Calder, El Capitan, and Salmon Bay are three roadless areas located on the northern end of Prince of Wales Island in the Tongass National Forest within Southeast Alaska. Roadless areas in the Tongass have exceptional wilderness value and areas of high biological value. Although about half of the big old trees on the Tongass have already been felled for logging, the Roadless Rule helps protect about half of what is left. Roadless areas are home to salmon, spruce grouse, goshawks, bears, wolves, and many other birds and wildlife. Roadless areas provide humans with opportunities for fishing, hunting, bird-watching, backpacking, and wilderness solitude.
The Calder, El Capitan, and Salmon Bay roadless areas still boast impressive stands of large old-growth forests. These areas grow ancient trees in part due to the rich, karst limestone cave systems found beneath their soils. The karst limestone provides rich soil nutrients for the trees, which grow particularly large wherever these soils and caves are found on the Tongass. The limestone caves here are the longest known cave networks in Alaska.
These roadless areas are also home to the endemic Prince of Wales flying squirrel, a subspecies of the Northern flying squirrel found only on Prince of Wales Island. Prince of Wales flying squirrels prefer living in forests of big old trees, where they can easily find broken tops and holes in which to raise their young and forage for mushrooms, truffles, and lichen found in these ancient forests that grow above ancient caves. By protecting these roadless areas you are helping to protect the flying squirrels’ homes.
The Roadless Rule operates on the Tongass to protect these roadless areas and others from roadbuilding and logging. But efforts to chip away at these protections are underway, and the Tongass roadless areas are threatened by a rollback that specifically targets the big old trees that wildlife call home.