As Southeast Alaska searches for new jobs to support its communities in the 21st century, the restoration of habitat promises benefits for people and wildlife. This path may seem familiar to us – it puts people to work in the forests of Southeast – but take a closer look. Restoring streams and forests is a new way of working in the forest.
"We would like to see these programs grow and employ more people, and we look forward to working with communities and the Forest Service on collaborative forestry efforts. We want to make sure local residents can benefit from future Forest Service restoration projects," said John Sisk, who directs Southeast Alaska programs for The Nature Conservancy.
The history of managing forests in Southeast Alaska has not been without its critics, but today we have an opportunity to write a new chapter for Southeast Alaska forests and the communities that depend on them.
Southeast Alaska’s coastal temperate rainforest – one of the largest remaining on Earth – blankets a rugged archipelago carved out by deep fjords and shrouded in mist. Sharing a border with British Columbia, many of these islands boast majestic hemlocks, spruce and cedars.
The old-growth forest depends on a fragile cycling of water perpetuated by snow-capped mountains, a pristine and productive estuarine system, and wild Pacific salmon and other fish that return nutrients inland from the sea. Protected as part of the 17-million acre Tongass National Forest, most of the old-growth forest located within Alaska’s “Inside Passage” supports picturesque coastal communities with strong maritime and native traditions – and nurture rich habitats for numerous species.
A multi-year ecological assessment, the Coastal Forests and Mountains Conservation Assessment, identified important areas for restoration and habitat protection in Southeast Alaska. This research helped identify two watersheds on Prince of Wales Island as Core Areas of Biological Value.
A partnership between the Conservancy and the U.S. Forest Service has focused its efforts on Harris River and Sal Creek watersheds. The streams in these watersheds still offer good habitat, but we're taking them from 'good' to 'excellent,' helping to create a world-class fishery once again.