Juneau Forest Lab at Auke Lake dedicated

U.S. Forest Service officials and Juneau residents commemorated the opening of the new Juneau Forestry Sciences Laboratory on Saturday.

The dedication of the new facility near the edge of Auke Lake featured the raising of house posts carved by Haines carver Wayne Price.

Forest Service employees assigned to the lab helped raise the posts at the entrance of the building.

The $10 million facility built on federal land is the new, permanent home for the lab’s roughly thirty employees who have worked in at least three other different facilities on a temporary basis over the last 60 years.

Updated story on Saturday’s ceremony:

Two groups of Forest Service employees approached the new Juneau Forestry Sciences Laboratory from opposite directions. Each group, about a dozen people each, carried a thousand-pound yellow cedar log carved into a house post. In front of the lab, each of the ten-foot posts were set down, pivoted on the bottom end, lifted up on a mounting pedestal, and pushed upright into place (see slideshow above).

The dedication of the new lab on Saturday was a mix of the traditional and the modern with more of an emphasis on tradition as participants danced, and paid their respects and honored the Aak’W Kwaan who have traditionally owned and occupied the land around Auke Bay. It included the Carver’s Dance which marks relinquishment of title and ownership of the totems.

The modern part of the dedication came at the very end with a ribbon stretched across the entrance and a half-a-dozen pair of scissors.

“We’re delighted to be here on the ancestral grounds of the Aak’W Kwaan,” said Robert Mangold who is acting director of the Pacific Northwest Research Station that is essentially a group of eleven labs in the region. “They’ve been very helpful and instrumental in design of the building and supporting us.”

Mangold says the 12,000 square foot Juneau lab on the edge of Auke Lake and adjacent to the University of Alaska Southeast campus is about medium in size for their facilities.

Construction on the $10 million building started only three years ago. But it’s has been as much as 60-years in making with the lab’s twenty to thirty employees recently working in at least three different facilities on a temporary basis.

“It’s a tremendous building. It really offers the kind of lab facilities that we never had before,” said Paul Hennon, a forest pathologist with the Station.

Contractors used stone and yellow cedar siding obtained in Southeast Alaska while the interior features hickory trim. Upstairs include the offices while the downstairs is devoted to the lab spaces where the botanists, hydrologists, entomologists, and other scientists can work.

Hennon and his colleagues in other disciplines will work together to tackle everything from forest health to human use of the forest, watershed and young-growth management, and climate change issues.

“So, it’s very common at least in our experience that we team up, kind of mix our disclipines together and are able to take on some broader problems that way,” said Hennon.

The new building will also house the Alaska Coastal Rainforest Center and its location next to UAS should foster more collaboration with faculty and students on research.

Other building construction details include triple-glazed windows, radiant heating, and a ground source heating and cooling system for energy efficiency.

But the house posts will be the first thing that any visitor sees. Master carver Wayne Price of Haines says both posts are carved from the same log of yellow cedar found on Chichagof Island. He says he started on them full-time after the New Year, and finished just hours before getting on the ferry for Juneau. Price says the Eagle post features a mudshark of the Wooshkeetaan and the Raven post includes a dog salmon picked by Aak’W elders.

“I’m just very glad to see the house posts in place. They look a lot better where they belong,” said Price.

“And I’m glad to see all the people that turned out today for this big event and thank the Forest Service for supporting the Native culture and the art. Now that we have these here, all the young people have a constant reminder of the people that were here from the get-go. That ties it all together.”

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