Monday, August 24, 2009

Rainforest center proposed for Alaska

SNRAS is playing a significant role in shaping the research, education, and outreach agenda for the new Alaska Coastal Rainforest Center.

The partners in the project crafted a memorandum of understanding recently and a public celebration and ceremony for the center was held Aug. 12-13 at Centennial Hall in Juneau. The ceremony was held in conjunction with the new Heen Latinee Experimental Forest established by the US Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station. At the request of UAF Chancellor Brian Rogers, SNRAS Associate Dean Mike Sfraga is representing the university in this endeavor. SNRAS was selected for its expertise in forest sciences, environmental studies, the Scenarios Network for Alaska Planning, and the school’s role in the land grant mission. “They need our expertise and we need theirs,” Dr. Sfraga said. “This will be a significant area for research, education, and community outreach.”

Partners in the collaboration include UAF, UAS, US Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station, US Forest Service, Alaska region, US Department of Interior, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and the city and borough of Juneau. “It makes sense to bring all the experts together and create a center with a sole focus on the rainforest,” Sfraga said. The Center also reflects the cooperative relationship between UAF and UAS. “Chancellor Rogers and Chancellor Pugh have set the tone for a collaborative framework that we will build upon,” Sfraga noted. In June, the UA Board of Regents approved two new geography degrees for UAS that are fully integrated with UAF’s four existing degrees under the UA Geography Program.

Juneau’s proximity to the Tongass National Forest makes it the likely site for the center. The Tongass National Forest, managed by the US Forest Service, was created in 1907 by Teddy Roosevelt. It is America's largest national forest (17 million acres, 500 miles north to south) and the largest intact temperate rainforest in the world.

This new collaboration grew out of the Tongass Futures Roundtable, facilitated by UAF Chancellor Brian Rogers, an innovative project that brings together a diverse group of stakeholders — ranging from corporations to government officials to indigenous peoples — to discuss issues such as timber harvest, ecosystem protection, habitat restoration and the land claims of Alaska Native people in the Tongass. The group helps to resolve major litigation on the forest, increase understanding of key issues among opposing parties and catalyze local cooperative conservation projects.

“The Tongass is a rich platform for research,” Sfraga said. “It’s our responsibility as a university and as faculty to conduct research, communicate our findings to the broader scientific community, educate the public, and inform policy makers and industry.”

“There is a lot to be discovered in the Tongass.”

Further reading:

"Juneau's Alaska Coastal Rainforest Center to provide education on temperate rainforests," Juneau Empire, Aug. 16, 2009

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