The Tongass  

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

Stepping  into Alaska’s coastal rainforest is like walking into a cathedral.  Two-hundred-foot spruce and cedar trees soar overhead.  Sunlight filters gently through the canopy to the forest floor.  Amid the lush shrubs and ferns and damp mossy remnants of fallen trees, you might see deer browsing or a grizzly bear ambling its way to the nearest salmon stream, in search of its next meal.

You’re in the Tongass National Forest, home of the largest remaining stands of coastal temperate rainforest in the world. A region inhabited and used for thousands of years by the Native people of this region. Timber corporations have logged almost a 1,000,000 acres of these ecologically rich forests in Southeast Alaska–and less than half of the biggest and best old-growth trees are left.

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 Way Forward

Is there a way to permanently protect critical fish and wildlife habitat and to maintain a unique way of life in this treasured old-growth forest, while supporting resilient local economies and respecting the values and legitimate claims of the region’s Native people?

Alaska Conservation Foundation (ACF) believes there is–by focusing on restoring past damage inflicted by logging and by supporting a rapid transition to second-growth timber supplies, rather than slashing down more ancient, irreplaceable old-growth forest.

Through our Tongass protection program, we are pursuing this vision.  ACF helps to coordinate the work of local conservation groups that are trying to chart a new way forward for the Tongass, while raising awareness of Tongass issues in the media and with national hunting and fishing groups.  ACF also makes strategic grants to support our local partners, including the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, the Sitka Conservation Society and Lynn Canal Conservation.

Together, ACF and our local partners are reaching out to other regional stakeholders, through the Tongass Futures Roundtable and other venues. Working with timber mill owners, fishermen, local officials, Alaska Natives and local businesses, they are searching for common ground on new strategies that promote a healthier forest and a healthier regional economy.

You Can Help!

ACF plays a key coordination role in the Tongass protection effort to find solutions to the current land use conflicts in the Tongass National Forest.

By donating to ACF, you help protect the majestic old-growth rainforest in the Tongass National Forest and support the innovative solutions being explored by ACF and our grantees.

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