Tongass National Forest, sometimes referred to as America’s Salmon Forest, is 17 million acres of relatively pristine habitat for fish and wildlife, extending from Yakutat in the north to the Canadian border in the south—a distance of over 500 miles. The forest represents diverse habitats including coastal streams and rivers, glacial fjords, and extensive old-growth forest.
The Tongass National Forest is also known for the wildlife that exists within it. There are wild populations of all five species of Pacific salmon native to North America, as well as Dolly Varden char, cutthroat trout, rainbow trout and its anadromous form, steelhead. Many of the cutthroat trout and Dolly Varden char populations are anadromous as well. Along with the fish, blacktail deer, moose, wolves, brown bears, black bears, sooty grouse, bald eagles, humpback whales, killer whales and more call the forest home.
The fishing and tourism industries are very important to southeast Alaska, and the Tongass is at the heart of it all. Trout Unlimited is working to preserve the national forest for generations to come.
There will be challenges. Timber industries are eyeballing all that old-growth forest in the Tongass National Forest and they see dollar signs. Logging, and the habitat degradation it produces in anadromous fish streams, are a serious concern. There has never been an instance where logging actually improved the habitat in an anadromous fish stream. Old-growth forests are generally very good for anadromous streams but logged-off old-growth forests are not.
Mining is a serious threat to the Tongass National Forest streams, too, particularly the “trans-boundary” rivers with mines at their headwaters in Canada, but that flow to the ocean in Alaska. The concern is that with little regulatory effort in Canada, the streams (which flow into Alaska) will suffer the effects of toxicity mining always produces, and the salmon and other fish populations downstream of the mining activity will be harmed.
Learn more about Southeast, the Tongass National Forest and Trout Unlimited’s efforts to preserve the Tongass by visiting AmericanSalmonForest.org. To get on the TU email list, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
To learn about other important work Trout Unlimited Alaska has focus on, watch the Pebble Mine and Eklutna Restoration updates in seminars.