The Tongass National Forest in Southeast Alaska is a 17 million acre temperate rainforest. It is home to many species of endangered and rare flora and fauna. This unique rainforest encompasses islands of the Alexander Archipelago, including fjords, glaciers, coastal mountains and the inactive volcano Mount Edgecumbe.
But like most of you, we worry about the fish and this region of Alaska holds all five species of salmon, steelhead, rainbow trout, cutthroat trout and dolly varden. As of right now, the majority of the ecosystems that encompass this National Forest are intact, but with increased logging and development and with that the privatization of large areas of the Tongass for resource extraction, including hydroelectric dam proposals and mining activity, there runs a risk that this strong, yet fragile ecosystem can fall without the protection of the public. The public being you and generations that come after us.
With budget cuts and funding for restoration and habitat management being taken away in the recession, the threats on the Tongass is even more dangerous then before. Looking back of the decline of salmon runs and habitat destruction throughout the Pacific Northwest and California, we now face a serious issue of preventing what our culture has allowed to occur due to development and improper planning. Without the voice of the public, government agencies and lawmakers cannot act to protect the Tongass from those who choose to exploit it. By making a unified voice on the matter government agencies, lawmakers can act using the voice of the people to help defend this amazing ecosystem and make fish habitat conservation and restoration a high priority. Unlike trying to save the scraps from our developed ecosystems in the Pacific Northwest, we can prevent this decline in the Tongass by ensuring the proper management of our resources and make sure that we have salmon and trout swimming in clear clean water for our future generations to see and enjoy.
I for one hope I get to share this important lesson to my family and get to watch black bears once again eat salmon from a free flowing stream and try to explain to them the important balance that these salmon have on not only humans that seek to catch them, but also the forest and fauna around them.
Today many groups including the Alaska offices of the Audubon Society, Nature Conservancy and Trout Unlimited have come together to identify key watersheds that are the best for salmon and trout habitat from the hundreds of Tongass watersheds. From that they have listed 77 that are key to the survival for this region. These 77 that encompass more then 1.8 acres of land are currently open for development and logging. These ecosystems need out protection.
As of right now these ecosystems are at risk without federal protection and only encompass 11 percent of the Tongass. It is time to protect this region and at the very least the 77 ecosystems at a Congressional level to ensure the protection of this rich resource. Please take a moment to check out The Tongass: America’s Salmon Forest and help save the 77 watersheds that need our support.