Contact: Austin Williams, Trout Unlimited, (907) 227-1590 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Business chiefs say Forest Service failed to recognize key values of Southeast Alaska National Forest in a joint letter.
JUNEAU, AK - In a direct and urgent call to maintain protections for fish and wildlife on the Tongass National Forest in Southeast Alaska, executives of some of Alaska’s and the nation’s best-known fishing and hunting outfitters and retailers sent a letter to U.S. Forest Service leaders on Monday urging the national Roadless Rule be kept in place on the Tongass.
“Our ability to fulfill our missions and meet the needs of our customers, and the Forest Service’s ability to meet the needs of the public, are directly tied to one another,” the heads of nearly 100 companies, including Orvis, Sage, First Lite and Simms, say in the letter. “Either we succeed as stewards of our public lands together with the Forest Service, or we standby as turmoil over management decisions grows and forest values are degraded.”
The letter, which urges the Forest Service to maintain the Roadless Rule on the Tongass, is a concerted effort by the business community to ensure the habitat that sustains their operations is protected, clarifying that decisions related to management of the Tongass have a direct and profound impact on their customers, members and the organizations themselves.
Addressed to Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue, and Forest Service Chief, Vicki Christiansen, signers emphasized the economic strengths of fishing, tourism and outdoor recreation in Southeast Alaska. Together, these now account for 26 percent of regional employment and add $2 billion to the local economy. The letter clarifies that these attributes rely on world-class fish and wildlife, recreation values, subsistence resources within the forest.
“Roadless areas on the Tongass are some of the best and most valuable lands on the forest. Many of the most important salmon streams are in roadless areas. Increasingly scarce winter deer range and prime bear habitat is often found in low elevation roadless areas,” the groups, which also include Alaska-based businesses Coastal Alaska Adventures, Glacier Guides, UnCruise Adventures, Bear Creek Outfitters, and others wrote. “Roadless areas offer the right combination of beautiful scenery, wild landscapes, fish and wildlife, and access that our growing tourism and recreation industry demands.”
The public has through today to submit a public comment. According to the executives signed onto the letter, an American paradise hangs in the balance.
In addition to affected businesses, numerous tribes and communities in southeast Alaska have passed resolutions or spoken out in favor of protecting roadless areas on the Tongass. Public comment at meetings hosted by the Forest Service in Alaska and Washintgon, D.C. overwhelmingly favored retaining the Roadless Rule. In some communities, 100 percent of the public comment supports protecting roadless areas and the majority of public comments to the Forest Service during the scoping period opposed changing the 2001 Roadless Rule for Alaska.