Home to old-growth forests, towering peaks, and salmon streams feeding whale-filled waterways and 32 culturally-vibrant rural communities, Southeast Alaska is unlike anywhere else. Alaska Natives indigenous to this region have histories of resilient economies stretching back millennia. However, for decades, we’ve experienced protracted conflicts around resource use that have created enmity between conservation groups and industry. Local economies have declined as milling has become less viable and as extractive activities have impacted the wildlife habitat residents rely upon for subsistence harvesting. We now import most food and energy sources, and, due to issues arising from the relatively recent colonization of Alaska, we face a lack of assets and capacity to pursue more sustainable approaches to growth not dependent on boom and bust cycles.
Southeast Alaska is still home to the world’s largest remaining coastal temperate rainforest; this place and the ways of life it supports are increasingly rare global treasures. To ensure this story continues for millennia more, we must find a common understanding of how economies, communities, and a healthy environment can co-exist and co-evolve.
Through deep collaboration with communities, the Sustainable Southeast Partnership is striving to answer these questions: How can we support community well-being and build projects benefiting our families and neighbors? How do we protect our rainforest home so future generations can continue to depend on its resources? How do we build a robust and diverse economy supporting more self-reliant rural communities? As with all of our work, we hope this story amplifies the voices of community members as they articulate how they wish to sustain the traits that make their hometowns unique, the starting points for thriving, resilient prosperity.
—Paul Hackenmueller, 2018 Program Director Sustainable Southeast Partnership