by Austin Williams, Trout Unlimited Alaska's Director of Law and Policy
My introduction to the Tongass was as a Forest Service employee on Prince of Wales Island—where industrial logging’s heyday was its most intense and most severe. I’ve slogged through more than my fair share of clear cuts—where logging stretched onto such steep slopes it caused landslides that caved into and smothered salmon spawning streams, where roads were constructed and maintained so haphazardly they diverted entire streams out of their natural channel, and where once-cut landscapes grew back with stunted trees so dense the forest was entirely uninhabitable for wildlife like deer. One memorable logging road I surveyed was so derelict it failed to have a single functioning culvert despite crossing numerous salmon streams.
More than 96% of public comments on this proposed decision favored keeping the roadless rule in place. See Page 2. In some Alaska communities, every single comment submitted to the Forest Service wanted roadless areas protected. Tribes, small business owners, hunters and anglers, subsistence users, scientists, and people from all walks of life spoke up in favor of fish, wildlife, beautiful scenery, and for putting an end to unsustainable clear-cut logging of our best remaining old-growth forest.
Recognizing how unpopular clear-cut logging of old-growth forest has become, some individuals have taken to claiming this decision isn’t about logging at all. Don’t buy what they’re selling.
Video by Rafe Hanson
The Tongass National Forest is the largest national forest in the United States. Throughout the Tongass, there is one major theme: salmon.
From driving the jobs and industry in Southeast Alaska, to providing recreation opportunities for communities and travelers. The Tongass is America’s Salmon Forest. The watersheds that make up the Tongass are wild and their habitats are extremely valuable for these reasons. In order for them to continue to provide for the people of Alaska and its visitors, we need to conserve them for generations to come.
In collaboration with Sitka-based artist, Rafe Hanson, this video offers a glimpse of the beauty and wildness that is America’s Salmon Forest.
We can all agree that the Tongass National Forest is America's Salmon Forest.
Today, our friends at Sitka Conservation Society released "The Salmon Forest," a beautiful video celebrating one of the few places in the world where wild salmon and trout still thrive.
When you're done watching the video, sign your name to help conserve our Salmon Forest.
Trout Unlimited’s Alaska Team welcomed Kayla Roys to work on our Tongass National Forest and transboundary campaigns. Since you may be hearing from her, we asked Kayla to introduce herself. Join us in welcoming Kayla!
Hey all! My name is Kayla Roys, and I joined the Trout Unlimited team in March of this year. I grew up in a rather fishy family and was lucky enough to spend most of my childhood outdoors experiencing all that the Tongass National Forest has to offer. From flying out to remote lakes, to summiting mountains in my backyard, I am a southeast girl through and through.
Southeast Alaska is made up of beautiful landscapes that draw in new comers. From mountain streams to saltwater flats, the fishing that Southeast provides is dynamic, within 15 minutes from our front doors, and always better than a day spent at home. We will deal with the heavy rain of fall and the abuse of winter for the long days of summer spent enjoying the outdoors.
Growing up in the Tongass, I found that people connect with one another in a different way than that of a big city; we connect outdoors. In the spring, we emerge from our winter hibernation, and flock together, connections forged by going on hiking, biking, camping and fishing trips. The shared passion of what we do for ourselves and connects us to one another and our environment more than our day jobs ever will.
That being said, I learned at a young age how important the lush forests, wild salmon runs, and clean water are to the Southeast Alaska region and its communities. For me, the importance of a healthy forest is through recreation. I spend my summers connecting with my friends and family on the water. From chasing the illusive southeast Alaska unicorn steelhead in small creeks, to bombing casts in the estuaries to king and silver salmon with my dad. The best memories I have are of dodging between log jams, tromping through muskegs, listening to fly line peel off my reel, and the smell of a campfire on my clothing. For others, the importance of a healthy forest is for harvesting seafood for their families, commercial fishing, guiding tourists, or the many other jobs that depend on the Tongass remaining healthy and wild.
This love for salmon and the outdoors is what drives my work for America’s Salmon Forest. Some of the oldest trees and the largest salmon runs in North America come from the Tongass. It is unthinkable to me that massive open-pit mines are under development in the headwaters of Southeast Alaska’s most important salmon rivers. Or that the Tongass could be open to commercial logging, which could impact recreation, hunting, and fishing, and our entire economy. Now is the time to do everything we can to defend our salmon rivers and forests for sustainable jobs for our region, and future generations to enjoy, just the way I have.
I am looking forward to working with you on behalf of the place we all love and many of us call home. Give me a call or send me an email any time with ideas for this work - or just to say hi.
Spring is coming early in Alaska this year. The sun is out (most days), the snow is quickly melting, and our nearby streams are starting to gain flow. Before long, the first salmon will arrive and the annual summer frenzy will be at full steam. For those hearty enough that know where to go, some streams already hold early season steelhead.
It’s easy to become complacent and take for granted these seasonal and annual cycles, but doing so is a trap that we must always guard against. As declining salmon populations across too much of their historic range demonstrate, nothing is guaranteed.
One of the more rewarding aspects of working for TU is getting to know and work with our dedicated network of members and business supporters. There is no more passionate or selfless group out there, which is one of the keys to our many successes over the years. Sure, at some basic level we all just love fishing. But, what sets TU members apart is that we also understand that our relationship with the land, waters and fish we hold so dear imparts an obligation that we give back and take care of the resource.
In recognition of this obligation to give back, one of our long-time partners in Southeast Alaska, Custom Alaska Cruises, is donating 10 percent of its booking through May 1, 2019, to TU in support of our work in Southeast Alaska’s Tongass National Forest. If you’ve ever dreamed of plying the inside passage and its many fjords, glaciers, forests and streams, this is a unique opportunity to do so aboard one of Custom Alaska Cruises’ luxury vessels while ensuring a portion of the costs directly support some of the best remaining salmon and steelhead runs in the world.
The Tongass National Forest holds more than 5,000 individual salmon streams, hundreds of healthy wild steelhead runs, and abundant Dolly Varden and coastal cutthroat trout populations. Black and brown bear, Sitka black-tailed deer and bald eagles are among the more common species that call the vast tracts of wild lands within the Tongass home.
For more information and to book your trip to the Tongass with Custom Alaska Cruises, you can contact Chelsea McCarthy by email at AlaskaCruises@gmail.com or by phone at (970)217-6359. For more information on our work in the Tongass check out http://www.americansalmonforest.org.