About the Tongass
The Tongass National Forest in Southeast Alaska is our nation’s largest national forest, nearly 17 million acres in size. It is home to the Tlingit, Haida, and Tshimsian Peoples. In combination with British Columbia's Great Bear Rainforest immediately to the south, the region encompasses the largest intact temperate rainforest on earth. Stretching 500 miles north-to-south, the Tongass is an island archipelago of countless streams, glacial fjords, and lush valleys backing into spectacularly rugged mountains and sprawling forests of majestic, old-growth cedar, spruce, and hemlock trees. The Tongass also supports abundant fish and wildlife, including all five species of Pacific salmon, brown (grizzly) bears, wolves, Sitka black-tailed deer, Bald Eagles, Northern Goshawks, and Marbled Murrelets.
Logging over the last century, however, has changed the Tongass, particularly by targeting the rare, old-growth forest stands with the biggest trees. Over half of the large-tree forests have been logged, and some islands have no remaining old-growth forest left after decades of industrial-scale clearcut logging. The southern half of the Tongass has lost over two-thirds of its old-growth forests. Yet these same, productive stands are also the most important for fish, wildlife, and ecosystem integrity.
While the Tongass still boasts healthy populations of fish and wildlife, many of its most important places are still at risk. Conservation is at a critical juncture. The U.S. Forest Service continues to focus on old-growth timber harvest within the remaining intact watersheds. These watersheds feed the rich estuaries that provide nutrients for marine mammals, millions of seabirds, and provide a crucial link between marine and terrestrial environments of the Tongass.
The Tongass National Forest provides us with the greatest opportunity in the nation, if not the world, for protecting temperate rainforest at the ecosystem scale, in the face of climate change. It sequesters more carbon than any other type of forest on Earth, providing a much-needed opportunity for climate solutions that can simultaneously bolster regional economies. Our work to protect the Tongass focuses on the intersection of place, people, and the need for policy that protects this incredible rainforest for the future.