VP for Conservation Programs
8/7/2002 -- Washington, DC -- Trout Unlimited today asked the Forest Service to recognize the importance of roadless areas on southeast Alaska’s Tongass National Forest.
The Forest Service recently issued an Environmental Impact Statement for the forest that recommended none of the more than 9 million acres of pristine roadless areas as worthy of wilderness consideration by the Congress.
"Whether you're a commercial fisherman, subsistence user, recreational fisherman, or guide, the quality and future of your pursuit boils down to one common denominator: Habitat," said Steve Moyer, Trout Unlimited’s Vice President for Conservation Programs.
At the moment, there is habitat aplenty on the Tongass. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game identified more than 2,000 anadromous fish-bearing streams. These streams account for roughly 1 million sport-caught fish, 160 million pounds of commercially caught salmon, and 1.2 million pounds of subsistence-caught salmon for the Southeast Alaska region annually.
“These staggering numbers represent an asset to be managed conservatively, with an eye on the future. It is this simple: Without intact, wild streams and watersheds, eventually there will be far fewer fish to fight over,” said Moyer. “The Forest Service needs to go back to the drawing board and adopt an alternative that protects roadless areas on the Tongass from new road construction and recommends others for wilderness consideration by Congress.”
The Forest Service recently issued interim directives that leave roadless areas on the Tongass unprotected and open to road construction and timber harvesting. Chris Wood, Director of Public Lands and Watershed Programs for Trout Unlimited said, “It is absurd that we are debating the disposition of roadless areas that exist in remnant fashion in the lower 48 states while leaving unprotected the one forest where they still remain in abundance.”
The Tongass is crisscrossed with over 4,500 miles of logging road, and more than 66 percent of the existing culverts crossing streams block passage of salmon and steelhead.
Wood, who helped to draft the roadless area conservation rule that was suspended by the Bush Administration and then held up in litigation said, “Without further protective measures for roadless areas, commercial and recreational fishing opportunities in the Tongass will continue to be compromised by a spaghetti-like forest road system that leads to fish habitat destruction.”
Founded in 1959 in Grayling, Michigan, Trout Unlimited is the nation’s leading coldwater fisheries conservation organization. TU’s 128,000 members in 500 chapters nationwide are dedicated to the conservation, protection, and restoration of North America’s trout and salmon and their watersheds.
For more information: Chris Wood (703) 284-9403