Today begins an important week for the trees. Trout Unlimited and Sitka Conservation Society are sending a team of commercial and sports fishermen to Washington D.C., where they’ll lobby for increased funding for habitat conservation/restoration in the Tongass National Forest. Now is a critical time for this effort: on Tuesday, the Senate’s Natural Resource Committee meets to determine the 2013 Forestry budget. (Learn more from TU’s press release.)
Hooked readers may remember December’s posts on the skewed management of the Tongass. The world’s largest remaining temperate rainforest, the Tongass is home to 70,000 humans, 30,000 bears, all 5 species of salmon, as well as deer, wolves, and over 300 species of birds. Its 17 million acres blanket Southeast Alaska, where coastal communities are sustained by less than 200 timber-related jobs and more than 7000 fishing-related jobs. Yet the Forest Service’s annual budget directs $25 million toward logging and road building, and $1.5 million – that’s 1 point 5 – to conservation and watershed restoration.
Many of you bristled at that discrepancy. You fired off emails and phone calls, urging a management plan reflective of the region’s actual economic and cultural values. You wrote a small mountain of letters, which will be hand-delivered to Congress and the Forest Service on Monday. You’re an inspiring team of Loraxes, friends, and your voices are making an impact. Thank you.
You don’t have to be an Alaskan or a fisherman to care about this funding discrepancy. In an awesome show of community organizing, Sitka Salmon Tours recently took the Tongass on the road. Through events in Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota, Nic Mink and Helen Schnoes explained the critical role of this rare ecosystem, where “the salmon are in the trees.”
Their audiences got it, and they rallied. I’ve read the 80 letters our Midwestern allies contributed. It’s a powerful experience, hearing strangers voice the connectedness between their own lives and this distant wild that many will never see firsthand.
Here are some snippets of what they wrote:
“I am writing because my life is richer knowing that wild places like this still exist in our world. As a teacher in Illinois, my students and I do not encounter these gorgeous wild landscapes, nor do we see rivers and lakes so abundant with fish.”
“It is important to me that the food I consume is healthy and sustainable. I know wild Alaskan salmon is both, but I fear for the future. When more money is allocated to the destructive acts such as the logging of old growth forests rather than to restoration of salmon habitats, I fear for the future.”
“This funding gap would be silly if its reach were not so damaging. There exists a gross disconnect: the tree removal harms salmon habitats, which in turn negatively affect the salmon population and is much less economically valuable than the $986.1 million that salmon fishing and hatcheries generate.”
“While only a small portion of people in the Midwest will ever have the pleasure of traveling to the Tongass, many of us value the forest and its salmon as important national treasures.”
“I don’t have to be from Alaska to understand that salmon is one of the most sustainable and renewable resources of our entire National Forest system.”
“We need to see our forests for more than just the trees.”
Great big thanks to everyone who’s already urged the Forest Service to re-examine their Tongass budget. If you haven’t done so, it’s not too late – NOW is the critical time to chime in. Please take a moment today to summon your inner Lorax and send a quick email on behalf of the trees… and the salmon… the streams… and all of us. Direct your messages to Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell (firstname.lastname@example.org), USDA Undersecretary Harris Sherman (email@example.com), Senator Mark Begich, and Senator Lisa Murkowski.
Need an example to get you started? Whether several concise sentences or an impassioned page, your words are an essential contribution. Please share your message in the comments, and much gratitude for your advocacy.