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Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Weekly Post: THE TONGASS: Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees by Robert Glenn Ketchum

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees
by Robert Glenn Ketchum

In 1985, I began a 2-year commission to explore the Tongass rainforest, the largest forest in the United States Forest Service (USFS) system AND the largest temperate rainforest in the world. It was a unique, old-growth environment under siege from industrial logging. The resulting investigative book I published helped to pass the Tongass Timber Reform Bill, protect 1,000,000 acres of old-growth, and create 11 new wilderness areas. This is the story of how that was achieved.
~Robert Glenn Ketchum



Tuesday, November 23, 2021
THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #274
Tongass, #274:  
At the end of Lisianski Inlet is a stretch of old growth forest floor that runs through a valley for several miles and then opens onto Hoonah Sound. Hoonah Sound forms a shoreline of Chichagof Island which offers many square miles of Roadless area old growth forests. Our plane will take us from Earl’s home in the Inlet, through this valley, and into Hoonah Sound, where it will deliver us to a boat that awaits us in one of the sound’s bays. Unfortunately for Bart, he HATES small planes, so he has not been looking forward to this transfer. What is worse, the morning of our pick-up arrives with weather, and low clouds. As a consequence, we fly through the valley relatively blind, but the pilot is not worried because the flight path is a straight line. Nonetheless, Bart breathes a GREAT sigh of relief when Hoonah Sound comes into view (above).

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2021,
@RbtGlennKetchum @RobertGKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd

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Tuesday, November 16, 2021

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #273
Tongass, #273:  
After a day of walking through, and photographing, the old growth forest at the end of Lisianski Inlet, it is time to return to Earls’ home, drink some beer, and prepare a dinner. The beer drinking starts as soon as we get back in the boat, however, because Early planned ahead and stashed many in a cooler he brought. Of course, during our return we had to pick-up some food from the “store,” so we visited one of Earl’s crab pots, to find it completely loaded. What you see here is Earl sorting the correctly sized ones for our dinner, and the smaller ones get tossed back into the water. There will also be Dungeness crab omelettes for breakfast, before a plane is to pick us up, and fly Bart, Julie, Carey, and me, to Hoonah Sound, quite nearby.

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2021,
@RbtGlennKetchum @RobertGKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd

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Tuesday, November 9,
 2021

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #272
Tongass, #272:  
In our walk through the tidal marsh and forest at the end of Lisianski Inlet, Earl had assured us there would be bear around, but that his tiny dog, Huggy, would be there to protect us. Nonetheless, everyone accept Julie, Carey, and I, were packing. Bart had a rifle, and a handgun, as did Earl, and Earl’s friend also shouldered a rifle. That is her “bear” dog you see in this picture.

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2021,
@RbtGlennKetchum @RobertGKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd

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Tuesday, November 2,
 2021

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #271
Tongass, #271:  
Not far from Earl’s home, Lisianski Inlet terminates in a grass and seaweed tidal marsh that edges into some prime old growth forest, which unfortunately, has been proposed to be clearcut. Our plan for our fist day was to hike in this forest, so I could make pictures. We would be joined by a friend of Earl, who would talk to us about the forest’s diversity, and the logging plans. Earl also assured us that there would be bear around, but Huggy would be there to protect us. Too funny!

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2021,
@RbtGlennKetchum @RobertGKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd

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Tuesday, October 26,
 2021

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #270
Tongass, #270:  
Earl’s home, deep into the Lisianski Inlet is ingenious. Created entirely by hand, and with no one else helping him, Earl harvested, and cut all of his own lumber. The home is located on a steep bluff, with a beautiful view of the inlet. It sits above a small, rocky tidal cove, where he anchors his skiff. To ease the labor of getting supplies up the many tiered staircase, he built this (above), a ramp with a trolley, so he can ferry materials up without having to carry them. Huggy, his dog, likes to ride the trolly down to the boat, when they go out to fish. They house has a solar array to save on fuel consumption during the summer months, but like most Alaskans living remotely, the main power source is a fuel-driven generator. I asked Earl about his, because I could not hear it (they are usually notably audible), and he responded that he didn’t move into the wilderness to hear a motor droning away, so he took me out behind his house, where an elevated boardwalk went off into the forest. Quite some distance out, we came to a nicely constructed shed, and I could hear the purr of an engine, but not loudly. When we went inside, I realized he had fully soundproofed the shed, in the middle of which sat a HUGE 8-cylinder, generator. I had to ask how he got this beast to this point in the forest, and he said it was manufactured in England, and shipped to Juneau by boat. It was then brought to Pelican on the ferry, and towed down to him on a float. To get it off the beach, and up the hill, he hooked the generator up to a winch, and using its own power, it pulled itself up the hill. Using that same trick, it pulled itself through the forest to where it now sits. Earl did not find the path that it dug through the forest floor very aesthetic, so he built the boardwalk above it.

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2021,
@RbtGlennKetchum @RobertGKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd

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Tuesday, October 19,
 2021

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #269
Tongass, #269:  
Bart, and Julie Koehler, Carey, and I, are joined in the small restaurant that was part of the village of Pelican, by several “friends” of the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council (SEACC) for whom Bart and Julie work. Several village residents, and one personnel of the US Forest Service, eat with us also while we discuss the USFS plans to log part of the Lisianski Inlet old growth. The residents are uniformly opposed to the plan, and the USFS employee said he thinks the cut is a waste of tax dollars as there will be no profit to the Treasury from the logging. Around midday, and a few beers into the afternoon, our host arrives at the dock with his skiff to transport Bart, Julie, Carey, and I, to his residence farther down into the fjord. Earl is accompanied by his dog, Huggy, whom he claims is the best bear dog in southeast, Alaska. As you can see (above), Huggy, is quite small, so when I ask if he is joking about the dog, Earl says that Huggy does not engage with bears, he just smells them long before they can be seen, and his frenzied barking assures Earl that they are nearby.

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2021,
@RbtGlennKetchum @RobertGKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd

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Tuesday, October 12,
 2021

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #268
Tongass, #268:  
Bart and Julie Koehler, Carey, and I have come to Pelican to see this remote village, have a famous hamburger served by the only restaurant in town, and then ultimately, we will meet a resident of Lisianski Inlet that will take us deeper into the fjord, where he has hand-built his homestead. When the ferry pulls up to the docks, there is a lot of activity involving the offloading of equipment, and supplies, but aside from us, none of the other passengers disembark. There are many people aboard, but they are all continuing on to larger cities that have more facilities, Pelican is just the first stop of the morning. Our group hoists our gear, and we step off onto the over-water boardwalk that connects all of the houses and buildings. Our resident host won’t be here until midday, so we wander in search of the restaurant, and the famous hamburger.

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2021,
@RbtGlennKetchum @RobertGKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd

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Tuesday, October 5,
 2021

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #267
Tongass, #267:  
Bart, and Julie Koehler, Carey, and I, left Juneau on a 6a.m. ferry, and the journey to Lisianski Inlet is not that far, so we arrive in the early morning hours, and motor down a good length of the fjord. The town of Pelican, our destination is halfway down the fjord, and as we continue on, the surrounding mountains grow higher, and the fjord narrows. Pelican is primarily a fishing, and fish processing village, almost all of which is built on wooden pilings, out over the water, and above the 18ft+ high tideline. Much of the town is still in the shadows of the morning. Boats, and birds are everywhere, and the docks, and processing plants, are abuzz with activity.

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2021,
@RbtGlennKetchum @RobertGKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd

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Tuesday, September 28,
 2021

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #266
Tongass, #266:  
While Carey, and I, have been exploring the roads of Juneau, Bart and Julie Koehler, working on behalf of the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council (SEACC), have set up a trip to a fjord-river system that hosts significant old growth trees which have been targeted for logging. The Lisianski Inlet is across the sound from Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, and cuts deeply into Chichagof Island. It is a narrow, long fjord, and about halfway down the fjord is a very small town called Pelican. We will take a ferry from Juneau to Pelican, talk with a few of the people in town, eat one of the “famous” burgers made at the only restaurant, and ultimately, we will be met by a resident of the inlet, that has a hand-built home near the end of the fjord, where we will spend several nights. In this shot, the ferry is about to enter the inlet, and I find this perspective of a long-liner fishing set against the backdrop of the mountains in Glacier Bay, most dramatic.

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2021,
@RbtGlennKetchum @RobertGKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd

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Tuesday, September 21,
 2021

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #265
Tongass, #265:  
Off of the main road out of Juneau, which follows the shoreline, there are some branches, likely created as logging. or mining, roads that take you up into higher elevations. As Carey, and I, are just killing time in between specific trips, we wander up several of these spurs to explore. This was an especially lush, swampy meadow which we came across, and stopped to enjoy for awhile. As it would turn out, this is the image the editors at Aperture chose as the cover of my book, The Tongass: Alaska’s Vanishing Rainforest.

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2021,
@RbtGlennKetchum @RobertGKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd

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Tuesday, September 14,
 2021

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #264
Tongass, #264:  
At the end of the road out of Juneau, Carey, and I, have been taking a walk along the very verdant shoreline of Berner’s Bay. Above the saltwater tideline, rocks have become gardens draped with ferns, lichens, and deep carpets of moss. Unfortunately they are all big rocks, so there is no chance I can kidnap one, and bring it home to decorate my garden.

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2021,
@RbtGlennKetchum @RobertGKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd

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Tuesday, September 7,
 2021

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #263
Tongass, #263:  
Near the end of the Juneau road that follows the shoreline, one rainy afternoon, Carey, and I, found a particularly verdant rock beach with ferns, and mosses, covering everything that the saltwater did not reach at high tide. As you can see here, this rock is barely visible, and has become a veritable garden of diversity. What an amazing habitat,..it is not just the trees.

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2021,
@RbtGlennKetchum @RobertGKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd

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Tuesday, August 31,
 2021

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #262
Tongass, #262:  
After our instructive walk-and-talk through the 2nd-growth clearcuts around Juneau, Carey, and I, hung out in town for a couple of more days, because Bart Koehler of the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council was planning several visits for us to places we had not previously been. Juneau has a lot of coastline, and a road system that follows it, so we spent our days exploring the shore, and the vistas they offered. Here is one of my favorites, near Point Bridget State Park, and with the tide substantially out, late light of the evening.

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2021,
@RbtGlennKetchum @RobertGKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd

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Tuesday, August 24,
 2021

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #261
Tongass, #261:  
The Tongass has been called “America’s Climate Forest” because of its unsurpassed ability to mitigate climate change impacts. The Tongass stores over one BILLION tons of carbon, keeping that heat-trapping element out of the atmosphere. Each of the big, old growth trees is like a gigantic stick of carbon that has been taking up, and storing carbon for centuries. Recent research shows that logging old growth worsens climate change, and it takes more than 200yrs. for 2nd-growth forests to capture as much carbon as the logging releases. There is no excuse for continuing to log the Tongass!. It is not only impacting climate change, criminal clearcuts like this that mock “the rules” of buffer zones, and degree of slope, damage the lake and river systems, destroying the habitat for the mammals, birds, and fish, and robbing indigenous people, and the American public of one of the country’s MOST significant resources.

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2021,
@RbtGlennKetchum @RobertGKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd

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Tuesday, August 17,
 2021

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #260
Tongass, #260:  
Of the many atrocities committed on the Tongass rainforest by industrial logging, the most destructive is the practice of ignoring the regulations put in place. In previous posts I have shown you the laughable barrier of trees left in place to protect lakes and streams - 1 standing tree does not make a barrier. For reasons that it is a RAIN forest there are also restrictions on logging slopes with too steep a gradient, which is intended to prevent landslides and muddy runoff that destroys salmon spawning streams. Ketchikan is one of the wettest parts of the Tongass, receiving an average of 325” of rain per year, and this cut is only about 10-miles from downtown. As you can see, with no regard for the gradient restrictions, the massive rainfalls have triggered numerous mud flow gullies on just this one small slope.

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2021,
@RbtGlennKetchum @RobertGKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd

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Tuesday, August 10,
 2021

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #259
Tongass, #259:  
Speaking of grizzlies (last post), this is a blackwater swamp salad bar for the bears. Quite a patch of -- as yet -- uneaten skunk cabbage. Just a good place to wade in, lay down, and snack on a hot summer day.

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2021,
@RbtGlennKetchum @RobertGKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd

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Tuesday, August 3,
 2021

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #258
Tongass, #258:  
This is another good example of an old growth forest system. A mixture of different sized trees; a more open canopy to the sky; a fairly well developed understory; a good bit of down timber/nurse logs; skunk cabbage; and a blackwater swamp. All that is missing is a grizzly, and thankfully I do not see one at the moment.

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2021,
@RbtGlennKetchum @RobertGKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd

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Tuesday, July 27,
 2021

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #257
Tongass, #257:  
Some parts of an old growth forest are more extravagant than others, and this is a small island where that is especially evident. The terrain is layered in mosses and mushrooms, and it is quite literally EVERYWHERE. It is important to follow the naturalist guide exactly so as not to damage any of this spectacular forest understory. This is old growth that feels prehistoric, but no velociraptors.

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2021,
@RbtGlennKetchum @RobertGKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd

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Tuesday, July 20,
 2021

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #256
Tongass, #256:  
This post, and the next, conclude my tutorial on comparing old growth to 2nd growth forests. In post #251, I identified one of the principle vegetations of a flourishing understory, Devil’s Club, and here is another, Skunk Cabbage (the big green leaves at the bottom). Found all over an old growth forest, huge patches of it grow where the terrain is swampy. It is also a favorite of the bears, who will go into a patch and rip it to shreds. On my 10-day traverse of Admiralty Island, the group I was with was portaging between two lakes, which took several carries. On the first leg, a section of the trail went through a considerable cluster of Skunk Cabbage, all undisturbed. On the second leg, we found it completely torn up. Uh, Oh!

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2021,
@RbtGlennKetchum @RobertGKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd

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Tuesday, July 13,
 2021

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #255
Tongass, #255:  
This is an even older 2nd growth forest of 20yrs.+ The trees are spindly with little branch development, and there still is no understory except for some mosses. A forest like this offers no support for wildlife, and virtually no carbon sequestration. It is criminal to turn Tongass old-growth into this, and I am glad to learn that the Biden administration is moving to restore the roadless rule discarded by the Trump administration.

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2021,
@RbtGlennKetchum @RobertGKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd

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Tuesday, July 6,
 2021

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #254
Tongass, #254:  
Here is another example of classic old growth Tongass rainforest. This canopy is more open than posts #251 and #252, but there is a good mix of older, bigger trees, and various sized, younger ones. Obviously the understory is VERY lush, with mosses growing on everything. If you have followed this blog, you have seen many instances of old growth understories, one aspect of which has not been represented by these recent pictures. In the deep forest, water is everywhere, and there are innumerable blackwater swamps. The presence of all that water also makes the deep forest more humid, which fosters the moss and plant growth.

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2021,
@RbtGlennKetchum @RobertGKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd

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Tuesday, June 29,
 2021

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #253
Tongass, #253:  
THIS is a sad, pathetic, 2nd growth forest after a clearcut. It is 15yrs. old, and still there is NO developing understory. The trees that have been planted to grow back are spindly, and too close together, and there is little canopy to speak of, because the growth in the upper branches is scraggly. The old growth Tongass is one of the greatest carbon sequestration ecosystems on the planet. This forest (above) offers little-to-nothing in carbon sequestration. Trashing the Tongass is a serious human mistake, and Alaska is paying for it since it is experiencing some of the most significant warming of any U.S. state. You reap what sow!

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2021,
@RbtGlennKetchum @RobertGKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd

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Tuesday, June 22,
 2021

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #252
Tongass, #252:  
Here is another example of an old growth understory. As you can see, it is a crush of vegetation. Fallen trees decay into the forest floor, many becoming seed beds for younger trees; moss clings to the rotting wood; diverse plants species thrive; the forest is dark because the large trees close the canopy above, and last, but not least, there is Devil’s Club everywhere (those are the yellow and green “floating” leaves). Devil’s Club is the bane of all bushwacking in old growth, because the ENTIRE plant is covered thorns, stems, branches, and EVEN THE LEAVES. It is a nasty encounter, and it flourishes everywhere.

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2021,
@RbtGlennKetchum @RobertGKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd

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Tuesday, June 15,
 2021

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #251
Tongass, #251:  
After our day of wandering the Juneau road system in the rain, Carey and I return to the Alaskan Hotel and Bar to drink and eat, while we enjoy their live music. We turn-in early because tomorrow at 8a.m., we are having breakfast with a US Forest Service employee, Matt Kirchoff, who is a researcher of old growth forest habitat, and John Schoen, who is a bear biologist. After our meal, they take us into the field to show us the notable differences between old growth, and a second generation forest. In short, I will offer some images to better explain those differences. Above is a classic old growth forest, defined by trees of many different ages and sizes. There is also a very lush, diverse understory, and in this particular grove (above), it also quite dark in the deep forest because the big tree canopy has blocked out most direct light.

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2021,
@RbtGlennKetchum @RobertGKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd

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Tuesday, June 8,
 2021

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #250
Tongass, #250:  
Eventually, the light drizzle let up, so Carey, and I, got out of the car and decided to hike one of the available trails around the Mendenhall glacier. Some trails were lakeside, or woodland, but one climbed fairly steeply to the side of the glacier, and led to a valley from which a large waterfall could be seen pouring out onto the glacial surface. This was Nugget Creek. As that trail would put us above the waterfall, we would also be above the glacier, and we decided that was worth a look, so off we went. The trail was steep in places, and made slippery because of the rain, thus our progress was slow, but steady. Eventually, we did rise above the glacier, and we could see its expansive surface of crevasses, all glowing various shades of ice-blue. As we drew closer to the side valley, the roar of the waterfall increased, and we finally came through a section of trees to find a narrow slash in the forest raging with turbulent water, which eventually plunged over the edge of the slope we had just been climbing. I left the trail and bushwacked to this vantage (above), where you have some sense of the dense scrub I am in, the plunge, and the striated face of the glacier. There is no glacier to be seen at this point anymore. It has retreated more than 1/2-mile from where Nugget Falls occurs.

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2021,
@RbtGlennKetchum @RobertGKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd

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Tuesday, June 1,
 2021

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #249
Tongass, #249:  
The image I made of the rock in Mendenhall Lake, not only became an embroidery (last post), it additionally became the cover shot for this book. In 1992, the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art at Cornell University organized, and displayed a 20yr. retrospective of my work that then traveled to the Society of the Four Arts in Palm Beach (FL), and later the Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens in CA. Up to this point, Aperture had published three of my books, The Hudson River and the Highlands; The Tongass:  Alaska’s Vanishing Rainforest; and Overlooked In America:  The Success and Failures of Federal Land Management. So Aperture decided to take advantage of this exhibit organized by Cornell, and they published The Legacy of Wildness:  The Photographs of Robert Glenn Ketchum to accompany the traveling show. Legacy was an important book for me because it not only contained photographs from the three previous Aperture books, but it also included much of my early work, and other projects that had never been published in books before, even to this day. Those pictures include some hand-colored work from my post-graduate period at CalArts; B&W images made with a 4x5 camera that were among my first gallery sales; a large selection of photographs from the B&W portfolio, “Winters: 1979-1980”; a very representative selection of images from my color portfolio, “Order From Chaos”; a unique body of work supported by Polaroid, “Planetary Graffiti,” made using their instantly developing, B&W, 35mm film, PolaPan, (these images were never even exhibited); another series of color images also never exhibited, “Stoned Immaculate”; a selection from the embroidery work I had been doing in China; and lastly, photographs created during my Artist-In-Residence at the Sundance Institute, which were never exhibited, nor published as a book, either.

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Tuesday, May 25,
 2021

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #248
Tongass, #248:  
Like “Colorful Leaves and Grasses,” this photograph of a rock at the near shore of Mendenhall Lake, caught the attention of Zhang Mei-Fang, the Director of the embroidery guild in Suzhou, with whom I was working through the UCLA-China Exchange Program. We had used an “in-and-out-focus” technique in previous embroideries by rendering the background “soft,” with less detail, and by making the foreground “sharp,” with more detail, so she thought we should do that again here. However, at the time, the traditional embroidered rock in China was done in something referred to as “Taihu-style,” and I thought it was sadly fakey, not looking like rock at all. I did agree to do this, but ONLY IF they rendered the rock EXACTLY as it is depicted in the photograph. She was willing to try, and when this piece was finished, she noted that stitching the rock in this way changed Chinese embroidery tradition from stylized, to “rendering from nature.” This is a 20”x 24”, two-sided, diaphanous, standing table screen, that swivels 360˙. Both sides are identical. It took 1-1/2yrs. to complete, and employs a hand-dyed matrix into which more than 20 different stitch styles are sewn. This embroidery is currently in the permanent collection of the Jonathan Club of Los Angeles.

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Tuesday, May 18,
 2021

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #247
Tongass, #247:  
Not far down the road from our wander in the tidelands (posts 243-245), Carey and I come to the Mendenhall Glacier, so we drive to the visitor’s center where several trails originate. When we arrive and park, it is raining pretty hard, so we eat some munchies and stay in the car. The car is parked at the shoreline of the lake facing a peninsula that juts out from the opposite shore. Sitting there, snacking, the rain breaks off, and this (above) is directly in front of the car. I probably could have made the shot through the car window, but got out and set up my tripod for the Pentax 6x7 camera, to make the exposure from the sandy beach. This image played into my career in numerous ways, one of which was being published in the Aperture book, The Tongass, Alaska’s Vanishing Rainforest. If you click on the Google map link I have provided here, you will also learn something about the effects of our warming climate. Originally, before the visitor center was established, the glacier extended to the middle of the big lake on the left side of the peninsula. At the time of our visit in 1985, the glacier face had retreated, and was between the right side of the peninsula, and the mountains to the right. Since 1985, the glacier has retreated even more to where it is shown in this 2021, 3-D, Google satellite map. That is A LOT of ice lost!

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Tuesday, May 11,
 2021

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #246
Tongass, #246:  
This day out driving around in the rain with Carey, did not necessarily give me pictures pertinent to what would be published by Aperture in my 1986 book, The Tongass: Alaska’s Vanishing Rainforest, but it proved VERY productive for my career. As you saw in the last post, I spent some time, ankle-deep in a swampy area, aglow with fall colors. Several years later, while working in Suzhou, China with a textile guild as part of the UCLA-China Exchange Program, the process of choosing which of my images worth embroidering, grew from my edit of photographs that I thought they would find attractive as subjects. On my visits, I would bring 8-10 prints covering a wide range of subjects and colors. When Director Zhang Mei-Fang saw the previous image posted, she was attracted to it immediately because it offered her a chance to show me some embroidery techniques that we had not used on previous pieces. As it would be called, “Colorful Leaves and Grasses,” showcased two of the guilds unique skills. It gave them a chance to use many different stitch styles in one embroidery, which traditionally was not often done. Intermixed here are four established stitches, and then they invented one other just for this subject. They also put on display their astounding range of dye colors, using more than 800 gradations to define the leaves and grasses. This embroidery measures 20”x 24”, and took 1-year to complete. It is currently in the collection of Mr. & Mrs. Richard Smooke of Sun Valley, ID.

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Tuesday, May 4,
 2021

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #245
Tongass, #245:  
Rain, rain DON'T go away... just don’t rain too hard! The drizzle, and the bright overcast are a color photographer's wet dream, so our drive about is making me very happy. Above is one of my favorite details of the afternoon. We had to slog around a bit to get here, and we are actually standing in shallow water, but hey, that is why XtraTuf @XTRATUF boots are called Alaskan tennis shoes. You don’t go anywhere, or get anywhere without them. As we wend our way down the road out of town, we will eventually come to the Mendenhall Glacier, but for the time being, I am having way too much fun in the weeds.

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Tuesday, April 27,
 2021

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #244
Tongass, #244:  
In many places that experience the intermittent tidal fluctuations, tall, salt tolerant grasses flourish in the summer months, but when fall comes, and they die off, the tidal influx pushes them over, and leaves flow patterns in them. In this shot, you can see those patterns in the grass, and the brown vegetation is a huge fern that has died back. Again, the light rain that has been with us all day, has brought vivd color into everything, even the things that are dead.

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Tuesday, April 20,
 2021

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #243
Tongass, #243:  
It was raining in Port Protection the next morning, as was predicted by the flaming sunset of the previous night, but our pilot had enough visibility to come for us, so Carey, and I, return to Ketchikan relatively early in the day, and then catch a commercial flight to our next destination, Juneau. We intend to do a number of interviews in Juneau, and two people, a bear researcher, and a USFS old-growth specialist, are going to take us on an educational hike. We take a room at the Alaskan Hotel & Bar, a favorite of ours, and rent a car so we can explore. Juneau has a lot of drivable road, although none of them connect to interior Alaska. As it is the state capitol, it is unique that the only way in or out is by ferry, or flight. The city literally sits at the foot of some very steep mountains, and a good portion of the homes are built up the scalable sides. A lot of people are connected by considerable staircases. Once you drive out of downtown, however, the land flattens out, and the forest grows dense. Juneau is also affected by the 18+ft. tidal exchanges that occur in Southeast, so much of the flatter terrain, is part of the tidal zone. It is raining for our cruise about, and the fall colors have become brilliantly saturated, so we get out often to walk about and make some pictures, the above being a good example of that. The greenish moss hanging in the tree is Usnea.

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Tuesday, April 13,
 2021

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #242
For Carey, and me, this is to be our last night in Port Protection enjoying the company of Mayor Ed Mura, and his partner Lizzie. It has been an awakening stay in a very tight community. No roads connect to Port P, you come and go by boat or float plane, and we will fly back to Ketchikan tomorrow. In the meantime we have some considerable halibut to feast on, and way too much alcohol to drink, but we do. Hahaha! Then, as rather perfect compliment to the perfect meal, I step out onto the beach for some air and this screaming sunset sweeps in over me from the Pacific. Those clouds most likely mean it will be raining in the morning, but right now it is a fitting end to a MOST enjoyable visit. Light it/one up and enjoy the show!

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Tuesday, April 6, 2021

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #241
Tongass, #241:  
This is my homage to the 16th century Dutch Baroque still life paintings of food. As you can see, the tail of this halibut has been cut off, and then a cut is made down the length of the cartilage spine. After that, the fillet knife is inserted where the tail has been removed and pressed flat against the cartilage rib plate to the edge of the spine. Starting with a nice slow cut across the plate, moving towards the head, yields a boneless steak in one solid piece that weighs about 12lbs. A second steak will be cut from the other side of the spine. There is very little meat beneath the cartilage plate, as that is where the internal organs are. The “gift of god” is that this is such a simple fish to clean, AND it provides a massive amount of meat.

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Tuesday, March 30, 2021

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #240
Tongass, #240:  
Ah, the subsistence lifestyle, always struggling to have enough food to survive. NOT! Certainly not this community, anyway. Yesterday we pulled up one of Ed Mura’s crab pots to find a bounty of Dungeness crab which provided us with dinner last night, and breakfast this morning, and there were still some to share with neighbors. Today, another of Ed’s friends went halibut fishing and caught two in the 35-40lbs. range, which once again will be shared. Halibut is one of the few fish that, to me, does not freeze well, and it is only savory when fresh caught. The halibut is also a VERY weird fish, that Natives see as a gift of god. A halibut is born with a normal head, and two eyes on each side of their nose spine, but as they mature they begin to live on the sea floor, with one side up, and the other side down, so the downside eye MIGRATES to join the other eye on the upside. All of the flesh meat collects this way as well, so the downside has very little, and the upside produces a massive, thick “steak,” as you can see above. That is about 12lbs. of THE most delicious fish you can image, all in one perfectly clean piece. Guess what we are having for dinner?

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Tuesday, March 23, 2021

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #239
Tongass, #239:  
As I knew it would be, crab omelettes, and fresh-made bread are a great way to start the day. After the meal, Ed Mura, and I, decide to stretch a bit, and walk off our two-meal pig-out, which gives me the perfect opportunity to offer you another unique part of this community. In the early days of Port Protection’s growing cluster of homes, there were only two ways to get around, the beach, which disappeared at high tide, and on well worn trails through the rainforest. Because no one wanted the trails to trample everything down, they all used the same paths, which unfortunately, due to the immense amount of rain, became deep, and VERY muddy furrows. This precipitated, a lot of boot cleaning, and mandatory boot removal before entering anyone’s home. The women, especially, tired of trying to keep things tidy, so they came up with a plan. While the men were doing most of the home construction, the women decided to build this, a brilliant, lengthy boardwalk that connected everybody, and provided bridges, or staircases, to get safely (and cleanly) to whatever house you were headed for. That is Ed, in this picture, taking in the radiance of the forest, glistening in the morning light.

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Tuesday, March 16, 2021

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #238
Tongass, #238:  
After the night of torrential rain in Port Protection, I slip out of the Mura home early in the morning, to walk the low-tide shoreline of the cove, while the rest of our happy party sleep. The long hours of rainfall have turned the black sand even blacker, and brought out luminous colors in the various drift logs deposited on the shore. The colors in these logs are made even richer, as the dark sand acts like a foil, making them seem more aglow. Then I happen upon this display. Definitely radiant, these logs look like they have been detailed with shimmering silver highlights, and I have not even had a mushroom omelette this morning,..well, as of yet. I spend about an hour chasing strange things on the beach that have emerged after the rain, and near the end of the cove, I look back to see smoke coming from the Mura chimney, so I know they are up, and crab is on the breakfast menu. Needless to say, I am heading back. Yum!

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Tuesday, March 9, 2021

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #237
Tongass, #237:  
Wine, fresh Dungeness crab, some homemade bread with fondue cheese dip - this subsistence lifestyle is killing me. Outside the sky is falling in. As wood in the stove pops and crackles, making Ed and Lizzie’s home in Port Protection, snug, and oh-so comfortable thankfully, because there are many minutes where bursts of torrential rain literally drown-out our conversation. Ed concludes that “this is a big one,” and echoes my sentiment that it is not a good night to be in a tent. Eventually we all turn in, and fall asleep to the drumming sounds of the downpour. The background of that noise becomes such a part of our sleep rhythm that at 6:30 in the morning when the rain stops, it awakens me. Everyone else is still zoned out, so I quietly rise, and check the view to find the sky clearing. Inspired to see what has happened during the night, I don my gear, grab my camera, and slip out the door. The tide is way out, so I head down to the beach to explore what there might be to photograph, and look at what the first thing is there to greet me. The long, hard rain has saturated everything, and this beached log has been tumbled for quite sometime, to the point that it looks more like a well-sanded wood sculpture, now in which, the rain has brought out some stunning coloration.

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Tuesday, March 2, 2021

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #236
Tongass, #236:  
Well before the dinner is ready, the sky falls in, and the rain pounds down. You can hear the loud drumming on the roof, and the water splashing off of various metal things outside. We have no cell phones, tv, record player, or radio, so we enjoy conversation, alcohol, passing the pipe, and “listen to the rhythm of the falling rain” (Thank you, Cascades - LOL) Before it is too dark to shoot, I venture out onto a sheltered deck, and take this picture of homes across the cove, barely visible through the haze of the downpour. I am glad to have a roof over my head tonight. This would be far less fun in a tent. Bring on that Dungeness crab dinner that’s a’ cookin’!
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Tuesday, February 23, 2021

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #235
Tongass, #235:  
I think we are all glad that we got lucky with the first crab pot, because the rain is getting harder, and a chill wind is rising. So, with our ice chest loaded, everybody is glad to be heading back to a snug house. By the time we are back in the cove at Port Protection, the skies have grown VERY dark, and it is certain that we are about to be hit by a big storm out of the Pacific. We unload the skiff, thank the Sebastians, and head for Ed’s home. We arrive to an inviting warm house with an ice chest full of fresh crab, and as Carey, and I strip off our rain gear, Ed chooses three crabs that he is going to run over to the home of the elderly couple we interviewed this morning (post #232). Meanwhile, Ed’s partner, Liz Bauer, and Carey, begin preparations for the evening feast.

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Tuesday, February 16, 2021

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #234
Tongass, #234:  
There is a steady, light rain falling as we motor out of the cove into Keku Strait, between Prince of Wales Island / Port Protection, and Kuiu Island to the west. The crab pots are each marked with a buoy, and our host, Ed Mura, the mayor of Port P, has several in the area. We only need to have luck in one of them, and as it turns out, the first one we pull up is loaded. They are all legal size, and since we plan to share them with other families in Port P, we take everything in the pot. Ed is holding one up for me to see, and Joe Sebastian's wife is checking others to assure they are legal. People who live subsistence lifestyles are very particular about legal limits, as they do not want to deplete their food resources.

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Tuesday, February 9, 2021

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #233
Tongass, #233:  
After our morning spent talking to the eldest couple in the community of Port Protection, our host, Ed Mura, the mayor, says we have to “earn our keep,” and that if we expect to have dinner on the table this evening, we need to do some crabbing this afternoon. To facilitate that, we circle the cove, and go out to a dock at the extreme end of the shoreline. Here there is a couple that live on their boat, the larger one seen in this picture. The owner stands to the left, Bart and Julie Koehler are behind him in their yellow rain gear, and Ed is facing us on the right. Almost everyone in Port P has crab pots located somewhere in the cove, or further out into the open waters of the Pacific, and this afternoon, we are going to motor out to Ed’s pots, and see what has been collected. It is raining, but we are wearing rain gear, so we will go in the smaller open, white boat to the right. I am anticipating Dungeness crab omelettes for breakfast tomorrow. Yum!

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Tuesday, February 2, 2021

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #232
Tongass, #232:  
Our host, Ed Mura, the mayor of Port Protection, wanted Carey, and I, to meet the oldest couple in the community, who also were among the first to build here. He praises their skillfully designed home, and their related systems of support, but he is also impressed by their tenacity to continue living so remotely into their 80’s. A subsistence lifestyle in a village with no municipal services is demanding at any age, but it gets more complicated when you get older. So, one morning he takes us to call on them, and they come out to speak with us from their weather porch. The man of the house is growing increasingly blind, and walks with a cane, but they are both humorously sharp, and enjoy our questions, and conversation. All the while, she is smoking a cigar! You’ve got to love that! The only concession they have made to their age, is that it is harder to hunt and fish, but that is resolved for them by support from their neighbors, who share their collected food with them. Later today, WE are going crabbing, and Ed assures them that we will bring them some nice crabs this evening.

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Tuesday, January 26, 2021

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #231
Tongass, #231:  
This house belongs to the oldest couple living in Port Protection. Carey and I are staying with the mayor of Port P, Ed Mura, and his wife, and they have built themselves a pretty tight domicile, but Ed says THIS is the most “skookum” house in the community, with EVERYTHING perfectly dialed in, from the views, to water collection, heating, and food prep. This couple were among the first to help create Port P, and their home grew more detail-perfect with every passing year. When you are living a subsistence lifestyle, in a remote location, everything has to work, even in the worst conditions, if you expect to survive. In this village, you need to be waterproof, and winter-proof above all. Port P gets slammed by big winter storms directly out of the Pacific, and as you will see, it rains most days. On some days, it rains so hard that you cannot see the house across the cove from you.

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Tuesday, January 19, 2021

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #230
Tongass, #230:  
Another view of the Port Protection community. Big homes, little homes, and all hand-built. These are over-water platform homes, but at the moment the 18ft.+ tide is considerably out. When it comes in, it will go under the houses, and re-float the litter of logs in the foreground. Because this community leads a subsistence lifestyle, they all hunt and fish, so any game that is killed, or fish that are caught, are processed out at slack tide, so the blood and entrails will be carried away, and not become a scent attraction that brings bears into the township. It rains often, and torrentially, in Port P, so the weather is generally cool, and clammy, thus everybody has a big wood-burning stove, and a stockpile of cut wood to ward off the cold day. It is a great feeling to go from home to home through the drizzle, only to enter a snug, warm room upon arrival.

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Tuesday, January 12, 2021

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #229
Tongass, #229:  
The harbor of Port Protection is encircled by homes of various sizes and designs. The smaller brown one to the right, here, sports the over-water, platform design, which facilitates their sewage disposal, and gives them direct access to their log-raft dock. The much fancier house, built off the beach, sports three floors, and a satellite disk, making its owner one of the more prosperous in the community. The owner may even have a septic sewage system for this property, but if not, the classic Chinese method of keeping a bucket, or urn, for “night soil” is used, then dumped in the bay the next day. The industrial clearcuts that surround this community often use log rafts pulled by tugboats, to get the timber to the mill, but lots of logs are lost from these rafts, and can be found floating, or they wash up onshore. Although the companies deem it illegal to “collect” these logs and use them, everyone does it anyway, and who's going to argue with a township that is totally armed, many owning several weapons of choice?

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Tuesday, January 5, 2021

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #228
Tongass, #228:  
After an exposed run along the outer coast, we finally turn into a deep, very protected cove, arriving at the aptly named Port Protection. When you look at it on this map link, the actual community is the side cove pinned as the Wooden Wheel Lodge. Around that side cove subsists a diverse community of young, elderly, poor, and prosperous. Regardless of their differences, they all have several things in common: they live subsistence; they built their own homes; they all have multiple boats; and collectively they oppose the USFS management of the Tongass industrial clearcut logging that is creeping ever closer to their town.The light green areas on the map link are those clearcuts, now sporting some secondary growth. In this view of the Port P diversity, we see two small homes, and a hot house growing vegetables. None of these homes have an integrated water source, so water is collected daily from streams, or rain fall is trapped by cistern. As you can also see, for the most part, the houses are built on platforms over the water which facilitates the need for a bathroom, the residue of which is carried out to see by the extreme tides twice a day.

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Tuesday, December 29, 2020

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #227
Tongass, #227:  
The floating log camp we visit, is about halfway up the long canal, so when the interview ends, we all get back in our boats and wend or way north, then west. After threading some narrow passages, we finally emerge in a bay that opens to the Pacific, and as we reach the outer waters of that bay, we are greeted by a host of whales that are “bubble net” feeding. It is a fabulous display to watch, so we kill our motors and enjoy the show. If you don’t know this, it is called “bubble net” because several whales swim in circles below schooling fish, which they are forcing into an ever-tighter cluster by blowing bubble “rings” around the outside of the “ball.” When the prey fish are in a compact ball, the whales then collect, side-by-side, and rush to the surface, passing through the ball with their huge mouths open, scooping in hundreds of fish. So much water, and so many fish are involved, some escape gushing out of the sides of the whale’s mouths, so birds flock in to pick them off. As you can see here, fish not engulfed when the whales surface, are leaping out of the water attempting to flee. There is a lot of activity, and the whales put on a great show, so our hosts are more than happy to drift, and drink, while letting me take pictures. A good time is had by all.

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Tuesday, December 22, 2020

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #226
Tongass, #226:  
Logging has always been a part of the Tongass economy, but not at an industrial scale. People living here need timber to build their homes, and their boats, and small scale, sustainable, local loggers, with just a few crew members do what is called “select” cuts. None of these loggers are out-of-state hires. They live where they cut, and no wood is shipped abroad or tuned into pulp. They harvest prime trees that yield excellent building material, and little is wasted. They also do not build endless miles of road, but rather they work from “floating” camps established offshore, cutting upslope trees, then dragging them down to the water to float, and tying them together, creating a raft they can tow to the mill. Because the crews are small, and there is a limited amount of heavy duty equipment involved, this is HARD work, and it is often cold and wet, as well. The head of this crew, took time off to speak with us in the meal shed of the floating log camp, where there was also a warm stove going, and coffee to be had. Talking with him is very enlightening, and gives Carey, and I, a VERY different take on logging in this forest. We are grateful he would do this. In case you are wondering, this guy is boring a tie hole through this log, so it can be lashed to others in forming a raft.

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Tuesday, December 15, 2020

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #225
Tongass, #225:  
Our multi-boat crew loads up after the midday meal at Sylvia’s in Tokeen, and heads out for Port Protection. If you are wondering what that is at the front of the boat (last post), it is a huge, shaggy dog from Port Protection who is riding on the bow, taking the wind like a dog in a car with its head out the window. To understand our journey today, be sure to look at this link. Tokeen is in the lower third. Port Protection is where you see the indicator for the Wooden Wheel Lodge, in the upper left. To get from Tokeen to Port P, we are traversing the huge bay to the right of Tokeen. Then we will thread our way through numerous islands, and turn up the broad channel that runs due north. At the farthest reach of the channel, it doglegs to the west (left), narrows, and once again we must slip through some small passages, to reach the larger bay which opens onto the Pacific. We will then navigate along the outer coast until we reach the bay that is home to the Port P community. Along the way we are going to stop for an interview at a small “local” logging camp. These guys are part of that camp and they are busy building a log raft to tow the cut timber to a mill in Ketchikan.
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Tuesday, December 8, 2020

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #224
Tongass, #224:  
It is about 11am when my wife, Carey, finishes her interview with Sylvia, and just in time, too. Outside the living room window we can hear the drone of several power boats approaching through the canal, followed by A LOT of hooting and shouting as two of the boats spin high speed circles in front of her house. This is the contingent from Port Protection who have come to share a meal, and then kidnap all of us and take us back to Port Protection. They are a pretty wild looking crew, and Sylvia immediately comments that they have already started drinking, which proves correct. The trip down has been rainy and cold, so that is their excuse. After some further antics and shouted greetings, everyone disembarks and comes into the house. Sylvia has had the bear stew cooking, and the bread baking, for some time, but before the meal gets started, Ed Mura, the “mayor” of Port Protection, insists we should all have some liquored up “tea” together to fortify ourselves for the trip back, and so we do. All of these guys live remotely, and support the “layered” look of dressing - several shirts, vests, jackets, and rain gear. Ed is particularly striking because he is over 6ft tall, relatively thin, and sports a dense black beard, and REALLY LONG black hair. All of them want the USFS to get the F*#% out of the Tongass, and to stop destroying this remarkable old growth habitat with the related hunting and fishing upon which they depend for their subsistence lifestyles..
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Tuesday, December 1, 2020

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #223
Tongass, #223:  
This is the heart of Sylvia’s outpost, the generator shed. As there are no “services” out here, you not only have to live off the land, but if you want to have lighting, and the internet (for home schooling), you need to generate your own power. Alaskans in remote locations take this VERY seriously. I am not talking about little units like many of us keep in our garages for emergencies. These are full blown engines of energy. They have to be towed in on a barge, and leveraged into place. Sylvia has two of these, “just in case” one or the other malfunctions. Among her MANY tasks, this makes her a mechanic as well. Living successfully this far off the grid, requires quite a diverse skill set.
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Tuesday, November 24, 2020

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #222
Tongass, #222:  
During my first summer in the Tongass, I was joined by my wife, Carey, and she did a number of interviews that would later be reflected in the book, The Tongass: Alaska’s Vanishing Rainforest that Aperture would publish. She has also joined me this summer to enlarge the scope of the interviews, and while I am outside Sylvia’s house making pictures of her property, Carey is inside talking with her at length. Carey and I live in Manhattan Beach, and spend a good deal of time staying in shape by skating long distances on the 26-mile strand bikepath. I also take my skates with me to New York, where I occasionally dance skate on the weekends in Central Park, or at night at The Red Parrot disco skate hall. There are a lot of good dance skaters in New York, and many of them sport the “not-laced-up” skate style. Sylvia has two daughters, one who is away at college in the Lower ’48, and this one. If you might wonder what a young child does to keep herself entertained in such a remote outpost, this one sings and dance skates unlaced in some pretty marginal conditions, yet she seems to be pretty happy to be doing so.
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Tuesday, November 17, 2020

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #221
Tongass, #221:  
The clutter of Sylvia’s complex is very interesting to me so I spend a good deal of time wandering in, around, and through the buildings. The weather continues to lift, and even the drizzle stops, so Sylvia decides to come outside and see what I am doing. The minute to door opens the dogs leave my side, and rush her at the top of the stairs, so she sits down and settles into a frenzied licking session. It looks like everyone is having fun. Sylvia tells me we are awaiting visitors who are coming from a community to the north called Port Protection, and after we have lunch altogether, Bart, Julia, and I, will go by boat back to Port Protection with them. As that is the case, I double down on my wandering around Tokeen, for this is a relatively short visit. I am also told we are going to have her specialty for lunch, bear stew with fresh-baked bread. Sounds interesting!  
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Tuesday, November 10, 2020

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #220
Tongass, #220:  
I guess if you have multiple boat docks, you also have multiple boats, and Sylvia has a dozen, or so. The viable ones that she uses to hunt and fish are in the water, but there are numerous others that have been hauled up onshore. Many Alaskans, especially those living remotely, never throw anything away because they might be able to scavenge parts from the discards. I suppose that is Sylvia’s thinking in keeping these 6 boats stashed, but it is also clear the RAINforest is slowly rotting them away. To the right is one of several roofless buildings, that are part of the many structures in this curious complex. Sylvia’s house is built on a rock outcrop, well above the high tideline, but many of the other structures are built on dock platforms, and they are all connected by makeshift bridges and boardwalks.  
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Tuesday, November 3, 2020

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #219
Tongass, #219:  
When Bart, Julia Koehler, and I arrive at Tokeen, there is no fog and we land effortlessly, taxiing across the water to a ramshackle dock and a collection of buildings. There are three dogs barking wildly at us, and a women (Sylvia) appears from a doorway at the top of stairs in what looks to be the best kept of the structures. We offload, exchange greetings with her, and watch the pilot depart. She then invites us inside for some breakfast, and while we are eating, fast moving weather rolls in out of the Pacific, and it rains torrentially for about 1/2 hour, eventually turning into a foggy drizzle. With the worst of the storm temporarily abated, I decide to take some pictures, and find myself outside, wandering the property, carefully watched by the dogs. This picture-within-a-picture (above) presents itself at the end of one of several boat docks.  
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Tuesday, October 27, 2020

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #218
Tongass, #218:  
Bart Koehler has not been too happy about the blanket of fog and low clouds that hang above Prince of Wales Island, as he fears it will make landing at Tokeen either dangerous, or impossible, so he is relieved as we fly further west to see that the clouds are parting. Tokeen has a Native village nearby, and it also hosts a marble quarry managed by the University of Alaska, but we are going to visit a small complex of buildings that serve as the post office, and is also the home of Sylvia, who serves as postmaster. Sylvia has two daughters, and three dogs, while living a near-subsistence lifestyle. There are zero services at this remote outpost, so Sylvia both hunts and fishes to sustain the family, and occasionally, mail pilots will also bring her staples from Ketchikan. I will learn that both of her children home-schooled, and the big, barky dogs help keep the bears away. This visit is one of my first experiences to see an Alaskan family living so remotely.  
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2020, @RobertGKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd

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THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #217
Tongass, #217:  
While much of our flight to Tokeen is over still-forested parts of Prince of Wales Island, at regular intervals the clouds part sufficiently to reveal the clearcut destruction I have seen so much of from ground level. The contrast between this and the stands of old growth are saddening, and sickening. The politicians allowing this to happen are criminals. Industrial logging wipes out bear, deer, and eagle habitat, and trashes productive salmon streams. This does NOT Make America Great Again, this is stupidly squandering our resources in a non-sustainable way. NONE of this wood enters the American economy, it is all shipped to Japan. Logging the Tongass has been a bad idea for 25yrs. now, and many Alaskan politicians still support further logging. It is time to turn them out! 

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Tuesday, October 13, 2020

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #216
Tongass, #216:  
The Cianciarulos, and I, have a nice night in Ketchikan enjoying a great dinner, before we part ways in the morning. They are going to take the ferry to Juneau and explore more of Alaska for a few weeks, and I am to meet Bart and Julie Koehler from the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, who are flying in from Juneau. When they arrive, we transition to a float plane which will take us to Tokeen, a very small outpost on the west side of Prince of Wales Island. If you have followed this blog, you will have read about my exploration of POW by car last summer, photographing the extensive clearcuts. Now I will have a chance to see a more expansive view of the island, and a part of it that the logging has not yet reached. I will also learn that Bart has a great dislike of flying in small planes. If it gets bumpy, it makes him airsick, and he just does not trust them anyway. It is not helpful that right after we take off, we encounter large sections of POW socked in with fog and low clouds. Bart frets that we might not be able to land safely at Tokeen. 
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Tuesday, October 6, 2020

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #215 
Tongass, #215:  
Our flight out from Goat Lake arrives early as promised, so we load up, have a non-eventful take-off, and a nice flight-see back to Ketchikan. The lovely Gilmore Hotel, where I always stay, appreciates my numerous return nights, so they have an early check-in awaiting us, and after a good shower, we assemble in their restaurant for a great meal. I am to meet Bart and Julie Koehler in the morning, and fly out with them to a place called, Tokeen, a small community located on Marble Island, that is considered part of Prince of Wales, but for the moment, there is a light drizzle in Ketchikan, and plenty to see, as Kyrs, and Jan Cianciarulo, have not toured about it before. I rent a car, and first take them to Saxman, a Tlinkgit village outside of town, that has a famous totem-pole workshop, where tourists can watch craftsmen carve traditional totems. Then, I drive them out to Ward’s Cove, at the other end of town, so they can see the bustling waterfront, and eventually overlook one of pulpmills in operation in Southeast. Although they know the work that I am doing is intended to help stop the industrial, clearcut logging of the Tongass rainforest, they have never seen an expansive cut, and Ketchikan is surrounded by them, so our last stop before returning to the Gilmore, is to wend our way up a random logging road, where we find this. They are taken aback by the visual of such destruction, and we all agree that it is a shameful practice. After a bit of picture-taking, it is now time for a nice dinner, and perhaps some live music. In spite of my departure in the morning, Kyrs and Jan are going to linger for a few more weeks, and explore Southeast by ferry, planning to head for Juneau next. This is to be our last night together. 
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Tuesday, September 29,
 2020

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #214
Tongass, #214:  
The swarming insects are driving us nuts, and the longer we stay, the more seem to show up. We move our position one more time for this last shot, and then we flee back to the boat, and motor into the middle of the lake for some respite. In the morning, we are to be picked up, and flown back to Ketchikan, so after some snacks while afloat, and a last ponder of this remarkable basin which we have been exploring, the rest of the day is spent at the cabin, preparing the boat motor, and our gear for transport. Of course there is no point in taking back supplies you carried in, so there is a considerable amount of eating, and drinking, as well. (I would also have liked to have taken a can of something flammable, and blow torched the gazillion mosquitoes on the outside of the window screens, but that would be bad behavior in a wood cabin,..hahaha!) 
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Tuesday, September 22,
 2020

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #213
Tongass, #213:  
While Jan Cianciarulo holds our boat fast to the shoreline of an island in Goat Lake, her husband, Krys, and I, venture ashore delicately. The 400+ inches of rain that falls on this terrain, has grown some very extravagant gardens, and this is one of the strangest of them all. Lush mosses, mushrooms, and eccentric lichens abound, and when we come upon this tree, I am pretty sure we have found the entrance to the troll underworld. Kyrs, and I, must have been amusing for Jan to watch, because not only were we balleting around, trying not to step on anything except rock or meadow grass, but we were also fighting off swarms of insects,..and I mean swarms. Jans only purpose in coming ashore with me, is to take a cloth cape I brought with us, and right before I trip the camera shutter, he waves it around wildly in front of the lens, to blow the mosquitoes away. Had he not been doing this, all these images would show a screen of bugs between the camera’s eye and my subject matter. Thank you, Jan! 
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Tuesday, September 15,
 2020
THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #212, 
Tongass, #212:  
After our visit to the bonsai bench, there were several islands that during our previous scouting looked interesting and approachable, so we head for them next. When we first viewed them, it was more in passing, and we did not get up-close-and-personal, so today we are surprised by the astounding vegetation we find covering them. Clearly alien spores have taken them over. Strange lichen, moss, and other stuff (I have no idea what some of these things are) cover the rock, and although we can get ashore, the trick is not to step on anything. These rainforest festooned gardens are way too beautiful and delicate to be trodden upon. Jan ops to be one less pair of feet, and stays in the boat. Krys, and I, do some articulate ballet to avoid any destruction of property, finally accomplishing a few shots that attempt to explain all of this wonderful weirdness.
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Tuesday, September 8,
 2020

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #211, 
Tongass, #211:  The screened windows of our US Forest Service cabin at Goat Lake have kept the interior mercifully free of the insect swarm outside, so dinner and doze go well. When we awake the next morning, however, the bright sunny day of yesteryear, has gone back to rainforest mode. It is not raining yet, but it sure looks like it is going to, and this being our last day, I specifically want to get out my Pentax 6x7, and re-visit the few approachable locations we have discovered on the lake, where we might get ashore. Hoping to do so before the rain starts, we rush through breakfast, pack our gear, and head for the boat. There are only two or three places where you can actually breach the steeply walled lake basin, and this meadow looked to be the most interesting, so it is our first stop. Several of these small streams meander their way through it, but what I found to be unusual was that every protruding rock had a wind-sculpted bonsai tree draping it. If I could have taken one of these home for my garden, I definitely would have.
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Tuesday, September 1, 2020

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #210, 
Tongass, #210:  To avoid the insect swarm, Krys and Jan Cianciarulo, and I, have spent this sunny day floating about Goat Lake, in the boat provided with the US Forest Service cabin that we have rented. It has been a “hot” day for a rainforest, AND very laid back. I have spent most of the time ponder the stunningly vertical walls that surround this basin. Streaming with water, and waterfalls, they are living tapestries of growing things, that are, quite literally, coming out of the rock. There is no soil up there. Now, as evening begins to draw down upon us, and we are at the far end of the lake from our cabin, we need to move in that direction, so before we fire up our little outboard motor, I take this one last shot of the hanging gardens and surrounding rocks bathed in the warmth of late light. Anon, to the cabin! Hope those window screens have held the bugs out, as it is still warm, I know they are awaiting our return.
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Tuesday, August 25, 2020

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #209, 
Tongass, #209:  Near the outlet of Goat Lake, where the waterfall pours off into the fjord below, the walls on the opposite side from the cabin are completely sheer, and numerous small waterfalls descend into the lake from the summits above. What is stunning about this display, is that the combination of the moisture from the waterfalls, and the annual 400+ inches of rain, have turned this vertical terrain into a virtual hanging garden. Big trees, and lush growth cover nearly every inch of the granite, little is left exposed. I know that the US Forest Service cabin where we are staying, was placed here, primarily for the use of goat hunters, because many goats do roam the exposed granite dome top that is above these verdant cliffs, but for the life of me, I can not figure out how any hunters get from the cabin to the top of the dome to hunt. Nor does it seem possible that after a kill, you could get the heavy carcass back down to the cabin. I think the hunters are WAY more at risk, than the goats.
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Tuesday, August 18, 2020

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #208, 
Tongass, #208:  After a bit of floating about in the middle of Goat Lake, we fire up the motor again, determined to tour the entire shoreline. While there are a few islands that can be approached, and an occasional terrace of moss and lichens that might be reachable, for the most part, the basin the lake is in is sheer and slippery. Rock shelves too tall to surmount, and covered with slimy algae, are crowned by an impenetrable forest of growth, from which I am sure there are bears watching us. Waterfalls and streams pour in everywhere, so there is a constant water noise, and occasionally a breeze sweeps through, so the trees rustle. It is a “chill” day for us, as we loll about in the sun, and we find several very cool, approachable benches, that we will return to tomorrow with my tripod and my Pentax 6x7. Given the insect swarm, it is clear that without a windy day, I am going to need both Chris and Jan to ward off the bugs while I try to work.
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Tuesday, August 11, 2020

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #207, 
Tongass, #207:  Our second day at the US Forest Service cabin at Goat Lake dawns sunny and clear. Krys and Jan Chianciarulo, and I, have a leisurely breakfast, and consider ourselves grateful to be in the cabin, which has screened windows. After days of rain, the warmth of the sun has awakened a fierce swarm of mosquitoes, and there are so many you can actually hear their collective whine as they buzz about outside the screens (probably being driven crazy by the scent of our bacon cooking, hahaha!) We do not intend to hide from them in the cabin all day, and we will avoid most of them by motoring out into the middle of the lake, so after breakfast, we pack daypacks with water and snacks, dress with bite-proof shell outer layers, cover our heads with headnets, and literally RUN down the steps to the boat launch. We are swarmed, but as soon as we push off, and head out into the lake, the insects abate. It is warm in the sun, so will kill the engine and float in silence,..well, except for the clicking of camera shutters - LOL! Studying the towering walls around us through my telephoto, I am astounded by the dense patches of BIG trees growing out of the rock cracks on the sheer granite faces.
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Tuesday, August 4, 2020

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #206, 
Tongass, #206:  As we have not gotten out of the boat on our first cruise around Goat Lake, the Cianciarulos, and I, stay dry in our good rain gear, but we get cold, and so we decide it is time to return to our US Forest Service cabin, fire up the stove, and have some food. As we begin that journey, the surrounding clouds come down low on the lake, and most of our surroundings disappear. When I took this picture, I did so, to show the low clouds, and the beginning of a very long spell of hard rain, but what I am now struck by is the astonishing green moss covering on the rocks. I am hopeful that this weather backs off for at least one of the days that we are here, so that I can take out my Pentax 6x7, find some place to come ashore, and try to capture the extraordinary lushness of the lake ecosystem that probably averages about 400” of rain each year.
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Tuesday, July 28, 2020

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #205, 
Tongass, #205:  As the Cianciarulos, and I, motor around Goat Lake, the constantly changing cloud cover plays peek-a-boo with the surrounding landscape. Summits, walls, and waterfalls, appear and disappear. Sometimes the entire lake is closed down and vanishes. What is constant are the sounds of the rain and its' drip, and the louder roar of descending water, sluicing through dramatic staircases of rock cut into the granite. The one above we could hear, but it was completely invisible until we were almost upon it, and then this happened. Just another lovely day to put on your galoshes and go splashing about. A warm meal tonight is going to be most welcome.
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Tuesday, July 21, 2020

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #204, 
Tongass, #204:  Having attached the motor we flew in with, to the boat provided for the cabin by the US Forest Service, Kyrs, and Jan Cianciarulo, and I, are off for our first exploratory around Goat Lake. Of the many things we discover, we are surprised to find the sheer walls dive directly into the lake, and afford only a few select places where we might go ashore. Perhaps the MOST extraordinary discovery, however, is how STUNNINGLY lush it all is. Every rock is covered with lichens and DEEP mosses, and saturated by the rain, they are aglow in the overcast. Numerous waterfalls descend into the lake as well, fed by snowfields farther up the granite walls, as well as the constant rain, which now seems to be getting harder. We all have good gear, so we are dry inside our rain suits, I just have to keep wiping my face with a neckerchief, to keep the water off my face from running down my neck.
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Tuesday, July 14, 2020

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #203, 
Tongass, #203:  My assistants for part of this summer, Krys Cianciarulo, and his wife, Jan, and I, are sorting our gear, and having a midday meal, now that we have secured ourselves in the US Forest Service cabin at Goat Lake, high in the mountains of Misty Fjords National Monument. Several of the windows in our cabin face the lake directly, so while we organize, this is our view. It has been raining off-and-on all morning, and as the weather drifts through, the surrounding summits appear and disappear. In this moment, our location is more clearly revealed. The immediate foreground is the far shore of the lake. The layer of clouds immediately behind it are billowing up out of a fjord that plunges down a sheer wall of 1,800ft. The massifs in the distance are worlds away. Wet as it may be, we all have raingear (hey, it IS the Tongass RAINforest), and we are eager to explore the lake, so after snacking, we are out the door, and down to the boat to attach the motor, hoping for a revealing cruise-about.
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Tuesday, July 07, 2020

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #202, 
Tongass, #202:  After dropping, my assistant Krys Cianciarulo, his wife, Jan, and I, on the tip of the rocky peninsula at the foot of the US Forest Service cabin at Goat Lake, we offload our gear and the outboard boat motor, and haul the gear up to the cabin. The pilot waits until we confirm the cabin is in good condition, then he tells us when to expect his return, pushes off from the point, and taxis slowly to the far end of the lake. As it has been raining lightly all morning, we stand in the mist to watch his departure. His revving engine echoes off of the surrounding granite walls, and then the plane picks up speed and starts to skip across the mild wind chop on the lake. A little more than halfway down the lake he goes flawlessly airborne, and disappears into the low hanging clouds. For several minutes we can still hear his engine, but eventually the only sounds are the patter of rainfall, and the drip of the forest. We retire into the cabin to sort our gear, make our beds, and have some snacks. Rain or not, we all want to get into the boat later, and explore the lake.
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Tuesday, June 30, 2020

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #201, 
Tongass, #201:  The US Forest Service cabin at Goat Lake is situated on a rocky point with a spectacular view of the lake and surrounding mountains. It is large and will sleep 6. It has a wood-fed cast iron stove, that also serves to heat the cabin. It also has many screened windows that can be opened without letting the mosquitoes and deer flies in. There are few trails in this terrain. Getting around involves the available boat, and bushwhacking. Interestingly, our pilot suggested we rent an outboard motor from him, which we then flew in with. As you can see here, a staircase leads down to the boat launch, where the boat awaits us, and our motor. The cabin is clean, well kept, comfy to be in out of the rain, and the boat is also in excellent condition. It is a big lake, so it is a luxury to have the motor, and not have to paddle around.
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Tuesday, June 23, 2020

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #200, 
Tongass, #200:  Krys and Jan Cianciarulo, my assistants for the first part of my second summer working on the Tongass rainforest commission, meet me in Ketchikan for a one-night gear check, and the next morning we fly out for Goat Lake in Misty Fjords National Monument. Last summer when I first saw Goat Lake on a flightsee, I was being flown by a pilot that suffered a tragic accident picking up hunters at the US Forest Service cabin on the lake. Although the lake is large with ample room to land, taking off can be trickier, as you need more running room to get airborne. That pilot was taking off after picking up the hunters from the cabin, so the plane was loaded down, and although he finally got airborne, he was very near the end of the lake (seen in this picture). Although he cleared the trees, he was quite low, and when he reached the edge of the fjord wall, he was down-drafted, crashing the plane and killing everyone but himself. On this day, I bring that tale up with our pilot, and he knows the entire incident. He adds that it was a weather related accident as well, because taking off in this direction seldom happens, given the direction the winds normally blow. When we reach the air above the fjord, there is no turbulence, he dips one wing, circles around, and gracefully drops in, to land on the lake. We are soon to be in our new “home” for the next three days, and we are all excited.
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Tuesday, June 16, 2020

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #199, 
Tongass, #199:  In 1986, I return to the Tongass rainforest for a second summer to complete my commission. In the previous summer, my assistant had been my friend, and fellow artist, Philip Slagter. This summer, I will be joined by various other friends at different points of the project, spread over several months. The first trip I organize is to return the Ketchikan, from where I intend to access a US Forest Service cabin on the shore of Goat Lake in Misty Fjords National Monument. Philip and I had seen the lake and cabin in a flightsee the summer before, and I had yet to use the resources of these many USFS cabins, spread throughout the Tongass, so I wanted to see what they would be like. I am joined now by another photographer and his wife, Krys and Jan Cianciarulo, who will be my first assistants of this year. Goat Lake is large, and it sits in a granite basin about 1,800ft. above a fjord. It has a spectacular waterfall pouring out of it, and the reason the USFS built a cabin in such a place was to provide goat hunters access to the high country. To get there, we will take a float plane out of Ketchikan, and land on the lake. We will only be there for three days, but they will be quite unique because this is high alpine rainforest, in one of the wettest parts of all of the Tongass, often receiving 325” of rain, and sometimes more.
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Tuesday, June 9, 2020

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #198, 
Tongass, #198:  In 1992, I was invited to have a major one-person exhibition at the Houston FotoFest. When I received the diagrams of the various galleries I would use, the entrance to the space featured large, curved walls. Since there were ample galleries throughout, rather than hang framed images on the curved walls, I decided to do something else, and I created unique prints for that room. Taking advantage of the new Fuji Crystal Archive digital print materials, I created several prints that would be hung without frames, just using clips and pins, allowing them to curve with the wall. The image above is “Roads to Nowhere (5,000 miles and growing)” measuring 48”x 150”. I took this photograph on Prince of Wales Island the first summer of my Tongass rainforest commission. The print incorporated the text you see to the right, which is too small to read as a jpg., so here is what it says:

The Tongass National Forest of southeast Alaska is the largest intact temperate rainforest in the world, and nurtures North America’s greatest concentrations of eagles, and grizzly bear. Freshwater river systems support abundant wild salmon populations, and the marine environment sustains a healthy diversity of shellfish, crab, halibut, seal, and whale.

In spite of this, over one billion dollars of the American taxpayer’s money has been spent as corporate welfare, subsidizing timber companies to build more than 5,000 miles of road in order to access and clearcut the forest. Most of the usable wood from these clearcuts is shockingly undervalued, and sold at this discount to Japan. The clearcuts also damage or fragment valuable habitat, negatively impacting the recreational tourism, and wild commercial fishing industries, whose long-term contributions to the state economy are sustainable, and ultimately have greater value.

According to a 10-year schedule recently published by the Department of the Interior, $165 million additional tax dollars will be spent to underwrite a substantial amount of new corporate road building. Many of the roads proposed will be constructed in 50 areas presently designated to be roadless.

Our tax dollars are being used to assist profitable private industries in building roads that lead to nowhere, and damage valuable public resources. At the same time, the nation’s infrastructure of highways and bridges is deteriorating, and most urban areas suffer crippling traffic and gridlock, because they lack the necessary federal funding to repair, improve, and expand transportation systems that already exist.

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Tuesday, May 26, 2020

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #196, 
Tongass, #196:  After the previous day of interviewing loggers at a log camp, and then being driven indoors by a torrential rain, my assistant, Philip Slagter, and I, awake to an overcast sky at our B&B in Craig, but the rain has stopped. We are due to return to Ketchikan by ferry around midday, so we decide to eat breakfast, check out, and do one last cruise through some of the clearcut areas, closest to us, and along the road to the ferry terminal. As you have seen from the last 10 posts, most of the images I have made are singular frames, and most often of expansive views, so the first few shots of this morning start with that was as well, but it seems redundant. How many pictures of this destruction can one make, until they all start to look the same? As I ponder this dilemma, the overcast seems to be dissipating, and although there is still no sun, the day grows considerably brighter. With plenty of time still, before our departure, Philip and I wax philosophical about my artistic dead end of the moment, and in that conversation, he casually suggests that it is unfortunate that no one picture can capture the scale of the miles and miles of destroyed old growth forest that we have seen in the last three days. Prince of Wales is a vast island, and even though my pictures suggest the expanse of the destruction, sitting where we are, and looking out over the terrain, provides a very different sense of it than any one picture can do. Then a thought occurs to me. In my recently completed work in the Hudson River Valley, I occasionally used multiple frames to explore an expansive view. In that project, those views were grand, and most of the subjects beautiful. Here, perhaps I might render this subject in the same way to reveal the hideous.

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Tuesday, May 19, 2020

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #195, 
Tongass, #195:  After our morning in a logging camp on Prince of Wales Island doing interviews, my assistant, Philip Slagter, and I, go on a “field trip” with one of the loggers to see where he has been working. Nicknamed, “Woodie,” he takes us to a cut where he is currently gathering slash (debris wood to be burned), and after explaining the extent of the tract, he brings us to a “view” location for some picture taking. While I do take some overview shots, on an increasingly gray and rainy day, I am draw to the matching tonal colorations of a pile of slash timber and the gray sky above. When Woodie sees me making a picture there, he announces that this is a burn pile he accumulated entirely by himself, a sizable task. Acknowledging his considerable accomplishment, I make the image that appears in the previous post, one of my most purchased industrial image prints. Shortly thereafter, the sky falls in and it begins to rain hard, so we return to the logging camp where we share further conversation with the loggers,..and drink. Philip and I have now been “in country” long enough to drink with the best of them, so we do. Not really in condition to drive shitty roads back to Craig, we do so anyway, and I am just crazy (and drunk enough) to still stop and take pictures (above). Finally, driven into our car by rainfall, we wend our way back to town, where we crash at our bed-and-breakfast, BUT not before some food and further drinking in a “local favorites” bar. Really? Really!

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Tuesday, May 12, 2020

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #194, 
Tongass, #194:  After our first day of road-tripping on Prince of Wales Island (last 6 posts), my friend, and assistant for the summer, Philip Slagter, and I return to a B&B in Craig for the night. In the morning we are met by a “guide” who is willing to take us into a logging camp where we will be allowed to photograph and do interviews. The loggers have been told we are just “observing” for a book I am writing, but the point-of-view in my work is not mentioned. Even so, totting cameras and tape recorders, and dressed in state-of-the-art Patagonia gear, they clearly treat us with polite suspicion (as well they should). We spend the morning in the “mess” shack, drinking coffee and having a “round-table” discussion with several of them, and then one of them named “Woodie,” offers to take us to a cut where we can make pictures. It is a cold, grey day, raining off-and-on, and although I do make a number of pictures of larger overviews, the one that has resonated in my book and throughout my exhibits is above. The silver-grey tonalities are amplified by my Cibachrome printing process. This is a pile of slash that has been collected to be burned, and Woodie hauled all of this here, by himself, something he was quite proud of. I am sure it was A LOT of work, SO, this is, “Rootwads and Slash/Ode to Woodie.” The sad end to a patch of old growth Tongass rainforest.

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Tuesday, May 5, 2020

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #193, 
Tongass, #193:  My last post jumped one summer ahead to show you a map of what Philip Slagter, and I, are discovering on the ground in our first summer. Prince of Wales Island has a very few “main” roads, but off of those main roads, hundreds of spurs, extend out into thousands of even smaller spurs, and they penetrate every stand of timber they can find, accessing and clearcutting the forest into a patchwork of destroyed old growth habitat, and decimating hundreds of salmon spawning streams. The cutting is reckless, and wasteful, leaving massive amounts of down timber to rot, and referencing it as unusable “slash.” This kind of management of a rare and valuable PUBLIC resource is the disgrace of the US Forest Service. If our politicians really want to reform and reduce government excess, they should start by “clearcutting” all those who manage “harvesting” the resource they should enriching. These people draw their salaries from our tax dollars, but they work for a few select timber companies, some of which are not even American owned. This habitat and its MANY renewable resources are OUR trees, and OUR salmon, and they are being devastated by corporations, in many cases from abroad, that could not care less, they just want to be profitable turning the Tongass into pulp, so they can sell diapers to the 3rd World. To me, this is a CRIMINAL activity.

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Tuesday, April 28, 2020

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #192, 
Tongass, #192:  By the second summer of my visits to the Tongass, what I am doing there is known to many. My wife Carey has joined me to do interviews with people, and we talk to quite a range of them including fishermen, loggers, retail merchants, and cruise operators. One day, however, stands out as particularly unique. We are in a hotel in Juneau when the phone rings, and the caller identifies himself as a US Forest Service employee that wants us to show us something he thinks will be VERY revealing about the timber harvest on Prince of Wales Island. Interested, we agree to meet him for lunch, and he asks that we do so at a remote cafe, well outside of town, where none of his fellow employees might see us together. When we meet, he is also out of uniform as a further precaution. While having casual conversation about our project, he asks if we had been to Prince of Wales, and if we know the USFS public line about their limited roadbuilding. We have, and do. USFS “press” claims their roading activities are VERY limited, and especially respectful of all salmon streams. At this point, he casually passes several rolled maps over to Carey, saying “This is what is actually being done. Don’t open them here.” He then asks if we really intend to publish such documents, and when we respond, yes, if they are pertinent, he says we will surely anger A LOT of people, and some will lose their jobs. Then he asks if we use USFS wilderness cabins when we trek, advising that if we do, we should no longer register for our permits under our actual names, because “hunting accidents happen all the time in the rainforest.” When we get back to our hotel and unroll the maps, this (above) is what we find. On the USFS maps that have been released to the public, there is fine print text at the bottom, in a little noticed disclaimer stating, “no roads under two miles in length are shown because of scale.” On these maps we have been given, literally thousands of “spur” roads under two miles in length scrawl every which way, blanketing the island. We published these maps in our Aperture book, The Tongass: Alaska’s Vanishing Rainforest, making the real truth public for the first time.

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Tuesday, April 21, 2020

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #191, 
Tongass, #191:  In many cases, the logging corporations try to make their deforesting operations, more “discreet” to the tourist’s eye. Cruise ship passengers are the largest group of visitors, so many cuts are on an island's interior. Near a shore where it might be more visible, loggers may leave a “screen” of trees at the edge of the beach, then clearcut everything behind it. On the roads around Prince of Wales, a similar game is played with many of the cuts being “screened” from the most driven roadways. traveling these main roads, you do see cuts, but should you turn on to one of the smaller side roads, within a short distance you will arrive at an epic “ground zero” with a complex hatch-work of roads and spurs, eating into the forest in every direction. This road engineering and design is one of the most publicly deceitful acts that the logging companies pursue, and it is all done with the approval of the US Forest Service. Please stay tuned for the next post - I will show you the “map trick,” from actual USFS maps, leaked to me by a disgruntled employee, who was opposed to the further destruction of the largest temperate rainforest in the world.

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Tuesday, April 21, 2020

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #191, 
Tongass, #191:  In many cases, the logging corporations try to make their deforesting operations, more “discreet” to the tourist’s eye. Cruise ship passengers are the largest group of visitors, so many cuts are on an island's interior. Near a shore where it might be more visible, loggers may leave a “screen” of trees at the edge of the beach, then clearcut everything behind it. On the roads around Prince of Wales, a similar game is played with many of the cuts being “screened” from the most driven roadways. traveling these main roads, you do see cuts, but should you turn on to one of the smaller side roads, within a short distance you will arrive at an epic “ground zero” with a complex hatch-work of roads and spurs, eating into the forest in every direction. This road engineering and design is one of the most publicly deceitful acts that the logging companies pursue, and it is all done with the approval of the US Forest Service. Please stay tuned for the next post - I will show you the “map trick,” from actual USFS maps, leaked to me by a disgruntled employee, who was opposed to the further destruction of the largest temperate rainforest in the world.

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Tuesday, April 14, 2020

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #190, 
Tongass, #190:  On most of the clearcuts on Prince of Wales Island, my assistant, Philip Slagter, and I, find massive amounts of timber waste, material that was not “harvested” and will be left on the ground to rot. If you think that is just the small, spindly trees, and larger bushes,..it is NOT. Large tree trunks lie scattered everywhere as well. This is not a “harvest” of anything. This is a massacre of an old growth forest ecosystem that is thousands of years old and thriving. This is the misguided management of turning a healthy, productive, renewable, living system, into a desert of thrash and decay. Most insultingly, these clearcuts are subsidized by about $60,000 in our taxes, EVERY year, as they have been for nearly 50yrs. now. We gain little by taking the timber, but we do loose renewable fisheries and desirable recreational habitat. NOW in fact, we loose something even more important - the Tongass is one of the largest carbon sequestration environments on the planet. As we face the challenges of climate change and warming, the value of the intact Tongass is becoming irreplaceable, but still the politicians support the industrialized assault on the trees. I hope they are among the first to perish in the heated years ahead.

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Tuesday, April 7, 2020

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #189, Tongass, #189:  There is very little actual enforcement and monitoring of the clearcutting on Prince of Wales Island by the US Forest Service, as a consequence, the companies that do the logging regularly ignore mandated restrictions, such as building a road on a hillside deemed too steep (above). Deforesting a steep hillside is a death knell for the valley and streams below, because during the torrential rains of late fall, winter, and spring, everything washes down into the creek, destroying salmon spawning habitat, and choking the waterway with debris. These are some very dangerous roads as well. The one shown here is just barely wide enough for our car, and several times pushing up one of these, we could not find a place to turn around, and so we had to back down, often over a good distance - VERY freaky! It is hard to imagine a loaded logging truck driving through this same terrain, but it was done many times a day, while the cut was in operation.

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Tuesday, March 31, 2020

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #188, Tongass, #188:  My assistant for the summer, Philip Slagter, and I, wend our way along road after road, seeing where they might lead. These roads are called “spurs,” and none of them go more than a mile or two. In that way, the US Forest Service does not have to map them, and can excuse their existence with a disclaimer on their public maps, that roads of less than two miles, are not depicted. The deceit is that there are hundreds of these non-mapped roads built everywhere timber can be accessed, and the landscape has been reduced to rubble in wide patches. As I have pointed out in the last few posts, not only are the cuts destructive to the old growth rainforest habitat, but the volume of waste is staggering. The arrogance of obliterating a thriving ecosystem, and then leaving all of this to rot, is criminal. On one of the roads we attempted, we found this log avalanche blocking our further passage. These were brought down off of the steep hillside, most likely during a torrential rain. None of this wood will ever be claimed for use. This is a VERY STUPID management of this resource, and Americans help build these roads by allowing Congress to subsidize them with $50 MILLION+ tax dollars EVERY year. It is time for US to stop this waste of money and habitat: #rainforestrebellionrising

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Tuesday, March 24, 2020

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #187, Tongass, #187:  Clearcutting in the Tongass is not only tax-payer subsidized destruction of rare old growth rainforest, it is stunningly wasteful of the harvest. As you saw in post #182, the drift logs blanketing beaches in the Tongass, are those that have “escaped” from the tug towing the logs to market, and they will never be reclaimed. Here, on the ground on Prince of Wales, every cut we see is buried in timber debris NOT taken, and it is not just brush and little trees. It IS, however, a disgraceful use of the resource, that is transforming the habitat of Prince of Wales, in profound, unfortunate, and long-lasting ways. The logging industry pushes back when the commercial fishermen say the cuts impact the fishing, but I don’t think this stream will see the annual salmon migration to spawn this year, and there are hundreds upon hundreds of these “crossings,” on virtually every side road we explore.

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Tuesday, March 17, 2020

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #186, Tongass, #186:  The ferry from Ketchikan is now destined for a small port and highway roadhead, in a huge fjord bay on Prince of Wales Island, where cars and passengers will offload. It is not an especially long trip, and when we disembark, we are immediately upon the most seriously developed roadway on this entire, huge island. This highway will take us from the ferry port to a junction south, leading to the sizable Native village of Hydaburg. Passing that turn, we continue on to the other side of the island, which host the large Native Village of Klawock, and the commercial fishing township of CraigPhilip (Slagter) and I, will explore Klawock, and overnight in Craig, but our real mission is to drive the logging roads through terrain much further into the island. After our pass-through with lunch in Craig, we return to Klawock, following the highway out of town to the north. The “highway” disappears rapidly, leading us to a narrow crushed-rock road pour that dives into backcountry. As we drive on, we are lucky not to encounter logging trucks, and we discover that every few miles, a spider web of short roads spin off the one we are on, and they all lead to clearcuts. We have no idea what goes where, so trying not to get lost, we begin taking different roads to see what they might lead to. As you can note above, these roads are scary-narrow, rock crush as well, and it becomes obvious why they would only rent us a “beater” for this drive.

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Tuesday, March 10, 2020

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #185, Tongass, #185:  My assistant for this summer, Philip Slagter, and I, conclude our exploration of Sitka, and return to Ketchikan, where we have already spent a good deal of time (many earlier posts to this blog), so we already have a feel for the community. In spite of the large timber mill in town, the inhabitants are mostly fisherpersons, and live by, and with, the sea. They are also the wettest residents of the Tongass rainforest as Ketchikan gets an average of 325” of rain annually. Yeow! Bring your raingear, and keep your knee-high boots handy. While Philip and I do indulge our knowledge of the town and friendships with its residents on this visit, our mission is to rent a car, and take the ferry to Prince of Wales Island (POW) in order to view the most extensively clearcut island in the Tongass, and to see what that looks like from ground level. In previous excursions, I have seen the logging from boats off shore, and from the air, but I have yet to take it in on-site, so this is to be our final mission of this summer. The roads on POW are nearly all dirt, relatively narrow, often truck worn, and primarily used by the loggers. A painter and a photographer in a rental car are not particularly welcome. In fact, when we rent the car, and tell the agent where we are going, he will only rent us a “beater,” a car already so beat up, we can’t make it much worse, unless we destroy it entirely. He also suggests that we might want to be armed for our own protection,..and he was not talking about bears. Thus, early one morning, Philip, and I, find ourselves in our “beater,” awaiting the ferry gate to drop, so that we can drive aboard, and begin our next adventure. We did not know it at the time, but we would soon see “ground zero.” A forest DESTROYED by an industrial bombing know as a clearcut. Only criminals would do this. #rainforestrebellionrising.

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Tuesday, March 3, 2020

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #184, Tongass, #184:  In these pictures (last post and this), I am trying to show you examples of the magnificent things that can be done with select cut trees, and with relatively no damage to the old growth habitat.  I am doing that now because in the next posts, my assistant, Philip Slagter, and I, are going to return to Ketchikan from our exploration of Sitka, and then we are going to rent a “beater” car and take the ferry to Prince of Wales Island, one of the largest islands in North America, and also the one that has sustained the most extensive clearcutting.  If you think the lost logs strewn across the beaches of Southeast as forgettable debris are disgraceful (post #182), wait until you see what gets LEFT ON THE GROUND!  Prince of Wales, or PRISONER OF WAR ISLAND (POW), as it is referred to by locals opposed to this damaging industrial logging, is a prisoner of war!  A corporate war on the public’s natural resources.  Two posts from now, you will be on a car tour with Philip and I as we skirt the out-of-state-hired corporate loggers, and view their careless, and COMPLETE DESTRUCTION of the RARE, temperate rainforest, old growth habitat.  It pretty much looks like ground zero after a nuke drop.  WE must make this STOP! #rainforestrebellionrising.  Goodbye to the grinning ass, Governor Mike Dunleavey; the cowardly Senator, Lisa Murkowski; and the 24-term, Walrus-penis waving pawn of big money, Congressman Don Young.  REALLY, 24-terms in office!?!  Criminals are clearly keeping their “boy” in charge. When will the voters wake up??  "You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone, they paved paradise and put up a parking lot!"

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Tuesday, February 25, 2020

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #183, Tongass, #183: The Tongass rainforest is being imperiled by corporate greed and DISGRACEFUL waste. This is an OLD GROWTH rainforest that does not restore itself after the practice of industrial clearcutting and reforestation. Yes, the trees do grow back, little, spindly ones that are WAY too close together, but the understory of mosses, berries, devil’s club, bear, deer, wolves, and salmon will take generations beyond our lifetimes to return,..if they EVER do. I believe this engineered deforestation is a criminal act. Can people cut trees in the Tongass without doing it significant damage? Yes! And, they have been doing it for centuries going back into the original Native cultures that call it their homeland. Boats, houses, lodges, totems, and much more, are made from these trees, but the trees being used are select cut and sustainably harvested. They are also put to good use and NOT wasted like trash on the beaches (previous post). Above is a beautiful, full-log home built by the hand of the owner, and all harvested from the forest, but you would NEVER know that. One last DISGUSTING corporate fact - the international companies doing this damage, high-grade the timber with real value, selling it to the Japanese, who sink some of it in cold ocean waters, intending to recover those prime cut logs when wood of that stature is no longer available in the remaining forests of the world. Except for these high grade trees, the ENTIRE rest of the cut is turned into pulp. If this does not make you mad enough, consider this - OUR TAX DOLLARS SUBSIDIZE THESE INDUSTRIES TO THE TUNE OF $50,000,000 or more in any given year, and they have been doing so for more than 40yrs. now. If you truly want to Make America Great Again, stop this corporate welfare. #rainforestrebellionrising #RainforestRebellionRising

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Tuesday, February 18, 2020

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #182, Tongass, #182: What lies before you now, is further evidence of “stinking weasels,” who not only thrive on their corporate greed, but do so by laying waste to public largess, with complete disregard. If it is not enough to rob the public of the unlimited renewable wealth of the Tongass rainforest, this confirms the criminal act of it. We are standing on one of the inumerable beaches that form the shorelines of the islands of the Tongass, all of which are strewn with endless miles of logs,..and I do mean endless miles. It is stunning to actual see this in person. Now, you may think, in an old growth rain forest, did all of these wash to the beaches because they fell in the forest, and were carried to the ocean by the rivers? AND, YOU WOULD BE WRONG. These logs line the beaches because they have “escaped” from rafts of timber, cut down by the timber industry, while they are being transported to various mills and shipping docks. They are ENTIRELY WASTED. They will never be reclaimed. The industry could care less about this disgraceful behavior. Yet there is MORE! Local people, white, and Native, alike see this for the disrespectful discard that it is, and go to these beaches to salvage this timber, some of which is used to build their homes, their boats, and sustain their fires during the cold winter months. To add further insult to injury, the timber companies, with an eye-wink from the politicians, have informed the local population, that anyone caught removing these logs for personal use, will be arrested and prosecuted for theft! So what we have is for-real criminals, making criminals out of those that would use the disgraceful corporate waste of the rainforest, for a meaningful purpose. This is WAY F$*%ed-up, and I hope intelligent voters will eventually put them, and all their political co-conspirators in jail, where they belong! #RainforestRebellionRising

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Tuesday, February 11, 2020

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #181, Tongass, #181: Not all weasels are beautiful (last post), however. Some are “stinking weasels,” a classification to which this company is ascendant. This is the “home office” of Alaska Pulp and Lumber Company, and when I say “stinking weasels,” I mean quite literally, this place stinks. Pulping timber requires a lot of cooking and chemistry, and the process is odious. The practice of turning the Tongass, a rare, temperate rainforest into pulp is odious as well. This is the practice of corporate and political greed, this is NOT “more jobs for Alaskans.” This is the robbery from Alaskans of one of their greatest natural resources, and one that historically will attract more dollars in fishing and tourism, than any timber industry ever will. BUT HEY, that does not stop Senators Stevens, Murkowski, and Representative Don Young, from braying on about forest destruction being good for the economy. Even today Senator Lisa Murkowski is following this misrepresentation, started by an earlier generation. This is STUPID political leadership of the worst kind. The current governor is part of this group of jackasses, as well. If, and when, Alaskan voters wake up and realize what is actually happening to them in the real world, I can only hope they put all of these idiots in jail for crimes they are committing against the planet. The Tongass is one of the few remaining ecosystems of this size that serves to sequester carbon, and as the denied global warming, in FACT, descends on us, Alaskans are going to be among the first to have their world altered for the rest of their lives. “You don’t know what you’ve got ‘till it’s gone!” Joni Mitchell had it exactly right.

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Tuesday, February 4, 2020

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #180, Tongass, #180: In the cast of characters that comprise the residents of Sitka, there is a group I shall refer to as “weasels,” - these (above) are beautiful, and VERY silly, weasels. On an especially stormy day, while I am wandering around in the neighborhoods, I come upon this schoolyard filled with playing children, oblivious to rain. (It is raining while I make this picture.) What strikes me is that, in spite of the weather, everybody is outside running around. True southeast Alaskans, and residents of the Tongass rainforest, they know water falling out of the sky means nothing, and life should go on as it does every day. (Of course, it rains nearly every day, so get over it,..and PLAY!) I am seeking cover under a shed roof, so that I can set up my camera without having to cover it, and then these two approach. They want to know what I am doing, and when I explain I am making a picture because I think it is unusual to see kids playing in the school yard when it is raining, to which they reply, “What? Where do you live?” When I tell them California, and ask them if they want to say “Hi!” to my viewers in California, this is their response, “Splzzzz!” Then, they ran off squealing, “Tell YOUR” friends to get a life!” Beautiful weasels!

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Tuesday, January 28, 2020

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #179, Tongass, #179: Beyond downtown Sitka, and past the adjoining Native village, the roads stretch out paralleling the shoreline. One direction takes you briefly through a residential area, eventually brining you to the beautiful Sitka National Historic Park, then on beyond to Sawmill Cove, after which it becomes very wild, and rural, stretching to Silver Bay. In the other direction the road runs through several communities, mostly comprised of predictable, nice, family homes, many that host boats in their yards, and worksheds in their backyards. Sitka's preponderance of people who fish and hunt is visible everywhere. As you get farther out along this road, another aspect of American culture comes into play as well, very rural living. Many of those toward the end of the road, are now off the grid, and have larger property, or get away with infringing on property that do not actually own. MANY people living in Alaska, tend not to discard things (engines, cars, boats) which they might, at some time in the future, scavenge from, in order to repair something else. BUT, just as in the rural backroads of the Lower ’48, some of “collecting” becomes more obsessively hoarding, and this is one of my favorites. This image is only a portion of the total grounds, but in this view alone, there are 3 trucks visible, and 4 boats. The “resident” lives in the small trailer, and there is no traditional house. I am sure there is enough to scavenge here to do repairs for almost everyone else in the rest of the city. When I was confronted over making this picture, he yelled, “Get off my land, you're trespassing!”, to which I had to point out that I was standing across the street on city property, and that he was illegally on land the maps indicated as national forest, to which he flipped me off, and went back inside.

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Tuesday, January 21, 2020

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #178, Tongass, #178: On the first day my assistant, Philip Slagter, and I, take a walk through the Native village part of Sitka, it is all new to us, so we are noting the unique evidence of village culture, fish being dried, animal skins hanging from clothing lines, and the other evidence of many people living either partially, or totally, subsistence lifestyles. I want to take pictures because it is a very different looking neighborhood, but I am also aware that many in the village do not want to be seen as spectacles of tourism photographers. Then we arrive here, and neither of us can resist getting a closer look, so we approach this house, trying not to be too obvious. Both Phil and I LOVE Tlingit design and symbols, so this is irresistible, but as we draw close, we hear a voice from inside asking, “Can I help you?”, and then the gentleman to the right appears from beneath a skin-draped door opening. I have not yet raised my camera, so we begin by explaining what we are doing, and who we are - a photographer, and a painter, exploring another culture, and not intending to capitalize upon it for touristic images. To which the person confronting us, asks us if we would like to come inside and “smoke a pipe,” and so we do. This person is Boyd Didricksen, an elder hunter and craftsman of the village, who is half Russian, and half Tlingit. This is a house of his design and building, and he also runs a store in town, Three Guys across from the Church, selling very high-end art and artifacts to the throngs a visitors off the cruise ships. He is amazing, funny, and his art is spectacular, as well as controversial. Boyd crafts remarkable objects from, and of, the animals he hunts. ONLY Natives may hunt animals they then craft into salable objects, and although he can legally do both, he often crafts things that cause the ADF&G and the FWS to question the actual historical lineage of the product. (Did historical Tlingit really use Auk beaks as buttons and jewelry?; Did the previous culture decorate their traditional cedar storage boxes with sealskins, and polar bear furs?) Boyd was unabashed, however, and besides creating well-crafted objects, he fought back against his critics, and often found himself in court, arguing about one practice or another, and frequently winning. He is/was what white cultures call “a character.” I would return to Sitka many times over my 24yrs. of coming to Alaska, and Boyd became a good friend, and someone I looked forward to seeing on each visit, regardless of the politics of his behavior.

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Tuesday, January 14, 2020

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #177: As I have noted in earlier posts, Sitka is a unique mix of cultures. A large, daily tourist population comes in from, literally, all over the world on cruise ships - virtually every country you could possibly imagine. The majority of year-round residents are divided between Americans, Russians, and the Native population of Tlingit. Within walking distance of the tourist burdened downtown, the Native village, is very apparent in a concentrated area, and then the other residents have built out along the roads that parallel the shorelines. This “tribe" of Tlingit is referred to as Sheet’ka K’waan, and their village is truly Native, which is evidenced in many ways. A great number of those who live in Sitka, white and Native alike, fish, either commercially, or for subsistence. Those living subsistence also hunt many different animals and birds, and as a consequence, the houses and yards of the village have a very different look. Some Native homes are fully modern, yet many have no central heat, and may not even be hooked to the city's infrastructure conveniences. Many houses have adjacent lots that sport racks for drying fish and/or pelts and skins. Many houses also have tubs or outside tables, used for cleaning whatever animals have been taken. Especially fun, on certain days, the village hosts Native food, outdoor markets in parking lots along the shoreline. There is always a lot of activity, and A LOT of good, and different, edibles to be had. Above is one of my favorites, Grace’s Fryed Bread. While not exactly health food, it is quite tasty, and Grace is both funny, and amazing to watch while she manages her “kitchen.” Check out the giant bowl of dough next to the oil fryer.

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Tuesday, January 7, 2020

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #176: Aside from various totem carvings, the small museum and visitor information center at Sitka National Historic Park, has other artifacts displayed nicely. My appreciation of the totems is equaled by my appreciation of another Tlingit artifact, the STUNNING Chilkat blanket and robe, shown above. These were ceremonial objects for the village that lives in the Chilkat River valley, and they were used in dancing ceremonies. The elaborate detail and brilliant yellow color, make them unique among all the tribal objects. Ones in good condition are also quite rare, so to see good ones displayed is a great opportunity, and the display here, and at the state museum in Juneau, are unparalleled. Tlingit presence is not just apparent in this park/museum environment in Sitka, as it is a actual village, so in next week’s post, we will talk a walk through the village, where Philip Slagter, and I, will meet some interesting people, and eat some interesting food. I hope you will join us.

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Tuesday, December 31, 2019

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #175: In spite of the Russian occupation of Sitka, the Tlingit culture and its influence never really went away, and today, Sitka is a Native village for all intents and purposes, invaded more recently by hordes of cruise boat tourists. Just outside of downtown, there is truly a Native village of MANY homes, and in the other direction from downtown, is Sitka National Historic Park, which offers beautiful woodlands trails and streams, interspersed with probably the finest carved totem displayed ever assembled in one location. A walk in the park is a must for a visitor, and something I have always done on my, now, many visits. There is also an EXCEPTIONAL museum and information center, well worth a visit. The totem above, of which you are just seeing a portion, is one of the more spectacular parts of the many things displayed. The details, such as abalone shell eyes, and the vivd colors make this a showcase of Tlingit totem design. If you ever visit, don’t miss this, it is well worth the walk from downtown.

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Tuesday, December 24, 2019

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #174: As I stated in the last post, Sitka reflects a diversity of cultural influences, one of which is certainly Russian. The church, in the center of downtown, is the most obvious symbol, and although it is a true church, it is also a tourist destination that allows specific visiting hours. I find the elaborate artifacts very beautiful, and I especially appreciate the many variations of “the Madonna of Sitka.” The one above is in the church, but I have another striking one that I purchased from the church’s commercial tourism store, across the street from the church. A tale of interest about the Russian “occupation,” when they returned to bombard the Tlingit fort, the Native residents held out for 6 days, then, in the dark of night, abandoned the entire village, fleeing by canoes, into the Peril Strait. Peril Strait is so named because of an epic tidal current that flows through when the tide changes. This current is so strong, most boats avoid passing through when it peaks, and many that do have been spun aground. The escaping villagers went through at slack, or with the flow. The Russians were punitive, however, and even though they were now in control of the city, they sent troops in canoes, to hunt down the fleeing village. Those troops hit Peril Strait at a bad time in the tide cycle, and they spent their strength trying to push through. When the tide slacked, the exhausted troops found a slim beach on which to seek refuge and food. They dug up local clams as part of that food, and after eating them, they all died from shellfish poisoning, hence the beach is called “Deadman's Reach."

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Tuesday, December 17, 2019

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #173: Besides its beautiful setting, the other elements that make Sitka so interesting, are its history of cultures, culture clashes, and now, cultures integrated. Sitka was an important Tlingit village, settled more than 10,000 years ago. Unfortunately for them, Russian settlers seeking wealth in the sealskin and otter fur trade moved in, in 1799. Not happy about the “occupation,” in June of 1802, the Tlingit attacked the Russian settlement, killing most of them. Not unexpectedly, the Russians did not take that kindly, and in 1802, Alexander Baranov returned with a sizable force, and a gunship to bombard the village and its fortress. The Tlingit endured the assault for 6 days, finally abandoning the village, and fleeing by canoe through the nearby Peril Straits. After the Battle of Sitka, Baranov became governor, designating the town as the capital of Russian America, and naming it, “New Archangel.” In 1867, Sitka was also the site of the transfer ceremony, when America purchased ALL of Alaska from the Russian for 2¢ an acre,..one of the greatest real estate deals of all time. (I bet Putin wishes that never happened - LOL !). Nonetheless, to this day, Russian influences are part of the character and fabric of the city, most obvious being the Russian church at the center of the downtown area. Although still a practicing church, it is also a huge tourist destination. Seen above is the church bell tower, set against Mount Verstovia and the Arrow Head.

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Tuesday, December 10, 2019

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #172: Philip Slagter, my wife, Carey, and I, arrived in Sitka late in the afternoon, and by the time we were in our hotel and, settled in, it was getting dark (post #170), so we explored the downtown area a bit, had dinner, and retired. Our following day is more serious, and Carey is flying back to LA, so after we get her to the airport, Philip, and I, begin an extended walk-around, trying to acquaint ourselves to this city that is new to us. Downtown is expectedly commercial, serving both the residents, AND the large numbers of tourist, many of whom just come in for the day, offloading from huge cruise ships. Like Juneau, Ketchikan, and Skagway, on any given day, several cruise ships can deliver more people to downtown than those that actually live there. The existing roads lead for some distance out of town in both directions, but for our first day of exploring we just walk. Weather has rolled over us throughout the day, but it has been a broken sky with no rain, and it has been unexpectedly warm. As the clouds are above the mountains tonight, unlike the previous post, I want you to see the double-summit of Mount Verstovia and the Arrow Head. Verstovia is in the foreground being kissed by a cloud, the slightly higher Arrow Head is behind on the left side. It is pretty clear why residents call it Arrow Head.

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2019, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd

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Tuesday, December 3, 2019

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #171:
Sitka is a unique city and environment, so I would like to offer some description. Like so many other urban areas in the Tongass, Sitka is not connected by road to anywhere else. You come and go by plane, ferry, or boat. The center of town sits at the foot of some VERY impressive summits, and there is a considerable mileage of roadways that can be driven, leading to some very interesting places. Sitka is a fun place to be, and if I were to move to Alaska, it would be my choice to live here. The airport is on a large offshore island, that also hosts a car rental system, and other administrative buildings, but no homes. That island connects to downtown with a bridge, which you can see in the background of the above picture. In this view, which is the reverse of my last post, I am looking from the airport island, toward town, and clouds are obscuring Mt. Verstovia and the Arrow Head, that rise behind downtown. Did I mention A LOT of boats!

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2019, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd

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Tuesday, November 26, 2019

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #170:
Having completed our canoe traverse of Admiralty Island, our group leaves the outer shore of Mitchell Bay, for a short paddle across a deepwater channel to arrive at the Native village of Angoon. We are met there by an innkeeper, who transports us to our lodging for the night. We will all return to Juneau by ferry tomorrow afternoon, but for now it is good food, welcome showers, and an actual bed to sleep in. The inn is quite nice, and they are also aware of my Tongass project, so in the morning, while others enjoy lounging about, the innkeeper takes Philip Slagter, Carey, and me, to visit Chief Dan George, in the actual village of Angoon. Chief George and his village are Tlingit, and they identify their family lineage with the stylized animal carvings on totem poles, and lodge walls. We sit for some time talking with Chief George about the village's relationship to the forest, and why they are opposed to the timber cuts, and Carey takes many notes. I also tell the Chief that I admire the animal drawings done by his daughter, which I have seen on card sets being marketed in Juneau and Ketchikan. It pleases him to realize that I have taken note of her artwork. After an enjoyable and informative morning in his home, he offers us a gift before we return to the inn, and presents us with a bag of halibut jerky. Shortly after our re-uniting with our group, we are all shuttled to the ferry, and then cruise to Juneau. Philip, Carey, and I, say our goodbyes to the group, then depart immediately for the airport, as we intend to fly to Sitka. Aboard the short plane flight, it is an unusually warm day, and many passengers, ourselves included, notice a strange smell in the cabin. On arrival, we discover the smell is our bag of jerky, that we stashed in the overhead. (Sorry everybody - LOL!) From the airport to our lodging, evening begins to descend, and as we have not been to Sitka before, we go out for a stroll around town. Sitka is a BEAUTIFUL setting with an island-dotted harbor, many, many boats, both fishing, and recreational, and the western horizon bears the distinct silhouette of Mount Edgecombe (above), a now dormant volcano on nearby Kruzof Island.

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2019, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd

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Tuesday, November 19, 2019

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #169:
THE TONGASS, #169:   After a successful crossing of Mitchel Bay, racing with the outgoing tide to prevent being stranded on the soon-to-be fully exposed seabed, our crew takes a lunch break before crossing the deepwater channel that will deliver us to our last destination, the Native village of Angoon. We munch a good deal of our remaining supplies, I shoot some pictures, and then we reload the canoes for our one last paddle. The group decides that before we launch, however, we should have a collective picture at the end of our successful 10-day, Admiralty Island traverse. I seldom take these shots, but I am carrying a small tripod, so I set it up, get everyone positioned, trip the delayed shutter release, and join my comrades-in-paddle. My wife, Carey, is to the far left, I am front, off-center in the dark glasses, my friend, and fellow artist, Philip Slagter, is to my immediate right, and our guide, Jeff Sloss, is behind him. A good time was had by all,..well, most of the time anyway - LOL!

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2019, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd

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Tuesday, November 12, 2019

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #168:
THE TONGASS, #168: