Tongass National Forest Strives to Save the Salmon & Trout
by ZZ Troutski
It seems fitting during these increasingly hot temperatures to change our focus from the land to the water.
More and more information is coming out about how to best create and maintain a healthy watershed in communities. Not to mention, the ways people can help when it comes to saving the rivers, streams and wetlands. When it comes to saving specific creatures in order to make sure that the surrounding water stays healthy and balanced, it is the Alaska Wild Salmon and Trout that have been found to be in dire need. They are literally a great resource that’s dwindling far too fast.
The location is Alaska’s Tongass National Forest, and the battle is on. Calling on Congress for immediate protection, a group of over 200 scientists went in front of our governmental system to convince them to enact far stronger protections for wild salmon in the National Forest. Called the Tongass 77, this is a proposal that will permanently conserve the most productive (currently unprotected watersheds), for salmon and trout.
Tongass actually is home to about 70 percent of all wild salmon that are harvested from national forests across the United States. Tongass also serves as being the provider of approximately 28 percent of Alaska’s overall salmon catch. Because of the watersheds and the extreme difficulties that this area is experiencing, however, Tongass must seek protection in order to sustain the world-class fishery industry.
This is not another watershed ‘issue.’ This is a monolithic enterprise, seeing as that the Tongass 77 watersheds are the backbone of a global rainforest-fishery that many rural economies depend on for their livelihoods.
It was Audubon Alaska pairing up with The Nature Conservancy that proved the Tongass 77 watersheds are the highest-quality habitat for salmon, trout and other wildlife. This is a good thing, of course, but they are also lacking permanent protection.
There are a slew of projects that are and will be taking over a vast amount of acreage in the Tongass National Forest. There is a huge push to privatize large sections of the land by the timber and mining industry. The addition of roads, and over forty proposed projects that have to deal with maiming the National Forest for energy projects are also in the works. It has been shown by all involved, including local fisheries, that combining these private initiatives has the frightening potential to negatively impact the spawning and rearing habitat of salmon and trout for life – as well as other species that are dependent on old-growth forest.
If enacted, the almost two million acres of public lands – from ridge top to shoreline – will fall into a habitat conservation designation that is completely unique to the Alaska Forest. To better explain; there are currently twelve Land Use Designation II (LUD II) areas in the Tongass. Commercial timber harvest is not permitted in LUD II areas, but they are open for traditional gathering, fishing, hunting, recreational use and minor hydropower generation projects. These areas will be managed for the long-term; creating a healthy future that will provide sustainable production of fish and wildlife.
This is a multi-billion dollar industry that these groups are trying to protect. Approximately 50 million wild salmon are harvested from the Tongass every year. They are THE species in Southeast Alaska, and without their presence because of human building and commercial enterprise, the productivity and diversity of a truly rich coastal rainforest ecosystem will be destroyed.
The scientific study showed that populations of certain species are now rare or on a fast decline. These species include: Pacific salmon and steelhead trout species. But it’s not only the fish that are seeing pain in numbers. Along with the trout and salmon, brown (grizzly) bears, wolves, marten, bald eagles, marbled murrelets, and northern goshawks – although still abundant – face major threats from climate change and ongoing habitat loss from all these new commercial developments.
If Congress does the right thing, the industry thrives, the habitat thrives, the ecological balance thrives – you know the drill. When it comes to Tongass 77, it is most definitely a battle that must be won.
Source: Baret News Wire