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Conservationists Act to Protect Sensitive Bay and Crab Fishery in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest

Southeast Alaska’s Tongass National Forest is as much ocean as land. It includes saltwater bays, fjords, canals, channels, and too many islands to count.

At this intersection of land and ocean, life flourishes where forest creeks and streams empty nutrients into shallow saltwater bays. Among other species, dungeness crabs flourish, fed seasonally by the carcasses of spawned out salmon.

One such estuary 20 miles south of Petersburg in Alexander Bay is a place called the Pothole. It’s named for the crab pots used by the commercial crab fishery that thrives there.

Southeast Alaska’s Tongass National Forest is as much ocean as land. It includes saltwater bays, fjords, canals, channels, and too many islands to count.

At this intersection of land and ocean, life flourishes where forest creeks and streams empty nutrients into shallow saltwater bays. Among other species, dungeness crabs flourish, fed seasonally by the carcasses of spawned out salmon.

One such estuary 20 miles south of Petersburg in Alexander Bay is a place called the Pothole. It’s named for the crab pots used by the commercial crab fishery that thrives there.

Although the Pothole is a great place for crab fishermen to pursue their livelihood, the state of Alaska recently granted the U.S. Forest Service a permit for a logging company to store recently-cut logs in the Pothole’s shallow waters. The permit was granted after the Forest Service claimed it had no alternative, a claim later found to be untrue.

Turns out that in documents the Forest Service kept from the state, the Forest Service calculated that logs could be barged—instead of stored in bays—for almost the same cost, and without any impact to the fragile estuary or the commercial fishery.

When Earthjustice and its client, Southeast Alaska Conservation Council (SEACC), found out the permit had been won under false pretense, they wrote a letter to the state seeking to get it withdrawn. They point out there are a range of alternatives short of filling up a rich crab fishery with logs.

The state is now investigating the matter.

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