Roughly 1.2 million people visit the 17 million-acre Tongass National Forest each year, but few of them seem to know it. In their minds they are making stops at places like Juneau, Sitka, and Ketchikan on Alaska’s picturesque Marine Highway. They see bears, wolves, salmon, deer and eagles in what they perceive as a protected and preserved playground not knowing these habitats are at eminent risk
These tourists post millions of pictures of loved ones having the times of their lives. These pictures are tagged and enjoyed by millions more but the one tag that is missing is for the most important character in the picture: The Tongass National Forest—that place laced with thousands of rivers and streams that produce 25-30% of all salmon caught on the West Coast.
The Tongass’ size and anonymity often work against it because when the US Forest Service talks about timber sales they do not say we are about to clearcut a thousand acres in the view-shed of the Marine Highway or within shouting distance of migrating whales and orcas. They do not say that they are going to harvest timber on public lands smack in the heart of the most important salmon breeding grounds in North America. They say they want to harvest timber in the Tongass and no one raises an eyebrow because even though Teddy Roosevelt thought that the Tongass was important enough to make four executive orders from 1902-1907 to create this our largest federal forest—few in the US know it by name.
So we at Cascadia Wildlands want to work with our partners and through the medium of Facebook to get people to understand that the Tongass was where they cruised or spent their summer vacation. We want then to understand that the place that took their breath away and made them feel alive is at risk of being clearcut on a massive scale. Worse still the Forest Service is investing millions of tax payer dollars to enable these timber sales that create very few jobs while putting many others at risk. The Forest Service is spending these funds at a time when they claim they do not have enough money to close roads and do the restoration work needed to repair the damage from past timber cuts.
So when you post or see a picture or video that was taken in southeastern Alaska, please tag your friends, but also Tag the Tongass to raise awareness of the plight of this forest as well as the Alexander Archipelago wolves, the ABC bears Sitka blacktail deer and the five species of salmon that are all put at risk by clearcuts, timber roads and out-of-sight, out-of-mind logging operations. And please get active and informed about the Tongass and other forestry issues—these are your lands after all. Tag the Tongass.
(And read Gabe Scott's excellent blog on the Tongass below and sign/share the Tongass petition)