Tongass National Forest
John Schoen
Sitka Spruce in the Tongass

Protecting America's Largest National Forest

Situated in Southeast Alaska, Tongass National Forest is the world's largest remaining intact coastal temperate rain forest as well as America's largest national forest. At almost 17 million acres, this unique area houses some of the oldest trees in the nation, many over 800 years old, and provides critical habitat for the largest population of Bald Eagles in the world.  Stretching 500 miles north-to-south, the Tongass includes thousands of islands, snow-capped mountains, salmon rich streams, glacial fjords, and lush valleys that provide some of the most significant and diverse habitat for fish and wildlife, including all five species of pacific salmon, grizzly bears, wolves, Sitka black-tailed deer, Northern Goshawks, and Marbled Murrelets.

A Legacy of Logging

Over the last century, logging has changed the Tongass. The rare, old-growth forest stands with the biggest trees have been particularly impacted by logging efforts. With significant portions (perhaps as much as half) of the most productive old growth in the Tongass having been logged, we have reached a critical juncture for conservation. A balanced management plan is essential to preserve the unique ecological, economic, and cultural values found in the Tongass National Forest.

Tongass Land Management Plan

In January 2008 the Forest Service released its amended Tongass Land Management Plan (TLMP). The amended TLMP will be implemented in three phases, with the first phase deferring logging in 89% of our conservation priority watersheds (3.4 million acres of largely intact, roadless areas). The Forest Service specifically cited the Audubon-TNC data in their decision to defer many high value watersheds from development during phase one. However, these areas are not permanently protected, and many would be developed in later phases of the TLMP, along with additional high-value areas within previously impacted watersheds. In the long term, the amended TLMP fails to provide adequate protections necessary for maintaining the forest's unique fish and wildlife values. Audubon and others are continuing to work toward crafting a permanent conservation solution for the Tongass.

The Tongass provides us with the greatest opportunity in the nation, if not the world, for protecting temperate rainforest at the ecosystem scale. But this opportunity will require a new, balanced approach for conserving the most important places in the forest while also providing sustainable economic opportunities for local communities.