The incredible fishing opportunity in Southeast Alaska’s Tongass National Forest has survived despite years of timber wars across the region. Logging the impressive old growth trees of the Tongass poses direct threats to wild salmon and steelhead by increasing the amount of sediment in streams, raising water temperatures and removing key spawning habitat.
However, with a recent amendment to the Tongass Land Management Plan (TLMP), many Southeast Alaskans formed a shared vision for the Tongass, seeking to enter a new chapter of sustainable young-growth timber harvest that served tourism, fishing and timber industries alike.
Finally, it felt like Southeast Alaskans could move forward together… or so we had thought.
This fall, Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) has taken action to roll back this sustainable and widely-supported new amendment, threatening Southeast Alaska’s wild salmon and steelhead once again.
In doing so, the Senator would turn her back on the progress made through a comprehensive, fair, and public process in order to please one small constituency: the old-growth timber industry.
The TLMP amendment received 272,669 comments over two years. More than 7,200 Alaskans voiced support for protecting high-value fish and wildlife habitat as part of the TLMP amendment.
The amended TLMP sets the stage for sustainable young-growth harvest through a gradual shift over 15 years from unsustainable old-growth logging. This shift will take advantage of existing roads, which avoids the need for expensive new road construction and the resulting damage to valuable fish and wildlife habitat.
Commercial, sport and subsistence fishing accounts for more than 10% of regional employment. Recreation and tourism accounts for more than 14% of regional employment. The lands and streams put off-limits for old-growth logging in the amended plan directly support these industries by protecting some of the most high-value fish and wildlife watersheds in the Tongass.
The Amended Tongass Land Management Plan was built to benefit all Southeast Alaskans for generations to come: culturally, commercially and recreationally.
The TLMP amendment was based on the unanimously-adopted recommendations of the Tongass Advisory Committee (TAC). At the TAC table were members of the logging industry, the State of Alaska, Alaska Native tribes and corporations, municipal leaders, and conservation organizations. Their directive? To work together to move the Tongass National Forest away from the old-growth timber harvest wars of the past, and build a roadmap for sustainable harvest of young-growth timber. Through years of dialogue, science and compromise, that is exactly what they accomplished.