July 06, 2009
Leveraging their information with the Internet, the Tongass and many other national forests are entering social networking platforms as a means of direct access to the varied groups, visitors, and individuals with an interest in the management and recreational opportunities available on the Tongass. The Tongass has developed several social networking profiles and accounts, through which the nation's largest national forest will distibute and discuss facts and truths about the Tongass that seem to be continually dropped from most of the news reports, discussions on other web sites, and in blogs and discussion boards.
Tongass Public Affairs Officer Phil Sammon explained that the emerging opportunities in social networking provide direct access to a wider range of audiences, groups, and visitors.
"Primarily, social media is another communications tool," Sammon explained. "Not every tool is right for every job, so forests and their leadership teams need to first determine if that tool is appropriate for their forest and their audiences."
The Tongass has established a Twitter account and has begun to 'tweet' about information they are posting to their main Forest Service Internet page. There is also a Flickr photo sharing account, which Sammon is populating with some of the more dynamic and interesting photos from the 17-million-acre Tongass. He has also established a Facebook corporate page, and is preparing to incorporate video files both there and on the Tongass National Forest home page.
"Social media sites are not a replacement for our main Internet home page," Sammon stated. "Our main Tongass web page is the primary source for the current information and resource directories for the Forest." He says the Forest began engaging the social media sites as a means of directing the public to their home page. In that way, his staff only has to maintain and update information at one web page, and not try to keep up with several profiles and page content.
In the case of the Logjam timber sale, the Forest determined that the public interest would be best served with a more open and transparent accounting of the entire process of a timber sale. From that perspective, Sammon said the Tongass will provide as much information as possible along every step of the sale's progress - including contracting information, public opinion and media releases, maps, and details on appeals and litigation, should they occur.
"There is a new sense of collaboration developing among many groups in southeast Alaska with regards to the management of the Forest," said Forrest Cole, the Tongass Forest Supervisor. "We feel that the public interest will be best served by making this timber sale and all of its details as transparent as we can legally make it."
Sammon plans to provide updates several times a week on their various profiles and accounts as a way to supplement the information and releases they currently make to media outlets in southeast Alaska.
"We receive fair and timely coverage from the outlets here in the region," Sammon commented, adding that the social media efforts are a way to more directly access specific audiences and groups with more detail.
You can follow the Tongass on their various profiles by searching for Tongass_NF on Twitter, Flickr and Facebook. Through these accounts and the main web page's Special Reports section, you can keep closely tuned in to news and information about the Tongass.
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