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.
Atop the list of exciting projects in store for Alaska are trail, cabin and campground projects. These recreation infrastructure projects are all desperately needed on the Tongass. A sample of what’s included for National Forests in Alaska include: Yakutat Cabin Maintenance, Juneau Ranger District Strike Team, Pack Creek Trail Reconstruction and Thayer Lake Shelter Repairs, and the El Cap Recreation Area improvements.
For Southeast Alaskans, marine access and transportation for guiding, fishing, hunting, subsistence, and getting to and from other communities is essential. GAOA funding will be used to address deferred maintenance issues on multiple docks and marine facilities, gangways, pads and piers throughout the Southeast Alaska region.
As you know, an alarmingly large number of the culverts and bridges on the Tongass fail to meet applicable standards for fish passage. More than 30% of all instances where forest roads cross fish streams on the Tongass—1,120 instances in total--fail to meet applicable standards for fish migration and disturb fish access to nearly 250 miles of salmon and trout streams! Poorly maintained or degraded forest roads make travel difficult or dangerous, increase erosion and degrade nearby streams, block fish passage and migration, and are expensive to maintain. This is one of the main reasons we are excited about road improvements being added to the priority with new GAOA funding.
It’s no surprise that outdoor recreation and recreation access is on the rise and continues to be one of the most important public services provided by the Forest Service. We are excited about the variety of maintenance and infrastructure projects that are planned for the Tongass.
Clear cut logging the Tongass’ old-growth trees affects fish, wildlife and the landscape on many levels, and that is why the Roadless Rule should stay in place on the Tongass.
In less than 10 days the U.S. Forest Service could release its final decision and fully repeal the Roadless Rule on the Tongass National Forest. Speak up today and tell federal decision makers that you want the Roadless Rule intact on the Tongass.
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.