The Tongass-Environmentally Rich The Tongass National Forest Alaska is not only the largest national forest in the US but also the world’s largest old-growth temperate rainforest that is remaining. There are a number of features that are specific to it which makes it unique; it is a coastal temperate rainforest meaning the forest is located where the land and the sea meet. As such, the forest supports one of the largest salmon populations in the world. The salmons have provided for the local’s livelihood for many years. Other than the salmon, the forest is also dense with a canopy which provides a habitat for a variety of animal species including wolves, brown bears, bald eagles among other species of birds.
Economically, Tongass National forest is known to attract hundreds of thousands of tourists every year. Most of them visit around the summer months in the hopes of seeing the famous spruces that are over two hundred and fifty feet tall or the 500-year-old cedars. For the lucky tourists, one may be privileged to see a brown bear lurking near a stream in hope of getting a salmon for its next meal. The lush ferns on fallen trees give the forest an ambiance of freshness and coolness that is hard to get anywhere else. This forest plays a critical role in maintaining eco-balance in the surrounding areas of its vast expanse.
Clear Cutting Threat
In recent years, the Forest overseeing board, the US Forest services, has continually offered up great tracts of the forest for intensive logging. Already, some proportions of the forest have already been privatized and logged and there is mounting pressure on the Congress to give up more of the forest to private hands. This will without a doubt deal a heavy blow to the tourism industry and the locals who rely on the forest’s healthy fishing industry.
On August 2, 2018, US forest service announced a signed agreement with the state of Alaska that would see the Roadless rule being lifted. This will pave way for road construction within the forest to allow for the extraction of Timber from old-growth logging. The Roadless rule had been instituted over two decades ago to protect fish and wildlife habitats on federal lands. it also protected the watering points of wildlife, recreational facilities and the business opportunities that arise from preserving these places. Lifting this rule will only result in environmental degradation and the destruction of ecosystems not to mention people’s livelihoods.
The Way Forward
Despite the glaring threats, Alaska conservation foundation still believes that there is hope for the forest if people support their efforts and those of the partners who are conscious of immediate and long-term threats to the forest. There is a need to have a bigger picture of the forest and to support the foundation’s proactive approaches that will see the communities and a healthy environment coexisting peacefully.
It is for this reason why the foundation is proud to be a primary funder of the Sustainable southeast partnership which builds trust and seeks to a common ground for cultural and environmental balance for economic prosperity for both the forest and the community. Their other partners in this noble quest include The Nature Conservancy, Renewable Energy Alaska Project, Southeast Alaska conservation council among others.
It is the hope of the foundation, their partners and other like-minded organizations that their efforts will not be in vain. If you wish to be part of these efforts, you can donate to the foundation to help protect the Tongass National Forest and, in extension, the economic vibrancy of Southeast Alaska.