resource Management, & Workforce Development



Like many communities in rural Southeast Alaska, Hoonah is working to address issues with high cost energy, sustainable economic development, and informed resource management. 


John Hillman, Director of Natural Resources for the Hoonah Indian Association, has developed a multi-faceted project that addresses multiple community needs while building a workforce with the skills necessary to adapt to the changing economic climate in rural Southeast Alaska.


The primary goal of this project is to use ecological forest restoration as an avenue for local workforce capacity development in an effort to improve both forest and community resilience.


In a collaborative effort between the US Forest Service, Hoonah Indian Assocation, City of Hoonah, Southeast Alaska Conservation Council (SEACC), and Southeast Alaska Wilderness Exploration, Analysis, and Discovery (SEAWEAD), John has assembled a crew of local workers to carry out a thinning project on the Kennel Creek watershed, near Freshwater Bay. The crew is cutting timber that would otherwise be deemed invaluable and restoring the watershed’s ecosystem to provide habitat for fish and wildlife populations.

John will use some of the cut timber as firewood to heat homes in the community. John plans to sell cords of firewood at cost, turning over just enough money to keep the crew working and the equipment maintained. With the high cost of energy in Hoonah, he wants to provide a cost effective means for residents to heat their homes.


John shows Angie some of the acreage the thinning crew is currently working on. This plot was planted with spruce seedlings that the crew will use to replant some previous logged lands.

The locals employed on the thinning crew are gaining skills and experience that can carry over into future projects and employment as many communities like Hoonah begin to shift the way they look at the management of their natural resources and begin developing ecosystem workforce capacity. According to the Tongass Transition Plan, the Forest Service plans to shift their focus from old-growth logging to second growth management, including forest restoration. As opportunities become available for restoration and thinning projects on the Tongass National Forest, workers on John’s thinning crew will be trained and prepared to carry out Forest Service contract work.

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Bob Christensen, Scott Harris, and some USFS crew survey Spasski Creek near Hoonah for restoration and work opportunities for the HIA crew

John’s program has also recently constructed on a large barn-like structure near town that will serve as a Community Wood Shed. Dry and well-seasoned wood burns cleaner and more efficiently in home wood stoves. Recognizing that many homes in Hoonah do not have space available to adequately store a large quantity of firewood through the cold months, he developed the Community Wood Shed project to allow those residents the ability to get the firewood they need, as they need it. This helps to improve overall air quality both inside homes and throughout Hoonah, as well as making the most of their wood resource by ensuring the wood burns at the highest possible efficiency. 


Through the development of this project, John and his team have learned the importance of planning and starting early to acquire any necessary certifications or permits needed to begin projects. These things can take valuable time to sift through, which can impact your project down the line.


Through the construction of the Community Woodshed and the development of a working crew that will stock the Community Woodshed and learn valuable skills in the process, John Hillman and the Hoonah Indian Association are working to improve the economic sustainability, management of resources, and overall quality of life in their community.


Hoonah Indian Association would like to thank all parties that were involved with this project for making it such a successful and important project for the community of Hoonah! 

For more information on this project please contact,
John Hillman, Director of Natural Resources
Hoonah Indian Assocation
(907) 945-3545


If you would like SAWC to promote your community based project or program, please contact
Angie Eldred
SAWC Communications Coordinator
(907) 231-1710