The Tongass  

The Tongass National Forest–the world’s largest remaining old-growth coastal temperate rainforest–is at risk from clearcutting and privatization

The Tongass is our nation’s largest National Forest—the Crown Jewel. An increasingly rare global treasure, it contains the largest intact stands of coastal temperate rainforest left on the planet. It is a land where the forest meets the sea and as such, it supports some of the largest wild salmon populations left anywhere in the world. These salmon have provided for the Native people of the region for thousands of years. They support healthy populations of brown bears, wolves and bald eagles as well as a vibrant local fishing tradition. Not to mention…keeping the Tongass intact is critically important to helping mitigate climate change.

Hundreds of thousands of tourists visit the Tongass each summer in the hopes of experiencing its magnificence: two-hundred-foot-tall spruce and 500-year-old cedar trees soaring overhead. Amid the lush ferns and mossy remnants of fallen trees, one might see a brown bear ambling its way to a salmon stream, in search of its next meal. There is simply no place else like it.

The Threat: Clearcutting, Privatization

Tongass Solitude ©Erin McKittrick

The U.S. Forest Service continues to offer large tracts of this old-growth forest for intensive logging. Private interests, having already logged their own portion of this ancient forest, constantly lobby Congress to put more of the Tongass in private hands. Yet further clearcutting will come at the expense of those who rely on the intact forest to support the region’s healthy fishing and tourism industries.

Meanwhile, large areas that were clearcut are slowly growing back into dense thickets of young trees that are nearly impenetrable to wildlife. Old logging roads fall into disrepair, filling salmon streams with erosion and blocking the way for fish.

A New Way Forward

Despite nearly 60 years of unsustainable logging, the Tongass still contains an incredible wealth of intact watersheds and thriving fish and wildlife populations. But Alaska Conservation Foundation (ACF) believes it will only remain this way if we continue to support both the advocacy efforts of our partners who are vigilant to immediate threats, alongside long-term, big picture, proactive approaches where communities and a healthy environment co-exist. 

This is why ACF is proud to be the primary funder of an innovative new network that started a few years ago—the Sustainable Southeast Partnership (SSP). The SSP is building trust and finding common ground among unlikely allies to achieve cultural, ecological and economic prosperity for the region. ACF’s long-time partners Sitka Conservation Society (SCS), Renewable Energy Alaska Project and The Nature Conservancy are now working together in meaningful ways with Alaska Native corporations, regional economic development organizations and local municipalities that have historically been focused more heavily on resource extraction. 

This unique partnership is helping lead the way to Alaska’s future by figuring out how conserving and protecting the natural environment happens alongside community development and healthy local economies. We believe this innovative and balanced approach represents the next phase of the environmental movement and may eventually be replicated across the globe in communities facing similar challenges.

You Can Help!

By donating to ACF, you help protect the majestic old-growth rainforest in the Tongass National Forest and advance enduring opportunities for economic and cultural vitality in Southeast Alaska. 

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