THE TONGASS IS A CROWN JEWEL NATIONAL FOREST.
Spanning 17 million acres, the Tongass is the world’s largest intact temperate rainforest and the largest National Forest within the United States. Many view this landscape in ethereal terms–heavily wooded with towering, ancient spruce and marked with endless waterways, fjords, glaciers, and bogs.
Aside from a unique landscape, this region provides critical habitat for charismatic wildlife, including all five species of North America’s Pacific Salmon, black and brown bears, Sitka black-tailed deer, bald eagles, wolves, and other species. Often called “America’s Salmon Forest”, the Tongass supports our country’s top-producing salmon fishery.
CLEARCUTTING IS NOT SUSTAINABLE IN THE TONGASS.
Old-growth Sitka spruce is a unique gift of nature, requiring 500 years to grow 300 feet. The tree’s character is shaped by a lifetime of fighting through dense forest, competing for water, sun, and space below a thick canopy.
The wood of these ancient trees is marked with tight growth-rings due to this strained, slow growth. These tight rings make old-growth Sitka one of the ideal tonewoods for acoustic musical instruments.
These tight, old-growth rings are the key to creating impeccably clear sound in acoustic guitars.
A clearcut section of old-growth forest requires at least 1,000 years to fully re-establish. This means, once clearcut, we’ll never see old-growth forests again. Once stands of old-growth Sitka spruce are clearcut, they are gone, for our lifetimes, for our children’s lifetimes. They’ll be gone forever.
This old-growth forest has evolved for centuries. Does it exist so that unchecked human consumption can devastate it in less than a century? The scars left on the land, eroded soil flowing into Alaska’s crystal-clear Inner Passage, the loss of habitat, the violation of an ecosystem that has evolved over thousands of years . . .
Is it our right to violate the integrity of this precious forest?
We all recognize old-growth Sitka spruce as one of the finest conductors of sound in acoustic guitars. But saving a few dollars per soundboard through clearcutting hardly makes sense.
To encourage the scars of clearcutting in the name of a few bucks versus the long-term preservation of a premier tonewood resource is a no-brainer.
There are cost-effective and ecologically-effective ways to sustainably harvest old-growth Sitka spruce. The Music Industry can work with timber specialists committed to using sustainable forestry as a form of management.
Sitka spruce is remarkably resilient to rotting and insect manifestations, even after falling over due to wind or other causes. Timber can be salvaged from the forest floor or from dead standing trees, to be used for tonewood and other specialty items. Trees can also be selectively harvested as single trees to minimize disturbance of the surrounding ecosystem.
Sustainable forestry aims to harvest what we truly need, while protecting the forest for future generations. We can use old-growth Sitka spruce for guitars without wiping out vast swathes of forest. Read more about sustainable harvest and why old growth is important for guitar manufacturing.
We anguish over the loss of the Amazon and the Mayan Biosphere rainforests. U.S. government agencies and non-profit groups fight foreign policies that permit the annihilation of unique ecosystems. We spend billions on projects and programs to preserve tropical rainforests across the planet. Yet, here in our backyard, our most treasured, largest National Forest is subjected to clearcutting, subsidized by the U.S. Forest Service for as much as $1 billion since 1980. This must stop.
Depleting any natural resource in an unsustainable manner is foolish. But to clearcut magnificent 500 year-old Sitka spruce, to sell them for hardly nothing, and to ship the bulk of these rare trees to China to be made into two-by-fours, pallets, paper and other cheap goods, makes absolutely no sense.
Musicians and the Music Industry do not need to wait for the US Forest Service and other government officials to amend their current ill-fated policy of issuing clearcutting permits. We can choose to do the right thing ourselves.
Let’s make a statement now, as a collective Music Industry.
Let’s show Capitol Hill that we’re not going to wait for them to do the right thing. We’ll do the right thing on our own terms.