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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:
Mark and Patte Rorick:

Additional Information and Resources about the Tongass

Kensington Mine Background
The Sierra Club, Lynn Canal Conservation, and the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council filed suit September 12, 2005 in U.S. District Court, Juneau, Alaska, against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for violating the Clean Water Act. The Groups are challenging the Corps of Engineers decision to issue a permit to Coeur d’Alene Mines of Idaho that would allow the deposit of 4.5 million tons of chemically processed mine waste into a freshwater alpine lake.

American Taxpayers are Paying to Clearcut the Tongass
Today, the U.S. Forest Service is continuing a pattern of waste, fraud and abuse in the Tongass. For over 50 years, private timber companies have targeted the biggest ancient trees in our country's largest National Forest. One of the most disturbing things about this history of clear-cutting and reckless destruction is that it has all been subsidized by American tax dollars.

Hallelujah the Tongass is in the Roadless Rule
The Tongass National Forest is once again protected under the "Roadless Rule." After a Bush administration deal, the Tongass was vulnerable to development and exploitation.

Juneau Group Comments: the Juneau Access Improvement Project’s ‘Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement’
On behalf of the Juneau Group of the Sierra Club and the Alaska Chapter of the Sierra Club, these are the scoping comments on the Juneau Access Improvement Project’s court mandated ‘Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement’. Because of the time between that issuing of the 2006 FEIS and now, many issues including ones not noted in the scoping request need an up-dated analysis.

Tongass Land Use Management Plan
On January 12, 2007 the U.S. Forest Service issued a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for a revised Tongass land use management plan (TLUMP). This proposed new management plan leaves the majority of roadless old growth forests open to commercial logging. It is time for a change, the new Plan must move away from the wasteful spending on a flawed logging program and move toward a program that promotes restoration and protects the remaining roadless areas.

Alaska Rainforest Conservation Act
Despite long-standing support for conserving key community use areas, the Tongass National Forest is under attack. There’s little choice but for Congress to safeguard Tongass lands for fishing, hunting, recreation, subsistence and other existing rainforest uses.


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