Photographer and conservationist Melissa Farlow grew up in landlocked Indiana, making her time on assignment in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest—surrounded by massive old-growth trees, glaciers, roadless areas, and snowcapped mountains—“truly an adventure,” she says.
The expedition also helped Farlow and anyone who sees her images appreciate how much could be lost if the U.S. Forest Service exempts the Tongass from the Roadless Area Conservation Rule, as the Trump administration has proposed to do. The nearly two-decade-old Roadless Rule has protected ancient trees and forestland across the country from clear-cut logging and the development—including roads and other infrastructure—that support the activity. Losing that protection would put nearly 10 million acres of the Tongass at risk.
Featured in a recent “takeover” on the @PewEnvironment Instagram feed, Farlow’s Tongass photos originated from one of her many National Geographic magazine assignments—and offer a view, both intimate and epic, into the world’s largest intact temperate rainforest.
A young grizzly bear stands tall on Admiralty Island in the Tongass National Forest. “It was a privilege to observe bears in the wild,” Farlow writes on @PewEnvironment, “although I admit I was relieved when the floatplane that dropped me off returned.”
A black bear fishes in Anan Creek near Wrangell, Alaska. The Tongass has a high density of black and brown bears, which thrive on the abundant salmon in the Alaskan creeks. This intact forest landscape provides such an ideal habitat that 25 percent of all wild West Coast salmon is hatched in the Tongass.
“It’s easy to feel small,” writes Farlow of her time in the Tongass—a sentiment underscored by many of her images. Farlow’s photographs have long educated and inspired followers of her Instagram feed.
Mist shrouds islands in the Tongass, making this “truly magical place” even more enigmatic, according to Farlow. No amount of fog, though, can hide the fact that America’s largest national forest needs protection—for its wild habitat, for its expansive stands of old-growth trees, and for future generations of Americans.
Join The Pew Charitable Trusts in encouraging the U.S. Forest Service to protect the Tongass. Submit your comment here.
Ken Rait is a director for The Pew Charitable Trusts’ U.S. public lands and rivers conservation project.