The 17-million-acre Tongass National Forest in Southeast Alaska is a vast, wild landscape pulsing with some of the world’s most productive freshwater systems for salmon and trout. Everything here revolves around fish, whether it’s for income, recreation or simply putting food on the table.Last summer, commercial fishermen enjoyed a record salmon harvest from Tongass waters – a catch valued in excess of $200 million. The salmon and trout fishing industry is a billion-dollar business that employs one in 10 residents. For a far-flung region with few roads and an array of economic challenges, fishing is huge.
Although it’s a fishing Mecca, Southeast Alaska still needs help so that it can continue to have healthy wild salmon well into the future. The biggest land manager in the region – the Forest Service — estimates it needs $100 million to fix watersheds that were damaged by past timber harvest and associated roads. That’s because nearly 40 percent of all salmon-producing watersheds on the Tongass have been touched by past logging. Over 5,000 miles of logging roads have been built here and many of the culverts do not pass fish.
In an opinion piece published in the Juneau Empire today, TU’s Southeast Alaska Project Director, Mark Kaelke, makes the case for why restoration on the Tongass should be a priority for the Forest Service and why jobs and increased fish productivity can be expected to follow. Click here to read Mark’s op-ed.