The Hoonah Sound Roadless Area is located on Chichagof 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 Hoonah Sound Roadless Area on Chichagof Island is a climate stronghold, as are other roadless areas in the Tongass National Forest. The Hoonah Sound Roadless Area stretches from glacier-capped peaks to old-growth forest and ocean estuaries. These intact glacier-to-sea corridors are climate corridors, where cold air cooling and cold water pulses from glacial runoff provide key habitat for tidewater glacier-dependent species like the Kittlitz’s Murrelet. The forests that grow after glaciers recede sequester carbon to mitigate the impacts of climate change. This roadless area also acts as a climate refuge for plants and wildlife that are already experiencing the effects of a changing climate. The big trees help shade salmon streams, keeping them cool in a warming world. Protecting old-growth forests means protecting the glaciers that feed the water going into these forests. It also means making connections across these rich environments to our own actions. The Roadless Rule and effective climate change policy can protect places like this as climate strongholds for our future.
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 could help protect wildlife and humans from the worst effects of climate change.