The Tongass National Forest is the largest forest in the United States (and one of seven in Alaska). Specifically, it includes a part of southeast Alaska and lies in a temperate rainforest. The size of the forest is 95% water and about half that area has been designated non-wilderness pieces. That’s just over 36 million acres to explore!
Tongass also hosts 32 communities with roughly 70,000 people living in this lush environment. In addition to having some pretty big numbers, the Tongass National Forest also holds some pretty special plants and animals–including 17 species or subspecies found nowhere else on earth!
The local economy is struggling though due to timber harvesting and mining having been banned there since 1990. In the past, it was one of the country’s largest suppliers of pulpwood – then reduced to nearly zero overnight. The land struggles for agriculture as well with its cool summers and thick mossy ferns that take nutrients from standard crops before they can grow 100 feet tall.
Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian are the first nations in Tongass National Forest. Tlingits can be found in Juneau, Skagway, Petersburg, Yakutat Bay town sites near Glacier Bay. The Haidas are found around Queen Charlotte Islands and Taku River to Wrangells-St. Elias National Park. And the Tsimshians can be found all over Southeast Alaska including Ketchikan at Channel Island to Hyder village near Prince Rupert.