via www.americansalmonforest.org "Important salmon-producing areas protected in final Tongass National Forest Plan Amendment Sportsmen and businesses applaud new direction for country’s largest National Forest. JUNEAU, AK – Today, the U.S. Forest Service finalized an amendment to its Tongass Land and Resource Management plan that includes important measures for better conserving more than 70 salmon and trout streams within Southeast Alaska’s 17 million acre Tongass National Forest. The measures are the culmination of a multi-year community supported process, and are detailed in the final record of decision for the Tongass Forest Plan Amendment. “The decision is a major step toward safeguarding fish and wildlife across wide areas of the Tongass National Forest,” said Mark Kaelke, Southeast Alaska Project Director for Trout Unlimited. “In making Tongass 77 areas off-limits to old growth logging, the Forest Service has recognized both the economic and social significance of salmon to residents and visitors to the region, and the agency has deepened its commitment to true multiple-use management of the Tongass.” Key provisions of the decision include increased conservation standards for the Tongass 77, which are a collection of the most important and productive wild salmon areas on the forest. The amendment also provides for a gradual transition of the Tongass timber program from one based on old-growth logging to one based on sustainable young-growth forest management. By increasing conservation measures for high-value salmon streams and creating more flexibility for the Forest Service to plan young growth timber sales, this decision promises to help move the Tongass beyond the long-standing controversies of old-growth logging while allowing the forest to better serve residents and communities who depend on hunting, fishing, tourism or commercial fishing. "Including the Tongass 77 areas in the amended Forest Plan will help ensure that in the future we have viable freshwater streams that are crucial to our guests experience in the Tongass,” said Arne Johnson, owner of Bear Creek Outfitters in Juneau. A diverse group of more than seven thousand Alaskan businesses and individuals that value and rely on wild salmon and trout for their livelihoods, including commercial fishermen, guides and outfitters, as well as conservationists and sport anglers, voiced support for conserving top fish-producing watersheds within the Tongass during the lengthy public process leading up to the final plan amendment. "Conserving the Tongass 77 is a huge step in the right direction for the people and businesses of Southeast Alaska,” said Mark Hieronymus, Sportfish Outreach Coordinator for Trout Unlimited and veteran fishing guide on the Tongass for the past 11 years. “Fisheries, tourism and recreation are the economic drivers in Southeast, and this new Plan Amendment recognizes those values and sets sound conservation measures for the high-value areas of the Tongass 77 that will ensure their continued contributions to the Southeast Alaska economy." The Tongass is the nation’s largest National Forest, producing hundreds of millions of wild salmon each year that support commercial and sport fishing industries, account for 10% of all regional employment and contribute $1 billion annually to the local economy. Visitors from all over the world come to see the Tongass and support a booming travel industry accounting for another 15% of regional employment and another $1 billion in economic activity."