At the end of May my husband Tim Gallagher and I took a trip to southeast Alaska where we explored a bit of the Inside Passage and the Tongass National Forest. We were on a small boat run by The Boat Company – only 20 passengers and about 10 crew members — which meant we were able to get into little coves and natural harbors that were well off the beaten path. For a week our daily routine was to kayak in the deep, cool Alaskan water before breakfast, walk through the northern rainforest — some of it old growth — after the meal, and tour around the area in skiffs or fish for halibut, salmon, or trout before dinner. We saw humpback whales breach, brown and black bear foraging along the shoreline, and more bald eagles than you could shake a stick at.
The Tongass is the largest national forest in the United States with a huge section of it designated wilderness area. As Clinton was leaving the White House he enacted a ban on logging in wilderness areas. Two years later, an exception to this ban was made for the Tongass, which has enormous stands of Sitka spruce, hemlock, and red cedar. It’s hard to imagine full-scale logging in what looks like a pristine area (I did catch glimpses of a couple abandoned logging roads that were now bright green with the growth of alders) and just the idea of what would be involved in putting in roads to support a logging operation is mind-boggling. And for what? Pulp? Wood chips? Wood for Japan?