"Tug on anything at all, and you'll find it connected to everything else." – John Muir
By Tommy Hough
In conjunction with our friends at Braided River and The Mountaineers Books, we are thrilled to at last present our conversation with acclaimed nature photographer Amy Gulick, the creative force behind the photographic journey of Salmon In the Trees: Life In Alaska's Tongass Rainforest.
The Pacific temperate rainforest reaches from Prince William Sound in Alaska to the southeast, along the coast of British Columbia and Vancouver Island, through the Pacific Northwest of Washington and Oregon, and into the Redwood belt of coastal Northern California, but the largest surviving component of that ancient ecosystem is found in the Tongass National Forest of Southeast Alaska.
While this remains the largest temperate rainforest eco-region in the world, barely any of its native footprint survives today, with only four or five percent of the original old-growth intact. The lion's share of that remaining, ancient old-growth ecosystem survives within the Tongass, along hundreds of miles of coastline, glacial fjords, and on some 5,000 islands, big and small. It is where the rainforest still reigns supreme.
Lush vegetation abounds in the Tongass. At 17 million acres, or about the size of West Virginia, the forests of the Tongass are known for their prodigious stands of old-growth Sitka spruce and Western red cedar, as well as dense growths of epiphytes and mosses.
The area is also known for abundant wildlife, driven by the astonishing volume of salmon which annually pump through the region's watersheds, the bears which consume them, and the amazing cycle of life they play in, which enables this ecosystem to persist and survive. It is here that new science has been discovered about an ancient cycle of life.
For two years, writer and photographer Amy Gulick paddled and trekked among bears, salmon, bald eagles, islands and streams to document the Tongass National Forest in its primeval, natural state. At one point, she even found herself keeping company with black bears on a riverbank dining on salmon, oblivious to her presence only because of the bounty of food in front of them. In this natural state in the Tongass, salmon defy gravity and leap out of rivers and streams as they churn their way upstream to spawn.
A recipient of the 2011 Nautilus Book Award, which recognizes books that "promote spiritual growth, conscious living, and positive social change," Salmon In the Trees is also the winner of the 2010 IPPY Award, an independent publisher award.
Along with spectacular photos of this vibrant, verdant environment, Salmon In the Trees also features stories and contributions of Alaskans who live in and are dependent upon the forest, with essays from writers Ray Troll and John Straley, and members of the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian nations, whose cultures are deeply interconnected to the cycles of life featured in Salmon In the Trees.
Amy's Salmon In the Trees book tour of Southeast Alaska continues with a monthlong exhibit at the Juneau Arts and Culture Center, located at 350 Whittier St., beginning Tuesday, Sept. 27 at 5:30 p.m. with a reception with appetizers and drinks, followed by a presentation with Amy Gulick and a book signing at 7:00. The event is free and open to the public. The exhibit runs through Saturday, Oct. 29.
Special thanks to Greg MacArthur and the CBS Radio cluster in Seattle for allowing us to utilize their facilities and time, and their help making this show possible.
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Tommy Hough is a former San Diego broadcast personality, wilderness and parks advocate, California Democratic Party delegate, and the co-founder and former president of San Diego County Democrats for Environmental Action. He was the endorsed Democratic candidate for San Diego City Council in District 6 in 2018.