The 17-million-acre Tongass National Forest in Southeast Alaska is one the world’s largest wild salmon producing regions, annually contributing close to 50 million fish to Alaska’s multi-billion-dollar salmon industry and providing sportfishing opportunities for over 100,000 anglers every year. Salmon originating from the Tongass represent approximately 70 percent of all wild salmon harvested from our national forests and roughly 28 percent of Alaska’s overall salmon catch.
Salmon underpin many robust industries and lifestyles in Southeast Alaska. The region’s lucrative sport, commercial, and personal-use fisheries are sustained by healthy salmon and trout populations that annually contribute close to $1 billion to the region’s economy and account for more than an estimated 10 percent of the region’s jobs.
Despite its abundance, the Tongass and its salmon face serious threats. Timber and mining development, road building, climate change, more than 40 proposed and existing energy projects and several initiatives to privatize large swaths of the Tongass are currently in the works. These development activities have the potential to negatively impact the spawning and rearing habitat of Tongass salmon and trout. Limiting further habitat degradation is crucial to the continuation of the Southeast Alaska salmon success story.
Currently, only about 35% of the salmon and trout spawning and rearing habitat in the Tongass is protected at the watershed scale. The rest remains open to development activities that could harm fish. The footprint of the 35% of protected watersheds represents roughly 40% of the land base of the Tongass National Forest. The Tongass 77 plan would conserve an additional 23% of the salmon and trout spawning and rearing habitat available in the Tongass on only 12% more of the total Tongass land base.
Recognizing the critical role healthy, intact watersheds play in the production of Tongass salmon and trout and the very significant economic and social value of these fish to the region, we, the undersigned sport, commercial, and subsistence fishermen and associated business owners and operators, as well as private citizens urge you to support Tongass 77 legislation which conserves the highest-value salmon and trout-producing watersheds on the Tongass National Forest that currently remain unprotected from development and other threats. The Tongass 77 will ensure aproximately 1.9 million acres of the Tongass’ most productive salmon and trout watersheds, currently open for development, are placed in conservation status and permanently managed for fish.