Alaska Rainforest Conservation Act
The Case For Wilderness In Alaska's Second Largest National Forest
Alaska's Chugach National Forest – encompassing 5.5 million acres – was originally established for the conservation of fish and wildlife resources by Teddy Roosevelt over 100 years ago, and is the nation’s second largest national forest. The Chugach is one of world's last remaining intact temperate rainforests with healthy salmon populations and abundant wildlife. Although 98% of the Chugach is classified as roadless and qualifies for Wilderness designation, there is no designated Wilderness on the forest. Comprised of Alaska's Kenai Peninsula, Prince William Sound, and the Copper River Delta, the issues and threats facing these three regions vary and demand wilderness protection. Wilderness areas across the Chugach will guarantee hunting, fishing, wildlife viewing and recreation needs of local residents and visitors while ensuring conservation of the forest’s outstanding fish and wildlife resources.
Copper River Delta: Preserve pristine fisheries, wildlife and cultural heritage
The Copper River Delta lies just east of Prince William Sound, and at 700,000 acres is the largest wetlands complex on the Pacific coast of North America. Biologists describe the Delta as one of the most important shorebird habitats in the Western Hemisphere, supporting over 16 million shorebirds and other waterfowl. The Delta also sustains one of the most prized salmon runs in the world. The Delta has been designated a Western Hemishpere Shorebird Reserve Site and a State Critical Wildlife Habitat area. Unfortunately roadbuilding, logging, oil and gas development and coal-mining proposals threaten this unique ecosystem.
Prince William Sound: Maintain fishing and wildlife for future generations
The 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster spilled over 11 million gallons of crude oil into Prince William Sound, fouling beaches and damaging fish and wildlife populations. The Sound is still recovering and requires habitat protection. Only two of twenty-five federally monitored species are considered recovered -- the bald eagle and the river otter. Several species are not recovering at all, including killer whales, harbor seals, common loons, among others, while numerous others are making only slow recovery toward pre-spill populations. Still, Prince William Sound is spectacularly beautiful, with mountains cloaked by rainforest surrounding fiords where glaciers plunge to the sea. Visitation to the Sound is projected to increase fifteen-fold over the coming years and has already increased 250% after the completion of the new Whittier road. This rapid increase in tourism and recreation in combination with oil transportation and other activities in the Sound increase the risks to fish, wildlife, and wilderness values of this delicate and already damaged region of the Chugach National Forest.
Kenai Peninsula: Protect fish and wildlife and provide recreation for Alaskans and visitors
People from all over the world flock to the Kenai Peninsula for sport and commercial fishing, hunting, outdoor recreation and other activities. Overall, the Kenai Peninsula has experienced rapid growth and development, including logging, mining, oil and gas development, tourism and subdivisions. This development has fragmented fish and wildlife habitat and placed some populations like the Kenai brown bear at risk. The Chugach National Forest serves as an important refugia for some species like brown bears and wolves.