Tourism needs wilderness

Letter to the editor

Posted: Sunday, July 25, 2004

Mr. Chew's recent editorial makes the important argument that the U.S. Forest Service should manage the Tongass in a way that supports all of Southeast Alaska's industries, not just large-scale logging.

My business, the Gustavus Inn, depends on the wild areas of the Tongass to bring my guests back year after year. They come to Southeast Alaska to sightsee, fish, kayak, whale watch, and hike. All these activities depend on a healthy, unlogged Tongass. To repeat an oft-quoted statement, my guests do no travel to Southeast Alaska to view clearcuts. If we can keep the wilderness intact, they will continue to return for years in the future. If we open up the land and log it, we will sell out the future of tourism for a very short-term gain. Of course, to add insult to injury, the costs of logging will continue to be financed largely by the U.S. taxpayer.

There are hundreds of businesses in Southeast that, like mine, depend on the Tongass and make significant contributions to our local economies. Unfortunately, the Forest Service and the state have been slow to recognize the value of these businesses to Southeast. On Wednesday, Gov. Murkowski - known for his strong pro-timber views - announced cuts in state funding to promote tourism in Alaska.

And the Forest Service spends far more every year on Tongass timber than it does on tourism, even though the tourism and recreation industry provides five times more jobs in Southeast. The agency and the state should rethink their attitudes. After all, the Tongass is a national forest for all users, not just a "timber base." Even better, the way my guests and I use the old-growth forest leaves it ready for the next visitor.

David Lesh

Gustavus Inn

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