Tongass National Forest
||It has been suggested that Alexander Archipelago National Forest and Ketchikan Ranger House be merged into this article. (Discuss) Proposed since January 2012.|
|Tongass National Forest|
IUCN category VI (protected area with sustainable use of natural resources)
|Location||Alaska Panhandle, Alaska, U.S.|
|Area||17 million acres (69,000 km²)|
|Established||10 September 1907|
|Governing body||U.S. Forest Service|
The Tongass National Forest (pron.: //) in southeastern Alaska is the largest national forest in the United States at 17 million acres (69,000 km²). Most of its area is part of the temperate rain forest WWF ecoregion, itself part of the larger Pacific temperate rain forest WWF ecoregion, and is remote enough to be home to many species of endangered and rare flora and fauna. Tongass, which is managed by the United States Forest Service, encompasses islands of the Alexander Archipelago, fjords, glaciers, and peaks of the Coast Mountains. An international border with Canada (British Columbia) runs along the crest of the Boundary Ranges of the Coast Mountains (see also: Alaska boundary dispute). The forest is administered from Forest Service offices in Ketchikan. There are local ranger district offices located in Craig, Hoonah, Juneau, Ketchikan, Petersburg, Sitka, Thorne Bay, Wrangell, and Yakutat. In July 2009, the Obama Administration approved clearcut logging on 381 acres (1.54 km2) in the remaining old growth forests of the Tongass.
The Alexander Archipelago Forest Reserve was established by Theodore Roosevelt in a presidential proclamation of 20 August 1902. Another presidential proclamation made by Roosevelt, on 10 September 1907, created the Tongass National Forest. On 1 July 1908, the two forests were joined, with the combined forest area encompassing most of southeast Alaska. Further presidential proclamations of 16 February 1909 (in the last months of the Roosevelt administration) and 10 June, and in 1925 (by Calvin Coolidge) expanded the National Forest. An early supervisor of the forest was William Alexander Langille.
The Tongass National Forest is home to about 75,000 people who are dependent on the land for their livelihoods. Three Alaska Native nations live in Southeast Alaska: the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian. 31 communities are located within the forest; the largest is Juneau, the state capital, with a population of 31,000. The forest is named for the Tongass group of the Tlingit people, who inhabited the southernmost areas of Southeast Alaska, near what is now the city of Ketchikan.
Tongass includes parts of the Northern Pacific coastal forests and Pacific Coastal Mountain icefields and tundra ecoregions. Along with a region of the Central and North Coast regions of British Columbia designated by environmental groups as the Great Bear Rainforest, Tongass is part of the "perhumid rainforest zone," and the forest is primarily made up of western red cedar, sitka spruce, and western hemlock. Tongass is Earth's largest remaining temperate rainforest. The terrain underlying Tongass is divided between karst (limestone rock, well-drained soil, and many caves), and granite (poorly drained soil).
Unique and protected creatures seldom found anywhere else in North America inhabit the thousands of islands along the Alaska coast. Five species of salmon, brown and black bear, and Bald eagles abound throughout the forest. Many migratory birds spend summer months nesting among the archipelago, notably the Arctic tern.
Though its land area is huge, about 40% of the Tongass is composed of wetlands, snow, ice, rock, and non-forest vegetation, while the remaining 10 million acres (40,000 km2) are forested. About 5 million acres (20,000 km2) are considered “productive old-growth”, and 4,500,000 acres (18,000 km2) of those are preserved as wilderness areas.
Historically, logging operations tended to concentrate on lower elevation, bigger tree ecosystems for harvesting; at present, approximately 78% of the land remains intact, i.e. 383,000 acres (1,550 km2) out of 491,000 acres (1,990 km2) original big tree, low elevation forest area. Given the high value of these areas for wildlife species, close to 70% of this big-tree old growth forest is protected in reserves, and will never be eligible for harvest.
Of all of the big-tree old growth on the forest, including both low and higher elevation areas, no more than 11% of the remaining area will ever be harvested. Of the 5,700,000 acres (23,000 km2) “productive old-growth” on the Forest, 676,000 acres (2,740 km2), or 12% of the old-growth on the Forest, are slated for harvest over the next 10 years.
Wilderness areas 
There are 19 designated wilderness areas within the Tongass National Forest, more than in any other National Forest. They contain over 5,750,000 acres (23,300 km2) of territory, also more than any other. From largest to smallest they are:
- Misty Fjords National Monument Wilderness
- Kootznoowoo Wilderness
- Tracy Arm-Fords Terror Wilderness
- Stikine-LeConte Wilderness
- Russell Fjord Wilderness
- South Baranof Wilderness
- West Chichagof-Yakobi Wilderness
- Endicott River Wilderness
- South Prince of Wales Wilderness
- South Etolin Wilderness
- Chuck River Wilderness
- Tebenkof Bay Wilderness
- Kuiu Wilderness
- Petersburg Creek-Duncan Salt Chuck Wilderness
- Karta River Wilderness
- Pleasant/Lemesurier/Inian Islands Wilderness
- Coronation Island Wilderness
- Warren Island Wilderness
- Maurille Islands Wilderness
Note: There are three other wilderness areas within the Alaska Panhandle region that are not part of Tongass National Forest, but are administered by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service as part of the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge. From largest to smallest they are the Forrester Island Wilderness, the Saint Lazaria Wilderness, and the Hazy Islands Wilderness. Also in Southeast Alaska, but not in Tongass National Forest, are the Glacier Bay Wilderness and a small part of the Wrangell-Saint Elias Wilderness, which are both administered by the National Park Service.
The Tongass National Forest offers outstanding recreation opportunities, many of which are only found in Alaska. The forest has close to one million visitors each year. Most come by cruise ship sailing through the Inside Passage of Southeast Alaska. The Forest Service provides forest interpreters and visitor programs at Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center in Juneau, the Discovery Center in Ketchikan and forest interpreters on the state Marine Highway ferry system in Southeast Alaska. The Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center was the first US Forest Service visitor center built in the nation, in 1962. The forest interpretive program on the state ferries began in the summer of 1968, making it the longest running naturalist program in the agency.
There are approximately 150 rustic public recreation cabins for rent across the Tongass in remote locations, reachable by trail boat or floatplane. Many are fully accessible. There are 15 campgrounds across the forest, many in spectacular settings with views of a glacier and bald eagles. Six campgrounds offer advance reservations.
In addition, there are several spectacular bear viewing areas on the forest. The southern most site is in Hyder, Alaska. You can drive to Hyder through British Columbia. The Fish Creek site is open from mid-July through September for a small permit fee. Both black and brown bears can be seen in safety from an elevated viewing platform and boardwalk. Forest staff are on site to provide safety and answer questions. The Anan Bear Viewing area is only reachable by boat from Wrangell. Both black and brown bears are seen from early July through August. There is an extensive viewing platform and deck above the river for viewing in safety. A day pass is required before visiting the site. Pack Creek Bear Viewing area on Admiralty Island National Monument is a 30-minute floatplane trip from Juneau. Brown bear viewing occurs from June through September. The original bear viewing platform was built by the CCC Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. Today Forest Service and State Dept of Fish and Game staff live on site in summer to provide orientation to the area and answer questions. A permit is required to visit the area. In addition, both black and brown bears can be seen along many of the over 100 hiking trails on the Tongass National Forest.
Timber harvest in Southeast Alaska consisted of individual handlogging operations up until the 1950s, focusing on lowlying areas and beach fringe areas. In the 1950s, in part to aid in Japanese recovery from World War II, the Forest Service set up long-term contracts with two pulp mills: the Ketchikan Pulp Company (KPC) and the Alaska Pulp Company. These contracts were scheduled to last 50 years, and originally intended to complement independent sawlog operations in the region. However, the two companies conspired to drive log prices down, put smaller logging operations out of business, and were major and recalcitrant polluters in their local areas. Ultimately, virtually all timber sales on the Tongass were purchased by one of these two companies.
In 1974, the KPC contract for Northern Prince of Wales was challenged by the Point Baker Association led by Alan Stein, Chuck Zieske and Herb Zieske. Federal District Court Judge Von Der Hydt ruled in their favor in December 1975 and March 1976, enjoining clearcutting of over 150 square miles (390 km2) of the north end of Prince of Wales Island. The suit threatened to halt clearcutting in the United States. In 1976, Congress removed the injunction in passing the National Forest Management Act, a direct response to their law suit. Over half the old growth timber was removed there by the mid 1990s.
An attempt to privatize the northern end of POW on this, our nation's, first national forest will be made by Senators Murkowski and Begich when they attempt to transfer the land to the Sealaska Corporation.
Much of the power of these companies lay in the long-term contracts themselves. The contracts guaranteed low prices to the pulp companies — in some cases resulting in trees being given away for "less than the price of a hamburger.Alaska Pulp Corporation and Ketchikan Pulp Corporation closed down their mills in 1993 and 1997, respectively, and the Forest Service then cancelled the remainders of the two 50-year timber contracts.
In 2003, an appropriations bill rider required that all timber sales on the Tongass must be positive sales, meaning, no sales could be sold that undervalued the "stumpage" rate, or the value of the trees as established by the marketplace (2008 Appropriations Bill P.L. 110-161, H. Rept. 110-497, Sec. 411). However, the Forest Service also conducts NEPA analyses, layout, and administrative operations to support these sales, and as such, the government does not make a profit overall. Given the guaranteed low prices during contract days and the continued high cost of logging in Southeast Alaska today, one analysis concludes that, since 1980, the forest service has lost over a billion dollars in Tongass timber sales. Logging operations are not the only deficit-run programs, however. The Forest Service likens the overall deficit of the timber harvest program to the many other programs the agency operates at a deficit, including trail, cabin, and campground maintenance and subsistence programs.
High-grading (preferentially targeting for logging the most profitable forest types) has been prevalent on the Tongass throughout the era of industrial-scale logging there. For example, the forest type with the largest concentration of big trees—volume class 7 -- originally comprised only 4% of the forested portion of the Tongass, and over two-thirds of it has been logged. Other high-grading has concentrated on stands of Alaska cedar and red cedar. The karst terrain often produces large trees and has fewer muskeg bogs, and has also been preferentially logged.
As of 2008, the forest service has released a new amendment to the Forest Plan for the Tongass Forest.
Roadless controversy 
The most controversial logging in the Tongass has involved the roadless areas. Southeast Alaska is an extensive landscape, with communities scattered across the archipelago on different islands, isolated from each other and the mainland road system. The road system that exists in the region is in place because of the resource extraction history in the region, primarily established by the Forest Service to enable timber harvest. Once in place, these roads serve to connect local communities and visitors to recreation, hunting, fishing, and subsistence opportunities long into the future. Essentially, these roads serve to provide essential infrastructure for local communities. However, installing roads in the vast wilderness areas of the Tongass is also a point of controversy for many in the American public, as reflected in the roadless area conservation movement.
The Tongass National Forest was included in the Roadless Initiative passed on 5 January 2001, during the last days of the Bill Clinton Administration, and the initiative prevented the construction of new roads in currently roadless areas of United States national forests.
However, several governors of western states soon joined forces with the timber industry to overturn the roadless policy. The George W. Bush Administration has declined to defend the policy in the courts and the U.S. Forest Service has largely exempted the Tongass from roadless protections.
In September 2006, a landmark court decision overturned Bush's repeal of the Roadless Rule, reverting to the 2001 roadless area protections established under president Clinton. However, the Tongass remained exempt from that ruling, and it is currently unclear what the fate of its vast roadless areas will be.
In June 2007, U.S. House members added an amendment to the appropriations bill to block federally funded road building in Tongass National Forest. Proponents of the amendment said that the federal timber program in Tongass is a dead loss for taxpayers, costing some $30 million annually, and noted that the Forest Service faces an estimated $900 million road maintenance backlog in the forest. Supporters of the bipartisan amendment included the Republicans for Environmental Protection. Representative Steve Chabot, an Ohio Republican who sponsored the amendment, said "I am not opposed to logging when it's done on the timber company's dime...But in this case, they are using the American taxpayer to subsidize these 200 jobs at the tune of $200,000 per job. That just makes no sense."
In March 2011, Judge John Sedwick from the Anchorage federal district court, in his ruling, reinstated the Roadless Rule on roadless areas in the Tongass, but with three of the Forest Service's recent timber projects excluded from that ruling "without prejudice." Those projects were Iyouktug Timber Sales ROD (record of decision), Scratchings Timber Sale ROD II, and Kuiu Timber Sale Area ROD. The Order concluded in part:
- "Because the reasons proffered by the Forest Service in support of the Tongass Exemption were implausible, contrary to the evidence in the record, and contrary to Ninth Circuit precedent, the court concludes that promulgation of the Tongass Exemption was arbitrary and capricious.
- “With the passage of the Roadless Rule, inventoried roadless areas, ‘for better or worse, [were] more committed to pristine wilderness, and less amendable to road development for purposes permitted by the Forest Service.’”
- While the Forest Service may reevaluate its approach to roadless area management in the Tongass, it must comply with the requirements of the APA in doing so."
Native Corporation Lands 
Native Corporation Lands are those designated by the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971 (ANCSA). This Act awarded approximately 148,500,000 acres (601,000 km2) of Federal land in Alaska to private native corporations which were created under the ANCSA. 632,000 acres (2,560 km2) of those lands were hand-picked old growth areas of the Tongass National Forest and are still surrounded by public National Forest land. These lands are now private and under the management of Sealaska, one of the native regional corporations created under the ANCSA.
Transference of public National Forest land to a privately owned corporation removes it from protection by Federal law and allows the owners to use the land in whatever way they see fit without regard to the effects of the use on surrounding lands and ecosystems. This fact has caused much controversy involving the business interests of Native Regional Corporations and the personal interests of local Native and non-Native residents of Southeastern Alaska.
Currently Sealaska, a native regional corporation created under the ANCSA is asking for an amendment to the Act that would distribute additional land to Alaskan Natives. On April 23, 2009, Senator Murkowski and U.S. Rep. Don Young introduced a revised Sealaska bill (S. 881 and H.R 2099) that requests public lands that are both economically valuable and environmentally delicate. Starting with the next session of Congress in 2011, Senator Murkowski reintroduced a slightly modified version of the Sealaska Bill and Representative Don Young introduced a companion bill (S 730 and HR 1408). While HR 1408 was passed out of the Natural Resources Committee, S 730 remains in the Natural Resources Committee of the Senate.
A study released by Audubon Alaska on February 22, 2012 showed that the Sealaska selection of the largest trees in areas designated in S 730 and HR 1408 is 1200 percent greater than the occurrence of these trees in the Tongass as a whole.
There is strong opposition to passage of S 881 coming from seven communities in the Tongass, most on Prince of Wales Island. In addition, there are fears expressed by the Territorial Sportsmen that the Northern Goshawk will be listed as endangered if the bill is passed. Similar concerns were expressed by the Alaska Outdoor Council in letters to Senators Murkowski and Begich and Governor Parnell.
See also 
- Coeur Alaska, Inc. v. Southeast Alaska Conservation Council
- Fort Tongass
- Tongass Island
- Tongass Passage
- Alexander Archipelago Wolf
- Chugach National Forest
- Juneau Raptor Center
- The given coordinates are for one representative location in the forest near Petersburg, listed in the USGS GNIS. The forest extends from roughly 55 N, 130 W at the southern tip of Alaska to roughly 60 N, 140 W at Yakutat Bay. See the map below.
- USFS Ranger Districts by State
- Goldstein, Katherine (16 July 2009). "Obama Administration Approves First Logging Contract In Alaska's Tongass National Forest". Huffington Post.
- Indian River protection (accessed 2010-07-08).
- U.S. House Boosts Spending for Environment, Conservation
- Tongass Forest Management FAQs (accessed 2008-09-18).
- Tongass National Forest Land Management Plan Final EIS (see tables 3.7-9 and 3.9-12. Accessed 2008-09-18).
- National Wilderness Areas by State, 14 November 2008 U.S. Forest Service
- ZIESKE v. BUTZ, 406 F.Supp. 258 (1975), United States District Court, D. Alaska. Decision of 23 December 1975. 
- ZIESKE v. BUTZ, 412 F.Supp. 1403 (1976), United States District Court, D. Alaska. Decision of 5 May 1976. 
- Parent, S. 1992. THE NATIONAL FOREST MANAGEMENT ACT: OUT OF THE WOODS AND BACK TO THE COURTS? Lewis & Clark Law School. [
- "Alaska Senators re=introduce bill". Forest Policy research. Retrieved 2009-02-14.
- Steiner, R. 1998. Deforestation in Alaska’s Coastal rainforest: causes and solutions. Univ. of Alaska. 
- Temperate Rainforests of the North Pacific Coast (accessed 2007-05-16).
- The Wildlife Society, Alaska Chapter, 2003. Comments to the Chief of the Forest Service on the exemption of the Tongass National Forest from the roadless rule. Aug. 8, 2003.
- Tongass Land Management Plan Supplemental EIS, 1991.
- The Tongass: America's Largest National Forest (accessed 2007-04-12).
- A court order, ruling the Tongass exemption from the Roadless Rule invalid, Judge Sedwick (U.S. Dist. Court, Anchorage), March 4, 2011
- Lockyer, 575 F.3d at 1010 (quoting Kootenai Tribe, 313 F.3d at 1106).
- Rakestraw, Lawrence (1981). A History of the United States Forest Service in Alaska. Copyright Lawrence Rakestraw. Printed by the USDA Forest Service in 1982, 1994, 2002. SD565R24, 81-620020
- Durbin, Kathie (1999). Tongass: Pulp Politics and the Fight for the Alaska Rain Forest. Corvallis, Oregon: Oregon State University Press. ISBN 0-87071-466-X.
- Ketchum, Robert Glenn (1987). The Tongass: Alaska's Vanishing Rain Forest: The Photographs of Robert Glenn Ketchum. Text by Robert Glenn Ketchum and Carey D. Ketchum; introduction by Roderick Nash. New York, New York: Aperture Foundation. Distributed in the U.S. by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.
- List, Peter C., ed. (2000). Environmental Ethics and Forestry: A Reader. Environmental Ethics, Values, and Policy series. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Temple University Press. ISBN 1-56639-784-7. ISBN 1-56639-785-5.
- Gulick, Amy (2009). SALMON IN THE TREES: Life in Alaska's Tongass Rain Forest. Written by Amy Gulick, Illustrated by Ray Troll. Published by Mountaineers Books. ISBN 978-1-59485-091-2
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Tongass National Forest|
- U.S. Forest Service - Tongass National Forest
- Map of Ranger Districts
- A History of the U.S. Forest Service in Alaska
- Tongass National Forest Gallery
- Tongass Conservation Society
- Southeast Alaska Conservation Council - coalition of local groups working to preserve the Tongass
- Q&A with Kathie Durbin - chronicler of the struggle to preserve the Tongass (book referenced above)
- Temperate Rainforests of the North Pacific Coast
- Audubon Alaska: Tongass National Forest
- The National Forest Foundation's Conservation Plan for Tongass National Forest
- Collection of photographs spanning the Tongass National Forest