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New Agreement Promotes Collaborative Approach to Conservation in the Tongass National Forest


June 07, 2005

Southeast Alaska - The Nature Conservancy and the USDA Forest Service announced today that they have signed a five-year Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to work together to achieve a balance of working forests, habitat reserves, and sustainable communities on the Tongass National Forest.

Forrest Cole, Tongass National Forest Supervisor, and David Banks, state director for the Conservancy in Alaska, signed the agreement last month.

"We are proud to be associated with one of the most respected conservation organizations in the world," said Tongass National Forest Supervisor Forrest Cole. "We're excited The Nature Conservancy wants to help us with some of our watershed restoration and enhancement projects, plus a variety of other land management activities on the Tongass."

"The Forest Service and the Conservancy share a mutual interest in the health and diversity of our national forests," said Banks, "and we have long worked together successfully in forests and grasslands across the nation. With that foundation of cooperative action, we look forward to expanding our partnership on the Tongass National Forest."

Under the terms of the MOU, The Nature Conservancy and the Forest Service agree to cooperate in a wide range of activities to maintain clean water and to conserve fish, wildlife, plants, and ecosystems critical to biological diversity.

"Strong partnerships are crucial," added Cole. "When we're able to team up with like-minded partners with common goals, such as ecosystem health, we become much more effective in accomplishing our mission, which is to care for the land and serve people."

This summer the two organizations will join forces to restore salmon and steelhead habitat in Sal Creek on Prince of Wales Island. The project involves de-commissioning a disintegrating logging road. The road's six culverts are blocking fish passage, and the road itself, which runs directly to the side of the stream in places, is eroding. The road will be replaced with a restructured bank, thus reducing the erosion of fine sediment-harmful to developing fish-and providing more habitat. At four locations, trees will be placed in the stream channel to enhance pools and restore the natural structure necessary for salmon and steelhead to thrive.

According to the The Nature Conservancy, restoration activities such as these are a key element of the partnership as they provide both habitat and economic benefits to the communities of Southeast Alaska. For example, for every $1.5 million invested in stream restoration activities, 10 good-paying jobs are created. Furthermore, commercial, sport and subsistence users of salmon reap the benefits of thriving wild salmon runs. Opportunities exist to improve hundreds of miles of fish streams and tens of thousands of acres of important terrestrial habitats, necessary for species such as the Sitka black-tailed deer. The Forest Service and The Nature Conservancy will explore innovative ways to restore and conserve these habitats while providing jobs, improving recreational opportunities including hunting and fishing, and maintaining beneficial water uses.

The Sal Creek project is funded in part by a Centennial of Service Challenge Grant. These grants were created by Congress to honor the USDA Forest Service on its 100th anniversary and to benefit the American people through projects that enhance conditions of forests, watersheds, habitat, and recreational services.

"One hundred years ago the Forest Service was created with a unique mission: to sustain healthy, diverse, and productive forests and grasslands for present and future generations," said David Banks. "The Nature Conservancy's mission is also to ensure the diversity of our natural world for future generations. I can't think of a better time than this centennial year of celebration for the Forest Service and the Conservancy to jointly reaffirm the importance of our missions and our commitment to work together for the benefit of fish, wildlife and people on the Tongass."

The Tongass National Forest, established in 1902, encompasses almost 17 million acres in Southeast Alaska. It is the largest and most untouched national forest in the United States stretching some 500 miles north to south.


On the Web:

The Nature Conservancy

The Tongass National Forest


Source of News:

The Nature Conservancy
Web Site

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