Considering Climate Change in the Tongass National Forest and Southeast Alaska through the Tongass Futures Roundtable
The Tongass Futures Roundtable brings together a diverse group of stakeholders to discuss economic, cultural, and ecological issues pertaining to the Tongass National Forest and Southeast Alaska. The Tongass National Forest is the world’s largest remaining intact temperate rainforest and houses multiple endangered and rare flora and fauna. The Roundtable has worked with the U.S. Forest Service to protect vast tracts of the Tongass National Forest and also works with partners on restoration projects throughout Southeast Alaska. As climate change becomes a more pressing issue in the region, the Tongass Futures Roundtable may provide an ideal forum in which to address impacts.
The Tongass National Forest is the largest national forest in the United States, spanning 17 million acres in Southeast Alaska. The majority of the forest is considered temperate rainforest and is home to endangered and rare flora and fauna. The forest is primarily made up of western red cedar, sitka spruce, and western hemlock. Roughly 40% of the national forest area consists of wetland, snow, ice, rock, or non-vegetated lands. Of the forested lands, roughly 30% of it has been subjected to deforestation. The remaining 70% is considered protected lands and should never be eligible for harvest. The forest is administered by the U.S. Forest Service based in Ketchikan, Alaska. The Tongass Forest Plan, updated in 2008, outlines management strategies for the forest as required by the National Forest Management Act; this plan is updated every five years.
The Tongass National Forest is at the center of a variety of interests, including conservation, forestry, fisheries, and tourism. The Tongass Futures Roundtable was formed to create a collaborative approach to help resolve various issues that pertain to the management of Tongass National Forest. The Roundtable brings together a diverse group of stakeholders to discuss how to incorporate economic, cultural, and ecological values in public policy issues throughout the region. The Roundtable is limited to 35 members and membership is reviewed annually to assure broad representation. The group meets quarterly at locations throughout southeast Alaska. Currently, representatives from conservation groups, Alaska Native tribes, logging companies, local governments, the U.S. Forest Service, and other state and federal agencies hold seats on the Tongass Futures Roundtable.
The Tongass Futures Roundtable discusses topics ranging from forest restoration and protection of cultural sites to how climate change affects the Tongass National Forest. Multiple restoration projects have been launched and completed throughout the forest. Projects have ranged from riparian restoration, fish passage enhancement, road decommissioning, and riparian thinning for wildlife. Increasing the health of the Tongass National Forest will enhance its ability to cope with the impacts of climate change. While no project is explicitly categorized as dealing with climate change adaptation, restoration efforts generally enhance a system’s resilience. The Tongass Futures Roundtable recognizes the potential effects of climate change and believes that proper restoration and protection may offer the greatest sources of resilience. In 2008, the Tongass Futures Roundtable worked in collaboration with the U.S. Forest Service to defer timber harvesting indefinitely on approximately one million acres of temperate old growth forest that had been slated for logging. Protecting large, intact ecosystems may reduce the impacts of climate change in the future. The Tongass Futures Roundtable is also considering the possibility of using the healthy forest as a source of carbon sequestration credits.
Outcomes and Conclusions
The Tongass Futures Roundtable is poised to deal with future issues that affect the Tongass National Forest from climate change to harvesting pressures. As climate change becomes a more pressing issue in the region, the Tongass Futures Roundtable may serve as an ideal forum for decisionmaking because it already has the organizational infrastructure and capacity to develop meaningful solutions.
Feifel, K. (2010). Considering Climate Change in the Tongass National Forest and Southeast Alaska through the Tongass Futures Roundtable [Case study on a project of The Nature Conservancy - Juneau]. Product of EcoAdapt's State of Adaptation Program. Retrieved from CAKE: http://www.cakex.org/case-studies/considering-climate-change-tongass-na… (Last updated April 2010)