What happens to 18 million acres of prime temperate
rainforest in Southeast Alaska
when the United
government and the Alaskan
legislature starts pushing laws through that allow roads to be built along
prime Salmon habitat? And what happens when mining and logging are allowed to
run rampant in a beautiful forest that is the location of the highest density
of brown bears in North America
You guessed it, we get another horrible debacle that would
mirror if not exceed the damage that the Pebble Mine would. If we don’t work to
protect the Tongass this is what we will get in the future.
The Tongass is a rainforest filled with massive spruce,
hemlocks, Alaskan yellow cedar, and copious amounts of western red cedar. You
can walk through the Tongass and find more water than any man or woman would
know what to do with. With over 40,000 miles of streams and upwards of 20,000
lakes and ponds you could attempt to explore every possible inch of water and
would probably never see even half of the water that is available.
In North America
, our salmon
fisheries are dwindling at an alarming rate and the opportunities to explore
virtually untouched tracts of land are disappearing at the same terrifying
rate. But even as this is occurring, the Tongass is a ray of sunshine and hope.
With all five species of North American salmon located in an area the size of West
and also known healthy populations of trout.
In one recent report over 70% of all the wild salmon harvested from national
forests on the West coast came from the Tongass. That harvest creates over $1
billion in revenue for a region that uses the salmon as not just a regional
food source and export but also for sport and tourism. It also provides
approximately 7300 jobs directly or indirectly through the fishing industry and
its related branches.
Common threats that are found in unprotected areas like the
Tongass include but are not limited to inappropriate logging regulations,
unregulated mining practices, and out of control damming projects that would
destroy wild habitat used by fish for spawning. And the state of Alaska
is doing their best to allow these things to happen to the Tongass even as you
Luckily, there are groups in Alaska
and outside of Alaska who are keeping
a keen eye on these potential threats. Those include Trout Unlimited and the
Tongass 77 who are fighting to create a wave of awareness for the potential
destruction of an irreplaceable piece of forest that belongs to us all. Trout
Unlimited has commissioned a study proving that the Tongass is one of those
places that needs to be kept the way it is and not desecrated by the “big guys”.
It also proved how important the area is to the residents to keep their economy
pumping along. If the Tongass 77 succeeds over 1.8 million acres of watershed acreage
will be protected for you and I. And if that happens, I will be making the ultimate
pilgrimage to the Tongass for some unprecedented Tenkara angling.
In one survey, 96% of those asked in 2011 said that salmon
were essential to their way of life. I don’t know about you, but that speaks
pretty loudly to me about why this area needs to be protected.
In a time in history when we have let our environment fall
by the proverbial wayside and in a time when our connection with the outdoors
has dwindled to almost nothing the Tongass is that spot that can return us to
what we should fight to keep. I might
not be Alaskan but I am a Tenkara angler from Colorado
who would love to wet a line in a piece of water that I have never seen and
that is so special to the citizens of a state as great as Alaska.
I hope that we can all band together and show the powers that
be that the people will not stand for our wilds to be destroyed simply for the
love of money. I won’t plant my butt on a bench and watch from the sidelines
and I pray that you will join me and do the same thing.
The above is my entry into the TU Tongass Blogger Tour 2013 Essay Contest. I hope you like it.
Labels: Salmon. Tongass 77, Southeast Alaska, Tongass Rainforest