Several fishermen and tour operators are heading for Washington D.C. next week to lobby for changes in the US Forest Service budget to emphasize salmon conservation and watershed restoration in Tongass National Forest.
Their travel from Southeast Alaska is sponsored by Trout Unlimited and the Sitka Conservation Society, who note that the Forest Service budget currently includes about $25 million annually for timber and road building, compared to about $1.5 million for restoration of salmon watersheds damaged by past logging.
Their effort has the support of the Seafood Producers Cooperative, with offices in Sitka, Alaska, and Bellingham, Wash., as well as the Alaska Trollers Association in Juneau.
Dale Kelley, executive director of the Alaska Trollers Association noted in a letter to the Department of Agriculture that Tongass National Forest provides roughly $1 billion in annual revenues to commercial, sport and subsistence fishermen, and that about 24 percent of Alaska’s annual statewide salmon harvest is spawned in the Tongass. Kelly noted Forest Service reports indicate that logging has impacted about 46 percent of salmon watersheds in Tongass.
“We have been informed that over $100 million is needed to restore lost habitat,” Kelly said. “With current investment rates in the ballpark of $1.5 million per year, it will take the Forest Service more than 50 years to address the habitat problems affecting wild salmon in the Tongass.”
By investing in watershed restoration, the Forest Service could improve salmon habitat and production and in turn create new jobs and economic opportunities for Southeast Alaska, she wrote.