Major changes are afoot in the country’s largest national forest, the Tongass in Southeast Alaska. And many of them bode well for fish and wildlife. The most important one is arguably the U.S. Forest Service’s move from old-growth logging in roadless areas of the Tongass and shift toward restoring watersheds that were previously harvested, an effort that Trout Unlimited is actively supporting. Along with habitat restoration, the federal agency is also concentrating on established and emerging industries such as commercial and sport fishing, tourism, alternative energy, and small-scale timber operations.
As the Tongass shifts gears from industrial logging to smaller, more targeted timber sales, several niche lumber mills throughout Southeast Alaska are benefitting. One of them is located in Hoonah, a mostly Tlingit village on Chichagof Island about a half-hour plane ride from Juneau.
Icy Straits Lumber and Milling is a family-owned business that makes specialty lumber products from sustainably harvested Tongass old-growth spruce, hemlock and cedar. It’s owned by a third-generation logger, Wes Tyler, and his wife, Susan, who are originally from Oregon.
The Tylers have lived in Alaska for more than three decades with much of that time spent in remote logging camps where Wes worked as a timber harvester and later a general manager for Whitestone Logging. For the past several years, the Tylers have operated Icy Straits Lumber and have built a reputation for providing high-quality wood products – everything from log cabin and timber frame packages to decking, paneling, flooring and siding. The Tylers are conservation-minded business owners who support responsible use of the Tongass’ rare and highly prized old growth timber.