Representatives from Greenpeace will stop in Juneau later this month during a six-week Inside Passage media cruise on an overhauled Russian firefighting ship.
"It's part of the global forest work that we do," said Greenpeace spokeswoman Nancy Hwa. "The Tongass is considered one of the 'Magnificent Seven,' our seven forest ecosystems which are just culturally and environmentally valuable and which are also threatened from different causes."
The ship, the Esperanza, departed San Francisco on July 29. It is expected to arrive in Ketchikan on Tuesday, Hwa said.
Ketchikan has declined Greenpeace's request to anchor at the city's cruise ship docks because of lack of space, said City Manager Karl Amylon.
The ship's passengers will be Greenpeace staff, and they plan to open it up to media and the public in the larger ports. Hwa said the crew has removed or contained all the asbestos on board the ship, installed an overflow system in the fuel storage tank area to minimize spill risk, added equipment for onboard wastewater treatment, and installed ammonia-based air conditioning, refrigeration and freezing systems. The ship also uses a diesel-electric propulsion system for better fuel consumption, she said.
The Greenpeace staff will use the ship's helicopter pad and chopper to document clearcuts with photographs and video.
"I think we have some photos from back in the early 1990s that we can compare how much forest destruction there's been since then," Hwa said.
The boat will be in Juneau for a week, with a scheduled Aug. 20 arrival. It's unclear where the ship will dock. According to the itinerary, passengers will take floatplanes to view "areas decimated by logging."
Hwa said she wasn't sure where those areas are.
Tongass National Forest spokesman Dennis Neill said the U.S. Forest Service hasn't done much logging around Juneau.
"It's intriguing when folks say, 'We're going to go look at places that have been destroyed,' and you say, 'Well, what places are those,' and they say, 'I don't know, we'll find it when we get there,' " Neill said. "I think it speaks to credibility. More than 90 percent of the Tongass will always remain unroaded and undeveloped."
Neill said the Forest Service is preparing for the possibility that demonstrations might get out of hand, but said he expects nothing like that will occur.
He said preparations would include meeting with the people on the ship when they get into town to discuss their plans.
"We know folks are coming up here to look at our activities. We're going to have a higher level of awareness to help them with that," he said.
Masha Herbst can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.