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Salmon in the Trees - Luke McGuff

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October 10th, 2012


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09:00 am - Salmon in the Trees

Salmon in the Trees: Life in Alaska’s Tongass Rain Forest [With CD (Audio)]
Photography by Amy Gulick
Illustrations by Ray Troll
Braided River, 2010

The Pacific Northwest temperate rain forest extended from Mendocino County up to Anchorage, Alaska. It was larger than all the other temperate rain forests combined. You don’t think of Scotland, northern Japan, Chile, or Norway as having rain forests, but they all once did.

The southeast Alaska Panhandle, the northern coast of British Columbia, and all the archipelagos off their shores, are the largest surviving intact temperate rain forests in the world. This book deals with the Tongass rain forest in Alaska.

Even when being set aside as a national forest, the trees were made available to logging companies at dirt-sale prices; one article says a tree would be sold as raw lumber for the cost of a cheeseburger. Economics have weakened the pulp industry, and, in the way of extractive industries, the companies have fired the workers, closed the mills, and moved on.

What is left though is still intact enough to survive and is the largest national parks and national forests in the country.

This book shows us what remains in essays and photographs that made me want to go there. The Tongass rain forest is one of the wildest places on Earth. The essays range from rapturous homilies to the beauty of the landscape, to reports on research being conducted in conservation and ecology.

All in all, it sounds like a magical place. Burgeoning with life, all connected and living together. The essays show in great detail, with many different starting points, why this area is worth preserving. And not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because sustainable practices of fishing and forestry will provide longer-term employment than clear-cutting. Douglas Chadwick points out that a giant spruce, sold as raw lumber for the price of a cheeseburger, is worth tens of thousands of dollars when milled carefully to produce sounding boards for music instruments.

There are sidebar interviews with people who make their living in the Tongass — giving flying and boating tours, fishing tours and hikes, doing research. The photos are beautiful, adding to the information in the essays. I think the illustrations could have been reproduced a little larger — they look like “design elements” rather than an integrated part of the whole.

Salmon in the Trees was produced by the Mountaineers to bring knowledge and appreciation of the Tongass to people who might not have heard of it otherwise. I think it succeeds.

Mirrored from Nature Intrudes. Please comment over there.


 


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