Fishermen to Forest Service: Grow Jobs, Protect Salmon

Salmon anglers and U.S. taxpayers, take notice. It’s time to tell the U.S. Forest Service to stop misspending your money in one of America’s Best Wild Places, the Tongass National Forest of Southeast Alaska. 

That’s the message from a group of Alaska commercial and sport fishermen, as well as tour operators, to Congress and top Forest Service leadership this week in a D.C. lobby trip organized by Trout Unlimited and Sitka Conservation Society.

 

Photo courtesy of Ian David/Yellow Dog Fly Fishing Adeventures

Here’s the thing: every year, the Forest Service, which manages the 17-million-acre Tongass National Forest, spends $25 million or so on logging and road building, an industry that puts about 200 people to work. At the same time, the Forest Service invests only about $1.5 million on restoring salmon-producing watersheds in the Tongass that were damaged by clear-cut logging in past years. At the current rate of investment, it’ll take the Forest Service 50 years to fix the problems past logging has created in the Tongass. Does that make any sense? We don’t think so.
 
Salmon and trout are a billion dollar industry in Southeast Alaska. They’re a cultural icon that employ about 7,300 people or about 10 percent of the population and form the economic backbone of this isolated but fish-rich stretch of country. The Forest Service ought to recognize this and back it up with money. It’s time for this federal agency to put move more of its timber dollars into salmon and trout.
 

Jev Shelton, a Juneau-based gillnetter and fish policy guru who has been fishing the waters of Southeast Alaska for five decades, is among those in D.C. this week asking the Forest Service to change its approach in the Tongass. Here’s some of what Jev told Trout Unlimited in a pre-trip interview: 

“It bothers me greatly that the U.S. Forest Service  has publicized as a priority the continued restoration of salmon habitats that were seriously degraded during the prior high volume logging policies but has failed utterly to take meaningful action to implement that priority.  The Forest Service has not altered its budget in any manner that would make that priority meaningful while many very productive watersheds suffer from stream damage that will not restore naturally and from road culvert interruptions that require direct remediation.  I am going in order to express that frustration and to press for the necessary budgetary changes.”

Southeast Alaska commercial fishermen Jev Shelton

Sheila Peterson, also a Juneau-based gillnetter, is co-owner of Taku River Reds, a direct marketing seafood company owned and operated by her family and a couple of close friends. Peterson’s business depends upon having healthy watersheds in the Tongass so that salmon can continue to thrive.
 

“Southeast Alaska’s pristine watersheds are the envy of many and the home to our returning salmon. The health of our wild stock is paramount to the sustainability of our wild salmon runs. We have watersheds in the Tongass that have been disturbed by past logging and need to be restored. Restoration of an impacted watershed can improve salmon productivity and help sustain our salmon runs for generations to come.”     

Juneau gillnetter and Taku River Reds co-owner Sheila Peterson

If you’re someone who cares about salmon – whether it’s catching and releasing them, or savoring them on your plate, Trout Unlimited encourages you to contact Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell (ttidwell@fs.fed.us) and USDA Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment Harris Sherman (harris.sherman@usda.gov) and express your support for Tongass salmon.  Tell them it’s time to back up their commitment to salmon watershed restoration with adequate funding. Also please contact your representatives in Congress.

Learn more at www.americansalmonforest.org or read TU’s press release.

 

 

 

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