Tongass National Forest
Photo: Chad Shmukler

Over the last few years, we’ve gone out of our way to introduce you to the Tongass National Forest, a rich, verdant rainforest that, due to its breadth, is essentially synonymous with ‘southeast Alaska’. We’ve told you about the Tongass 77, about chasing cutthroat near Petersburg, about plucking dolly varden from the waters near Wrangell, seeking king salmon on the storied Stikine and drowning in pink salmon near Prince of Wales. And that’s not even all of it. It’s not all because the Tongass National Forest (TNF) is a region of preposterous natural wealth and one that is quite possibly the fishiest place on earth.

Unfortunately, the TNF’s countless fish producing rainforest streams are constantly under threat from forces that seek to develop in or around the area. Transboundary mining poses a big threat, but the Tongass’ most common and longstanding foe is the logging industry which, as we’ve noted previously, is a spectacular and perpetual loser not just environmentally but economically as well.

Currently underway is a process which would revise the current U.S. Forest Service (USFS) plan for management of the Tongass National Forest, the Tongass Land Management Plan (TLMP). According to Trout Unlimited, this process “may offer an unprecedented opportunity to increase conservation measures for high-value fish watersheds in the Tongass.”

Tongass National Forest
Photo: Earl Harper

As it turns out, after years of getting it all wrong through ineffective, antiquated policies and persistent bets on a lame horse (logging), with its proposed amendments to the TLMP, the USFS seems to have gotten at least one thing right. According to TU, who reviewed the proposed amendments, “the Forest Service has proposed changes that put fish and other renewable resource values on more even footing with timber for the first time and greatly improves management of fish and wildlife habitat in [the Tongass]."

Tongass National Forest
Photo: Earl Harper

The proposed plan is evidently far from perfect, but it represents the first sign that the Forest Service is willing to move the needle in the right direction.

And it’s important that we, as anglers, speak up to help affirm the move towards management policies that make more sense for fish. A 90 day public comment period is now underway which gives us the platform to do so.

Tongass National Forest
Photo: Earl Harper

Have a voice. You can do it in your pajamas. Submit a personally written comment that tells the Forest Service that you support increased protections for the forests, streams and rivers, and fish of our country’s largest national forest. Compel them to not only insure that these increased protections survive to the final draft of the new TLMP, but that further protections be extended to all of the streams and watersheds in the Tongass 77 — which scientists have identified as the most high value of all those in the TNF; watersheds which rank in the top 25% for salmon spawning and rearing habitat, support a diversity of fish species and are substantial contributors to overall salmon harvests — protections which remove these watersheds from development status and ensure that, moving forward, fish production is the primary management goal for these areas.

Get in the ring for the fishiest place on earth.

Head to www.americansalmonforest.org/commentperiod to add your comment now.