The Tongass National Forest is a place unlike any other. It is the largest intact temperate rainforest in the world, containing 17 million acres of ancient trees, towering mountains, lush coastlines, and healthy populations of deer, bears, salmon, and other species that thrive in the forest’s variety of habitats. This region is the homelands of the Lingít, Haida, and Tsimshian people; Indigenous peoples who still practice their culture and way of life on these lands and waters. The Tongass is valued locally and across the globe for its climate regulation, inestimable cultural heritage, myriad economic opportunities, and a natural environment that supports a unique way of life for the 31 communities and 19 federally recognized Tribes that live within and around these lands and waterways. 

The Tongass is our largest national forest. Photo by Rafe Hanson.

The Tongass hosts old growth spruce, hemlock, and cedar trees, along with karst formations, estuaries, and extensive muskeg wetlands. The sheer size of the Tongass is coupled with the fact that 89% of its historic old-growth remains. Old-growth temperate rainforests hold a higher density of biomass than any other ecosystem on Earth, including tropical jungles, which uniquely positions the Tongass as one of the most important tools for naturally sequestering carbon in the nation. The Tongass stores 44% of the ecosystem carbon for the entire national forest system. Additionally, old-growth forests are more resilient to climate change than areas subjected to logging and provide safety to many climate-sensitive species that would otherwise perish.

Wildlife, like this deer, rely upon the healthy intact old growth forests the Tongass provides. Photo by Rafe Hanson.

The health of the old growth forests of the Tongass are inextricably connected to the resiliency of the animals, fish, and communities who rely upon them. Intact old growth forests provide crucial habitat and food sources for wildlife like Sitka black tail deer and ensure safe spawning habitat for salmon. Southeast Alaskans, in turn, rely on these resources to fill our freezers, feed our communities and support our ways of life.

The Tongass is America's salmon forest. Photo by Ellie Schmidt.

SCS works with a wide variety of partners and stakeholders to protect the natural environment of the Tongass for the sustainability of the communities, plants, and animals that rely on it. Our mission is focused on protecting large areas of intact habitat that produce prolific fish and wildlife populations, allow these species to evolve and adapt to the impacts of climate change, while supporting ecosystem function in ways that have been damaged and disconnected in many other places on the planet. We work towards our vision through policy advocacy, policy formulation, and project implementation. We organize around and advocate for policies that protect the health of the land that we depend on for our food security, climate resilience, and economic livelihoods. We provide leadership in natural resource management by participating in local fish and game advisory committees and federally convened bodies that craft land management policies. We also implement projects that demonstrate our conservation values in action, such as showcasing sustainable uses of local lumber, improving local recreation infrastructure, and monitoring invasive species spread in Wilderness areas.

SCS collaborates with partners across the region and beyond to ensure we are responsible stewards of this place we all depend upon. Photo by Bethany Goodrich.

Learn more about the Tongass in the documentary film The Salmon Forest.