Tongass National Forest
The Tongass - America's Largest National Forest
At nearly 17 million acres, an area the size of West Virginia, the Tongass National Forest is the largest reserve of coastal temperate rainforest in the world. Stretching for more than 500 miles along the southeast coast of Alaska, the Tongass covers an island landscape fragmented by narrow inletsand glacier-carved fjords.
Within the Tongass, ancient Western Hemlocks reach hundreds of feet into the air, protecting lush stands of cedar and Sitka Spruce slowly maturing in the dappled sunlight below the canopy. These ancient forests provide clean water and spawning grounds for five types of wild salmon, habitat for grizzlies, black bears, moose, as well as some of the highest concentrations of bald eagles in the country.
This magnificent national treasure was first set aside by President Teddy Roosevelt, in 1902 as a Forest Reserve. However, over time, commercial logging and road building has taken priority over all other forest uses. Since the 1950's nearly 70 percent of the ancient hemlock stands have been roaded and logged. The rampant destruction has come at a great ecological cost to the Tongass and at a great financial cost to American taxpayers.
While the Tongass has many spectacular wild places, it is also a forest where people and wilderness co-exist. The two dozen diverse communities within the Tongass rainforest range from Juneau, the state's capital with 29,000 residents, to small remote Native villages of less than a hundred residents.
Over 80 percent of the area's rural households, Native and non-Native, engage in some form of subsistence hunting, fishing, or food gathering in the Tongass.
The Tongass National Forest also supports 80 percent of Southeast Alaska's salmon fishing industry. Between 1984 and 1994 recreational use and tourism in the Tongass more than doubled. And it is expected to double again in the first decade of the 21st century.
Sierra Club Contact:
Additional Information and Resources about the Tongass
Kensington Mine Background
American Taxpayers are Paying to Clearcut the Tongass
Hallelujah the Tongass is in the Roadless Rule
Juneau Group Comments: the Juneau Access Improvement Projects Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement
Tongass Land Use Management Plan
Alaska Rainforest Conservation Act
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