Protect the Tongass: Final Week to Comment on Trump’s Proposed Rule Change

Chances are you’ve recently heard of Southeast Alaska’s Tongass National Forest and the political fisticuffs about what to do with it. The issue is the Trump administration’s proposed rule making to exempt the Tongass from the Roadless Rule, a Clinton administration regulation that prohibited road construction and timber harvesting on nearly 60 million acres of National Forest lands. In Southeast Alaska, the Roadless Rule has effectively preserved the Country’s largest National Forest and the world’s largest intact temperate rainforest. However, the Roadless Rule went into effect after half of the region’s forests were clear cut. 

The importance of preserving the Tongass National Forest cannot be overstated: “one third of Alaska’s salmon harvest each year comes from fish produced in the 17,000 miles of streams in Southeast’s Tongass rainforest,” which is largely attributable to the Roadless Rule’s protections. Yet, the public now has until December 17th to express their opposition to this rulemaking and preserve the Tongass National Forest. Comments can be submitted here

The Tongass National Forest was established by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1907. Then in the 1950s, industrial logging operations ramped up in the Tongass and began causing damage, specifically on the old growth forests, which are of significant environmental importance. The logging was fueled by federal subsidies and the two 50-year contracts for 13.5 billion board feet of timber or, in another metric, 1.7 million acres of forest. After years of harmful old growth logging in the Tongass and many legal challenges, the Tongass received protection through the Roadless Rule.

For nearly two decades, the Roadless Rule has helped preserve millions of acres across the country from the degrading ecological effects of development and logging. The protection of inventoried roadless areas, such as half of the Tongass, allow for flourishing biodiversity, connected and natural habitats, and contribute to healthy watersheds.

Habitat is one of the most significant factors impacting the health of salmon and steelhead, and logging can have profoundly negative effects on fish habitats. Logging operations have been directly shown to adversely affect watershed quality and salmon habitat. This is why the Roadless Rule has been so important for the preservation of the Southeast Alaska ecosystems. 

The Roadless Rule effectively blocked the harmful old growth logging activities in this essential salmon habitat, and it also prevented further development of logging roads with its own myriad of negative effects. Roads and other infrastructure facilitate continued and expanded resource extraction, and exacerbates the original threats. Roads also pose serious threats to salmon and their habitats because they can act as a barrier, hindering salmon spawning activities. 

Today, however, the Trump administration is actively attacking the Tongass National Forest, the efficacy of the Roadless Rule, and the wildlife that depend on the world’s largest intact temperate rainforest. 

Courtesy of Helpman Productions

This Summer, the Trump administration weighed in on the issue, indicating its support for removing the Roadless Rule protections from the Tongass. There has also been some controversy about the timing of this decision, as it came after a private meeting between President Trump and Alaskan Governor Mike Dunleavy. In any event, however, the administration continued its attack on the Roadless Rule, when on October 15, 2019, it announced it would propose opening up half of the Tongass National Forest to logging.

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) released its 585 page Draft Environmental Impact Statement for Rulemaking for Alaska Roadless Areas. The USDA outlined six alternatives for the Tongass’ Roadless Rule. These alternatives ranged from Alternative 1 (No Action Alternative) to Alternative 6 (Preferred Alternative). It should come of no surprise–given the Administration’s track record on environmental issues–but the Preferred Alternative removes Roadless Rule protections from all previously protected 9.2 million acres.

As always, there are many disputing viewpoints surrounding this issue. There are Alaska’s elected officials who advocate for an exemption from the Roadless Rule, and there are the majority of Southeast Alaskans who support the Roadless Rule. Those who advocate for removing the Roadless protections from the Tongass base their position on assisting the timber industry and bringing more jobs and economic prosperity to Alaska. However, this position is misguided. In Southeast Alaska, the timber industry employs 337 jobs with economic earnings of $18.8 million. To be clear: yes, the industry has been burdened by the Roadless Rule, but market forces and legal issues also challenge the industry. On the other hand, the same report found the visitor and seafood industries accounted for 11,715 annual jobs and over $300 million in earnings for Southeast Alaska.

When 26 percent of Southeast Alaska’s jobs depend on beautiful, functioning ecosystems, the rationale for opposing the Trump administration’s proposed plan for the Tongass becomes clear. Why jeopardize this sustainable economy and the highly productive salmon and steelhead rearing habitat for an industry that would have negative impacts on those economic drivers? That is the question Alaskans and other stakeholders will have to weigh in on.

Biologists have known for years the ecological benefits salmon bring to headwaters. However, we are now realizing the economic benefits and opportunities salmon bring to communities–actual people. In Southeast Alaska, for example, commercial, recreational and subsistence salmon fisheries were valued at $986 million. The Tongass watersheds produce roughly 50 million salmon, but 6 percent of streams in the Tongass have been affected by timber and roadbuilding activities, according to a Forest Service Factsheet.

The Tongass National Forest is home to some the highest densities of black and brown bears in the world. 25 percent of all salmon harvested in commercial fisheries come from the Tongass National Forest. The amount and diversity of wildlife in the Tongass is truly remarkable, but these species and habitats are threatened by logging. Additionally, these old growth timber stands act as “carbon sinks,” which will be even more important as climate change continues to affect the planet.

And, the fishing in the Tongass’ 15,000 miles of anadromous streams is out of this world. Trout Unlimited had this to say, “If you want to catch a very large steelhead in a very small stream, there’s probably no better place on the planet to do so than Southeast Alaska’s Tongass National Forest.” Unless we show our support for the Roadless Rule in the Tongass and our desire to one day fish the prolific runs of salmon and steelhead, the Tongass may be lost. Time and time again the Trump administration ignores reason and public support; hopefully the Tongass ends that trend. You can also help end that trend. To submit a public comment on this proposed rulemaking, follow this link!

For more on the Tongass and its threats, be sure to check out America’s Salmon Forest!

Photos courtesy of Trout Unlimited and Brandon Hill.


This article was written by Flylords’ Conservation Editor, Will Poston.

Flylords Holiday Gift Guide 2019

Call to Action: Tongass Nat’l Forest faces threat of Roadless Rule repeal

 

How to Tie: The Black Beauty Midge

In this week’s how to tie video feature, Tim Flagler from Tightline Video is back to show us how to tie the black beauty midge.

Learn About This Fly:

Difficulty: Novice 

As we slip deeper into the winter months, anglers are pushed to ride the underwater drift as fish become less willing to move, and hatches become limited. Like its simpler cousin, the zebra midge, the black beauty imitates a small black midge pupa which is a monumental part of a trout’s diet.

The black beauty is perfect for fishing calmer pockets of large rivers. Often times, trout will hold in these smaller waters, many times behind rocks or under banks, and wait for food to be delivered by the current. By fishing this fly below your point fly on a dropper system, you’re sure to entice any meandering trout.

This tie is incredibly simple and requires very few materials. Because of its simplicity, many can be tied in a short period of time, and the black beauty is an excellent last-minute tie when you need to add some weight to your nymph box. Like many other midge patterns, this fly is always benefited by creativity. By changing the dubbing and thread color, you can diversify your fly box.

Ingredients:

  • Hook: TMC 2487 (sizes .18- .24)
  • Thread: 8/0 Uni-Thread, Black (UTC 70 Deneir for flies size 22 or larger)
  • Abdomen: 8/0 Uni-Thread, Black
  • Ribbing: Fine copper wire
  • Thorax: Black beaver, or rabbit dubbing

Now you know how to tie the black beauty midge fly

Video and ingredients courtesy of Tightline Video 

How to Tie: The Blue Wing Olive

How To Tie: The Zebra Midge

How to Tie: The Mop Fly

Wastewater Pipe Still Pumping Blood, Viruses into Canada’s Largest Salmon Migration

Featured image courtesy of Tavish Campbell.

Two years ago, almost to the day, the public became aware of a truly gory scene going on below the surface along one of Canada’s largest wild Sockeye Salmon migration routes. In the Fall of 2017, Tavish Campbell made a series of dives to an outflow pipe from the Brown’s Bay Packing Company, a farmed Atlantic Salmon processor in the Discovery Islands, British Columbia.

During those dives he found a horrifying scene, gallons of blood and other post-fish-processing materials being spewed into the open water. Tavish took samples of the outflow and found that it contained a highly infectious virus that is running rampant in farmed Atlantic Salmon, Piscine orthoreovirus, and parasitic intestinal worms from the farmed salmon. Evidence of this virus was found in infected wild salmon in the region, prompting outrage and action on the side of conservationists and environmentalists.

This December, Tavish returned to the dive site and found that the pipe is still blasting the same biological materials, which still tested positive for the infectious virus, into the sea despite Brown’s Bay Packaging’s insistence that they disinfect all of their discharge.

“2019 was the worst sockeye salmon return in Canadian history,” Campbell told Motherboard. “This is what extinction looks like and it’s happening right under our noses.”

Source: Vice Motherboard and Tavish Campbell.

Continue reading “Wastewater Pipe Still Pumping Blood, Viruses into Canada’s Largest Salmon Migration”

Your Secret Winter Fishing Hacks For Big Bass

Your Secret Winter Fishing Hacks For Big Bass thumbnail

When bass get sluggish in the wintertime your tackle selection shrinks considerably to cater to the mood of the fish.

The key to choosing winter lures is to think about slow-moving lures because a bass will usually be swimming slowly even when the fish are in a feeding mode. So I choose lures I can work slowly to tempt winter bass. 

The weather also dictates the lures I throw during the winter. If the weather is calm and sunny I prefer throwing a spinnerbait, jig or a double-tail plastic grub around shallow rocks. As the day gets warmer I will favor slow-rolling a spinnerbait more than bottom bouncing a jig or plastic grub

Peric and Jon B with an epic bag of Winter largemouth. Most fish were caught using finesse jigs.

Suns Out Guns Out

On windy, sunny days, I opt for a faster-moving lure such as a suspending stickbait or a medium-diving crankbait. Bass tend to suspend rather than move to the bank during windy conditions because wave action continuously churns up colder water preventing the shallows from warming. Suspending jerkbaits and medium-diving crankbaits work best in this weather condition because the lures can be retrieved slowly through the water column where the bass are suspended. 

When the weather turns overcast and the water’s surface is slick as glass, I bounce a jig or double-tail grub along ledges of bluffs to catch winter bass on the main lake. I also head into creeks and twitch a suspending jerkbait along ledge rock banks and secondary points

Winter Fishing Hacks - honey hole fishing
Fish often bunch up into tight packs during the winter. This can make hot fishing holes extra crowded.

Crank Them Up

Cloudy, windy days in the winter means really cold weather, but I know if I can brave the cold I can still catch bass on clear-water lakes. If the water temperature is still in the middle 40s to low 50s, I can depend on a crawfish- or shad-pattern crankbait to catch bass along main lake bluffs or areas where the bank changes from a bluff to a flat or point. If the water temperature is in the upper 30s or low 40s, bass stay in the same area but drop deeper, so I switch to a suspending jerkbait.

Winter Fishing Hacks - Suns out guns out

It might sound crazy, but winter bass fishing on my home waters of Lake of the Ozarks and surrounding clear-water reservoirs can be great on snowy or rainy days. When it’s snowing and a north wind’s blowing, bass will bite a Wiggle Wart crankbait if the water temperature holds around 45 degrees. In colder water, I rely on a suspending jerkbait to catch bass during snowy weather.

Top Winter Fishing Lures

Slowing down is a common and effective approach for targeting bass during the winter months. Here are four baits we recommend

Jerkbait

Finesse Jigs

Blade Bait

Winter Fishing Hacks - Googan Lipless Crankbait
Googan Squad Klutch