The Castle Roadless Area is located on Kupreanof 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 Castle River Roadless Area on Kupreanof Island is bounded by broad flat tidal estuaries along the coast. Further inland, on the higher and steeper slopes are forests of hemlock, Alaska yellow cedar, and Sitka spruce. The Northern Goshawk, a forest bird of prey, nests among these large old trees. The goshawk found in the Castle River roadless area (and in Southeast Alaska generally) is the Queen Charlotte Goshawk, a subspecies found only in Alaska and British Columbia. The Queen Charlotte Goshawk is smaller and has darker plumage than do goshawks in other parts of the continent. Goshawks prefer to nest on large limbs of old-growth trees and hunt for small mammals and birds in the surrounding forests. As young goshawks start learning to fly, they become “branchers” as they test their wings and hop around on the branches and tree trunks of their old-growth home. Living nearby these goshawk families are other birds of prey including Bald Eagles, Red-tailed Hawks, Sharp-shinned Hawks, and other forest birds like Spruce Grouse and Red-breasted Sapsuckers.
The Roadless Rule operates on the Tongass to protect this roadless area 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.