From Douglas Edwards, a minister and psychotherapist living in Oregon:
“After 20 years the Tongass is part of my life.
Invited to consult with a conference center in Haines in 1999, I arrived in Juneau and took the Alaska Marine Highway to Rainbow Glacier Camp. As with anyone who makes their way to Southeast Alaska, it did not take long for the beauty and richness of the land to make its deep impression on me. With a naturalist in the front of the ferry describing all that could be seen, the Inside Passage to Haines teemed with life and snow-lined mountaintops.
Little did I know that my consultation to develop a marketing plan would lead to introducing the Tongass to others. I returned to L.A. and in two years flew back to Juneau with 35 more people: high school students from across metropolitan Los Angeles for an eight-day program on creation stewardship that had students working in the villages of Angoon and Haines. These students met Tlingit elders, community leaders and folk who cared about their communities. They learned about the region and the environmental challenges people were facing. They worked, ate, and prayed with the people in the area. I can’t say that it changed the lives of everyone who went, but I know it changed my son James who later returned to Alaska, bringing his grandmother with him and again several years later with me to revisit Admiralty Island and Turner Lake. I have returned to the Tongass four times since my first trip, bringing people with me and introducing them to the richness of this land. Each visit allowed for more direct experiences of the land than the time before: to stand in the waters of Seymour Canal and see face-to-(distant)face a brown bear, to track the flight of bald eagles as they flew over the deck of our cabin, to catch dolly varden as they swam up Turner Creek. These memories are part of me.
My connection to the land has lead me to honor those who introduced me to this place. K.J. Metcalf, first national ranger sent to Admiralty Island and former President of Friends of Admiralty Island, taught my son and I about the splendors of the region. In his name I gave my first gift to SEACC 10 years ago and now am part of being a steward of the Tongass as a member. I have introduced others to the land, advising them on their trip to the Tongass. As a SEACC member, I have become an advocate, introducing others to the land and advising them on their trip to the Tongass. I am also speaking out. I know that the Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue, must soon make his final decision on whether or not to remove National Roadless Rule protections from the Tongass. He needs to know what Alaska’s and the Lower 48 residents want for this land so I’m sharing my story and inviting others to share their stories. Together, our voices can inform and give Secretary Perdue a strong political foundation for keeping the national Roadless Rule protections on the Tongass.
Since my first trip to Alaska, I have returned to walk the land I have grown to love, bringing with me my financial resources and more people who have done the same. My mother is now a member of a First Nation people near Ketchikan, my friends order halibut cheeks from the clean, rich waters of Alaska and make trips to the Tongass to discover the rich resources of Southeast Alaska. I read and engage in the historic decisions that the region is facing. And I give of my time, talent and resources to the land. After 20 years, the Tongass is part of my life.