The U.S. Forest Service this month finalized an amendment to its Tongass Land and Resource Management plan that will help conserve more than 70 salmon and trout streams within Southeast Alaska’s 17-million-acre Tongass National Forest. The decision helps safeguard fish thanks to provisions that transition the Tongass timber program from old-growth logging to one based on sustainable young-growth forest management while protecting healthy salmon streams at the same time.
In other words, biodiversity and ecological integrity win. And archaic extraction practices will, eventually, get the axe.
A diverse group of more than seven thousand Alaskan businesses and individuals, including commercial fishermen, guides and outfitters, as well as conservationists and sport anglers, voiced support for conserving top fish-producing watersheds within the Tongass during the public process leading up to the amendment.
“Including the Tongass 77 areas in the amended Forest Plan will help ensure that in the future we have viable freshwater streams that are crucial to our guests experience in the Tongass,” said Arne Johnson, owner of Bear Creek Outfitters in Juneau.
The Tongass is the nation’s largest National Forest, producing hundreds of millions of wild salmon each year that support commercial and sport fishing industries, account for 10 percent of all regional employment, and contribute $1 billion annually to the local economy.
“Conserving the Tongass 77 is a huge step in the right direction for the people and businesses of Southeast Alaska,” said Mark Hieronymus, Sportfish Outreach Coordinator for Trout Unlimited and veteran guide on the Tongass. “Fisheries, tourism, and recreation are the economic drivers in Southeast, and this new plan amendment recognizes those values and sets sound conservation measures for the high-value areas of the Tongass 77.”