Friends of salmon and wild places: have you written your letter for the Tongass National Forest yet?
As discussed in Protecting the Tongass, Part 1, the U.S. Forest Service’s budget for the Tongass has long been skewed. Timber/road development currently receive annual funding of $25 million, while habitat conservation/watershed restoration receive $1.5 million.
This disparity concerns me. As a commercial fisherman, I have a significant interest in protecting the delicate ecosystems that nurture salmon. And as someone who calls Southeast Alaska “home,” my identity is as rooted in the Tongass as the towering hemlock, spruce, and cedar that carpet our coastline.
Sitka Conservation Society is a longtime advocate for a more balanced forestry budget. I’m joining SCS in this effort, and invite you to do so, too. Our goal is to collect 200 letters requesting increased funding for restoration and salmon protection by February 1. Can you take a moment to share your support? In February, SCS will hand-deliver our combined messages to Washington D.C.; please email your letter to email@example.com.
Not sure what to write? I’m sharing my message here; please feel free to use this example as a resource for your own letter. (Stats provided by a 2011 survey conducted by the Alaska chapter of the Nature Conservancy.)
Dear Undersecretary Sherman, Chief Tidwell, Senator Murkowski, & Senator Begich,
My name is Tele Aadsen, and I’m a second-generation salmon troller in Southeast Alaska. Salmon trollers are predominantly family operations; I began fishing at the age of seven, in 1984. My mother was one of a handful of female skippers at that time, and we comprised the only all-female troller. For the past 7 years my partner and I have run our own boat, the 43-foot Nerka, which he grew up on and took over as a 22 year old. Hook-and-line caught, we process and freeze our catch at sea, marketing a premium quality wild salmon to restaurants, grocers, and food co-ops across the U.S. This is our sole source of income.
Discussion of salmon sustainability frequently focuses on fisheries management and healthy oceans. Essential elements, yet incomplete. We must devote equal attention to the surrounding forests, which provide critical salmon habitat. In its streams, lakes, and ponds, the Tongass National Forest provides 17,690 miles of salmon habitat. Salmon are inextricably linked with the Tongass; the well-being of one directly impacts the other.
In Alaska, salmon mean far more than a meal or a paycheck. In a 2007 survey, 96% of Alaskans said salmon are essential to our way of life. In our remote region, where many communities are island-based, closed systems, the term “way of life” refers more to practical necessity than sentimentality. Nearly 90% of rural households in Southeast Alaska depend on salmon.
What does a dependency on salmon look like? It looks like over 7000 jobs: men, women, and young people working on fishing vessels or in processing plants. In a tremendous ripple effect, fisheries contribute to local economies. In some of Southeast Alaska’s small communities, salmon are the local economy. Grocers, restaurants, hotels, cold storages and transport systems all flourish with healthy salmon runs. The combined economic value of commercial, sports, and subsistence salmon fishing, plus hatchery operations, is estimated at $986.1 million.
The economic impact of salmon doesn’t stop at Alaska’s border. Many fishermen spend the off-season in the Lower 48, enhancing the economy of multiple states. In 2009, my partner and I were able to purchase our first home in Washington, where we frequently have boat work done. Maintaining a safe, successful fishing vessel is an expensive, on-going effort: all across the West Coast, harbors, boat yards, diesel mechanics, refrigeration services, craftsmen, fiberglass workers, metal fabricators, gear stores, and other marine service professionals are direct beneficiaries of our good salmon seasons.
Beyond these enormous economic considerations, the Tongass is one of the few remaining wild places in America, a rare ecosystem of deep cultural significance, beauty and wonder. I’m profoundly grateful for my life as a commercial fisherman, and hope to continue providing quality wild salmon to Americans in a responsible manner. I’m committed to protecting the natural resources that allow this unique profession, and want to thank you both for joining me in this effort. Thank you for advocating for a healthy, sustainable future, prioritizing funding for watershed restoration and salmon habitat in the Tongass.
Tele Aadsen, MSW
Please take a moment to write a letter voicing your support for a more balanced forestry budget. Your message doesn’t have to be long, but Sitka Conservation Society does need it by February 1 for hand-delivery to Washington D.C. In addition to channeling letters through firstname.lastname@example.org, you can, of course, send additional messages directly to Alaskan Senators Murkowski and Begich Forest Service Chief Tidwell (email@example.com), and Undersecretary Sherman (firstname.lastname@example.org).
To me, these letters are more than advocacy. We’re writing love letters to the Tongass, based on our unique relationships with trees, salmon and Southeast Alaska. You all know my story… I’d love to hear yours. Why do you want to protect the Tongass? Please copy/paste your letter in the comments below. I’ll keep you posted on how we’re doing with our 200 letter goal. As always, I’m deeply grateful to each of you for your time and support. Best wishes to all.