Climate change is a central thread running through all of our Alaska-based campaigns. As "ground zero" for climate change in America, Alaska is seeing the most extreme consequences first. From cedar decline in the Tongass, to melting icefields on the Lost Coast, to changing fisheries on the Chugach, things are happening fast. But because ecosystems here are generally intact, Cascadia’s northern reaches also boast some of our greatest opportunities to combat warming and manage landscapes and wildlife for resilience.
Climate Change is having profound effects on our marine environment, which are only beginning to be understood. Alaska’s king salmon are in crisis, with disastrously low returns to pristine river habitats, even while king salmon returns on the highly degraded lower 48 rivers like the Columbia and Klamath have been good.
Diverse, robust runs of salmon are Cascadia’s heritage — one we mean to pass on to future generations. Cascadia advocates for strong, science-based ecological management and research to address the king salmon crisis. Now is the time to ask the hard questions. We are fighting off short-sighted engineering-based bandaids, such as the pending proposal to permit genetically modified farmed salmon (which grow twice as fast and don’t need habitat) and advocating proactively for ecosystem conservation on public lands like the Chugach National Forest.
While we fight to end the age of coal and oil, so much damage has already been done that our global warming strategy also encompasses ecosystem resilience. The current Chugach National Forest Plan Revision is a prime opportunity to showcase how this works. As glaciers melt back, giving birth to new land, infant landscapes must be preserved for study and protected from harm. As wildlife face new challenges and shifting habitats, migration corridors need to be protected. While Wilderness preservation plays a critical role, much more land needs to be permanently protected, so we are advocating for a Wild Salmon Reserve prescription on the Copper River Delta. This practical, home-grown prescription would put the ecological integrity as the highest priority, while also recognizing human participation is part of the ecosystem.
(Glaciers and snowfields outside of Cordova, Alaska. Photo by Brett Cole.)