I am fortunate to be able to make my living by exploring and sharing our “backyard” with visitors to southeast Alaska. As a professional guide and naturalist for a company offering 7- to 21-day active/adventure travel opportunities on small ships in southeast Alaska each summer, I depend upon the health and vitality of our lands and waters to make my living. I am not alone – many people rely upon the lands within the Tongass National Forest and our region’s waterways for their livelihoods.
This is why the recent opinion piece in the Juneau Empire, “Southeast Alaska visitors play key role in our economy” (Oct. 10, 2012), resonated with me. I am a Juneau resident that once too often has heard or read a comment dismissing resource-dependent jobs in the tourism industry because of their seasonal nature or ranking them below resource-dependent jobs in other economic sectors. While some tourism jobs are strictly seasonal, it is important to acknowledge that many people, such as myself, are employed year-round in the visitor sector – successfully offering services to visitors during the summer season and working through the “off-season” to close out one year and prepare for the next. Although it’s not my field of work, I’d be remiss if I didn’t also mention winter recreation. While the winter recreation season is certainly not as large in terms as numbers of visitors, it is still an important part of Juneau’s and other communities’ economic portfolios.
As a region, we have are privileged to have natural resources which draw visitors from around the world. With this privilege comes the responsibility of making sure we manage our land and water sustainably. Like Mr. Morehouse, I view the Forest Service’s transition framework for the Tongass as a start in the right direction. I hope to see tourism and recreation become an even higher priority for the Tongass’ leadership. I also believe strongly in the economic value of healthy and intact landscapes within the Tongass National Forest. We need to make sure that there is balanced plan for the Tongass, one that recognizes securing resource-dependent jobs like those in tourism is good for our communities.