Yesterday we released a letter with thousands of signatures of businesses and individuals who support conserving and maintaining access to public lands - especially the Tongass National Forest. These signers are asking our elected officials to continue to keep public lands in the public trust.
So what's the big deal - why Public?
We hear it again, and again, Alaska is different. One of the things that sets us far apart from any other state in the U.S. is our public lands. Of the 424.5 million square miles in Alaska, 224.1 million square miles are in the public trust.
This means that 53% of the land in Alaska is managed for multiple-use purposes. It belongs to all citizens and is managed so that we can all utilize the land - this is the mandate of the public trust. Once public lands are transferred or sold, there is no longer an obligation to manage and conserve the land in a way that prioritizes multiple-use.
Over half of Alaska land belongs to everyone.
Anyone who has spent any time in The Tongass National Forest knows what a treasure our public lands are. Public lands in Alaska support our bountiful commercial, sport and subsistence fisheries, the tourism and recreation industry, outdoor retailers and manufacturers and outfitters and guides, which in turn create thousands of jobs and bring billions to the economy.
But more than that, they support our way of life. If you live here, we bet you hunt, fish, forage, kayak, hike, ski, and adventure on public lands.
We're spending the next month celebrating the Tongass and Alaska's public lands. Join us! We'll be featuring stories and photographs for the next several weeks and we want to hear from you.
June 7, 2017
Contact: Mark Kaelke, Trout Unlimited, email@example.com, 907-321-4464
Alaskans who hunt and fish celebrate public lands in the Tongass National Forest
Thousands sign onto letter requesting public lands remain in the public trust
JUNEAU, AK – Today, thousands of business owners, guides, outfitters, hunters and anglers who support conserving and maintaining access to public lands released a letter urging Alaska’s congressional representatives and the Trump Administration to keep public lands in the public trust while celebrating the many uses of the Tongass National Forest.
The letter states: “As individuals that depend on access to abundant natural resources, we believe the Tongass National Forest must continue to be managed by the U.S. Forest Service on a multiple-use basis. We stand together in opposition to any effort to transfer management or ownership of Federal public lands in Southeast Alaska to State or private entities [and] any proposals that threaten to unreasonably restrict public access or would harm fish and game populations by eliminating essential federal conservation designations and measures, such as the Tongass 77.”
At its core, the letter expresses concern that transferring public lands into private hands will harm the resource-based economy and culture of Southeast Alaska. However, many signers participated as a celebration of their support for the numerous uses and benefits of the Tongass National Forest.
“The Tongass is open to all of us to use and enjoy. Visitors have once-in-a-lifetime experiences here, locals fill their freezers with game and fish from the Tongass, and business owners rely on the land and water for their livelihoods,” said Dan Blanchard, Captain and CEO of Uncruise Adventures. “We’re not only opposed to privatization of the public places we love, we’re also signing in celebration of all the Tongass gives us. We want the Tongass to be around forever.”
The letter highlights that public lands drive the private-sector economy of Southeast Alaska, by creating more than $2 billion in economic contribution and 25% of all jobs in the region annually.
Trout Unlimited is the nation’s oldest and largest coldwater fisheries conservation organization. In Alaska, we work with sportsmen and women to ensure the state’s trout and salmon resources remain healthy through our local chapters and offices in Anchorage and Juneau. Follow TU on Facebook or visit us online at tu.org and americansalmonforest.org.
Anyone who understands the value of public lands to hunters, anglers and other outdoor recreationists, and the fundamental role public lands play in many of our lives has cause for concern. Today we're writing to highlight just one of the threats to our public lands.
Introducing the State National Forest Management Act of 2017 (H.R. 232):
This ill-conceived proposal would allow individual states to receive up to 2 million acres of federal land. In Alaska, this means that 2 million acres of the most productive and important areas of the Tongass would transfer to the State of Alaska for intense timber and mining development. With this change in ownership, fish and wildlife would take a backseat so the state could exploit the land free from important federal fish and wildlife protections or sell it off to private owners. The conservation measures and protections we have worked on together for fish and wildlife habitat—such as the requirement for 100-foot stream buffers, environmental review and public notice—would no longer apply, and future public access would not be guaranteed.
The lands open for transfer under the proposal could come from congressionally-designated wild lands, Roadless Areas, or nearly any other area outside of Wilderness, National Monuments, or National Park System lands. As if this weren't egregious enough, under the bill there would be no opportunity for comprehensive environmental review, and the public would NOT be allowed to participate or have a say in the selection and transfer process.
To address this and other such attacks, we are collecting signatures from anyone who values conservation of, and continued access to, our valuable public lands in the Tongass National Forest. We delivered the first batch of signatures to our Alaska Senators and Congressman in February, and will continue to do so throughout the spring and summer. If you'd like to review our list or add your name, you may do so here.
If you think HR 232 sounds like a very, very bad idea please click here to add your name to our sign-on letter:
Among the areas targeted for transfer are some of the most productive and important salmon and steelhead streams in Southeast Alaska—including the Situk River and large chunks of Prince of Wales Island. These areas would be handed over to the state to be logged or further sold off to private interests with no guarantee for future public access or important federal protections for fish and wildlife. (See map below)
Please add your name to our Public Lands Sign-On Letter in support of conserving our public lands and the fish and wildlife resources they support.
Efforts underway in Congress to transfer or privatize our federal public lands are an all-out attack on our fish and wildlife heritage and hit especially hard on our nation's largest and greatest national forest, the Tongass. Southeast Alaska's Tongass National Forest is one of the last remaining temperate rainforests in the world where ancient Sitka spruce and cedar forests are home to abundant runs of all five species of North American Pacific salmon, steelhead, cutthroat trout, Dolly Varden, and wildlife like grizzly and black bears, Sitka black-tailed deer, wolves, and bald eagles - just to name a few! If passed, this bill would carve off large swaths of the Tongass for special interests, block off public access and promote destructive and unsustainable logging that will cause untold harm to the region's important fish and wildlife resources. Fishing and tourism, which are Southeast Alaska's largest sources of private-sector employment and account for roughly 25% of regional employment, would be cast aside in favor of outdated logging practices that provide minimal employment while costing taxpayers many millions of dollars annually.
Today, more than ever, is the time to speak up and make sure your elected officials hear your voice.
Right now we have an important opportunity to support the public lands of the Tongass and the economic stimulus they provide. If you agree with the following statement, please add your name and/or business name to this form today.
We, the undersigned business owners, guides, outfitters, hunters and anglers, support conserving and maintaining access to our public lands and the fish and wildlife resources they support.
Public lands, and the Tongass National Forest in particular, drive the private-sector economy of Southeast Alaska. The Tongass’ abundant salmon runs, large deer and bear populations, and incredible scenery serve as the foundation for our commercial fishing, outfitter and guide, and tourism industries, which provide more than $2 billion in economic contribution and 25% of all jobs in the region annually.
As individuals that depend on access to abundant natural resources, we believe the Tongass National Forest must continue to be managed by the U.S. Forest Service on a multiple-use basis. We stand together in opposition to any effort to transfer management or ownership of Federal public lands in Southeast Alaska to State or private entities. We likewise oppose any proposals that threaten to unreasonably restrict public access or would harm fish and game populations by eliminating essential federal conservation designations and measures, such as the Tongass 77.
Thanks to Michael for submitting this letter to the editor of the Alaska Dispatch News!
Young's bill would jeopardize not only trees but Alaska businesses
In a move ignoring both the desires of most Southeast Alaskans and economic realities in the region, Congressman Don Young recently introduced a bill called the "State National Forest Management Act" (H.R. 232), which would allow up to 2 million acres of federal lands in any state to be transferred to state ownership. Although this would outwardly appear to stimulate local economies, a little analysis shows that the measure would benefit only a small segment of the many businesses that rely on public lands for their operations. Not only are the majestic trees of Southeast Alaska a key driver of the booming tourism economy but they are also critical to the health of wild salmon runs that support commercial fishing, sportfishing and tourism businesses, which together account for nearly 25 percent of employment in the region. Not to mention the potential impact on personal use and subsistence.
If passed, Rep. Young's measure would jeopardize all of this. Cutting down Tongass old growth and jeopardizing fish-based jobs and businesses in favor of the logging industry, which provides less than 1 percent of jobs here and has never produced economically viable timber without massive taxpayer subsidies, is simply bad policy and poor leadership. The benefits are greatly outweighed by the damage it would create.
Some 5,000 Alaskans recently weighed in to support conserving our fisheries and wild places during the Tongass Forest Plan Amendment. Many did so because they recognized a healthy, intact national forest is critical to sustaining the economy of Southeast Alaska. Congressman Young, please don't play politics with the main economic drivers of our region. It only takes one bad decision to mess it up — don't let it be yours.
— Michael Cole