Salmon, Trees, and We: The Tongass, Part 1

9 12 2011

This is one of my favorite places in the world:

Photo by Joel Brady-Power

This photo was taken in Sitka, but could be almost anywhere in Southeast Alaska. The Tongass National Forest blankets most of our region, a crazy quilt of western red cedar, Sitka spruce, and western hemlock that covers almost 17 million acres. Not only is the Tongass the largest national forest in the US, it’s also the largest temperate rainforest remaining in the world. About 70,000 people call the Tongass home – as do 30,000 bears. This rare ecosystem also supports deer, wolves, over 300 species of birds, and all 5 species of salmon: chinook, coho, sockeye, chum, and pink.

When we talk about protecting wild salmon, our national dialogue is heavy on fisheries management and healthy oceans.  Essential elements, but incomplete. These ocean swimmers begin and end their lives in freshwater, including  17,690 miles of streams, lakes and ponds in the Tongass. If we promote sustainable fisheries without placing equal value on salmon habitat, both are at risk.

One of my fellow fishermen, Karl Jordan, published an editorial in the Juneau Empire yesterday: “Forest Service Budget Just Doesn’t Add Up.” (Available here.) Karl examined the annual funding for habitat conservation/restoration ($1.5 million) and logging/road development ($25 million). Quite a discrepancy – especially when you note that timber-related jobs number less than 200, compared to over 7000 fisheries-related jobs.

A fourth-generation fisherman, Karl’s profiled here in Amy Gulick’s tribute to the Tongass,  Salmon in the Trees. He’s a powerful advocate for salmon, speaking from a place of deep love for Southeast Alaska, the Tongass, and commercial fishing.

We heart salmon. (Photo by Jon Corbett)

That’s the place that I speak from, too. Life as a harvester is, for me, inherently bound to life as a conservationist. I believe it’s my responsibility to protect what I love. And between the photo at the top of this post, the many joys of our life at sea, and the honor of hand-delivering these gorgeous fish to our customers, I can’t even begin to count all of the ways I love salmon and trees.

If you speak from this place, too, please join me in quick, easy activism for salmon. If you support increased funding for salmon programs and habitat restoration in the Tongass, please email Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell (ttidwell@fs.fed.us) with your message. It doesn’t have to be long, but it does have to be received by December 16th to weigh in on 2012’s budget planning.

Not sure what to say? Karl’s editorial, here, is a great resource. Tomorrow, I’ll share a copy of my letter to Undersecretary Harris Sherman, which you’re also welcome to use as a resource. Whether your livelihood depends on the well-being of the Tongass, or your life is richer knowing that wild places like this still exist in our world, thank you for joining me in this effort.

Photo by Joel Brady-Power

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6 responses

13 12 2011
Eric

Great comment from the heart. Did you ever read Tom Jay’s story, “Salmon of the Heart”?

13 12 2011
Tele

I haven’t, Eric. Just Googled it, found only the opening page and I was completely hoo-… well, you know. I’m eager to read it in its entirety. Many thanks for the suggestion!

14 12 2011
Easy Salmon Advocacy: Protecting the Tongass, Part 2 « Hooked

[...] discussed in Protecting the Tongass, Part 1,  the Forest Service is reviewing their 2012 budget for the Tongass National Forest. Timber/road [...]

4 03 2012
Your Inner Lorax: Protecting the Tongass, part 3 « Hooked

[...] readers may remember December’s posts on the skewed management of the Tongass. The world’s largest remaining temperate rainforest, the [...]

18 03 2012
Happy Birthday, Hooked! « Hooked

[...] fall, you offered support and encouragement. You learned the interdependent relationship between salmon, trees, and Southeast Alaskans, and you rallied as spokespeople for the Tongass National Forest. You cheered for the 2012 Fisher [...]

24 03 2012
Exxon Valdez: 23 Years Later « Hooked

[...] of a life cushioned by the sea. The view is stunning. Living in the midst of the world’s largest remaining temperate rainforest, surrounded by mountains, glaciers, and a parade of wildlife, it’s sometimes hard to remember [...]




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