Commentary: Alaska’s Bristol Bay and Tongass are ideal beginnings for 30×30

SalmonState is excited to see the release of the Biden Administration’s initial report on the potential of the 30×30 initiative — a bold and necessary effort to protect 30% of America’s lands and waters by 2030. While there are multiple ways to reach these goals, two landscapes in Alaska offer a critical mass of support for 30×30-scale protections: Bristol Bay and the Tongass National Forest. Protecting Bristol Bay and the Tongass will provide huge positive impact now and light the way for successful efforts elsewhere. 

“If we want to make 30×30 real and have it resonate with the public, we should protect places that the public cares about. Bristol Bay and the Tongass National Forest are two such places. The jobs, the fish and wildlife and the cultural riches they sustain should make them top of the list, immediate priority areas for the administration,” said SalmonState Executive Director Tim Bristol.

These two regions represent the two most important salmon-producing landscapes in America, birthing hundreds of millions of salmon annually and feeding everything from orcas to brown bears to people. The salmon of Bristol Bay and the Tongass connect some of the nation’s wildest lands to the ultra-productive North Pacific Ocean through their life cycle. In turn, the harvest of those salmon creates tens of thousands of jobs and generates billions of dollars in annual economic activity.

These magnificent landscapes provide tremendous carbon storage and resiliency benefits and serve as the traditional homelands of dozens of federally recognized Alaska Native tribes. The Tongass, for example, represents 44% of all the carbon storage in U.S. national forests and Bristol Bay provides nearly 60% of the world’s wild sockeye salmon supply. Protection requests from a wildly diverse set of Tribal, business, community and NGO stakeholders are already in front of the Administration. Specifically, the reinstatement of the Roadless Area Conservation Rule for the Tongass and reestablishment of Clean Water Act protections for the headwaters of Bristol Bay await action by the Biden Administration and would lead to real, on-the-ground success, breathing life into 30×30 and making it real and positive for Americans from across the political spectrum.

SalmonState calls upon the Administration to take action now to protect two of the nation’s wildest and productive landscapes and make 30×30 an initiative that provides real impact and positive benefit to America and Americans. There is no better place to start than in Alaska’s Bristol Bay and Tongass.