Celebrate the International Year of Forests with a walk in the Tongass National Forest here in Sitka

The year 2011 has been declared the International Year of Forests by the United Nations General Assembly. This month, Alaska’s national forests — the Tongass in Southeast Alaska (including Sitka) and Chugach in Southcentral Alaska, the two largest national forests by far in the United States — are launching a year-long campaign to bring attention to the critical resources and innovative programs available right here in our backyard. The “Explore Your Backyard” campaign is a year-long celebration that allows individuals to celebrate their heritage and find their inspiration day in and day out.

The Explore Your Backyard campaign will feature events throughout Southeast and Southcentral Alaska, including many events in Sitka. For the complete event calendar, click here.

The first event in Sitka is a multimedia and photo exhibition from the book “Salmon in the Trees,” by photographer Amy Gulick, which features stories and photos about people who live in the Tongass National Forest, while also discussing the connection between salmon and trees in the Tongass. This exhibition will run from April 6-29 at the Sitka National Historical Park Visitor Center, at the end of Lincoln Street. There will be a special opening reception with a presentation and book-signing by Gulick at 7 p.m. (doors open at 6:30 p.m.) on Wednesday, April 6, with desserts to kick things off. After the exhibit closes in Sitka, it will travel to Yakutat, Ketchikan, Wrangell and Craig later this summer.

But you don’t have to wait until April 6 to start celebrating the International Year of Forests. All you need to do is take your family for a hike in the Tongass here in Sitka, here in our own backyard. Those families that are a little more ambitious can take advantage of one of the many public-use cabins in the area (contact the Sitka Ranger District office for reservations first). Or you can do something simple like have a picnic at Starrigavin Recreation Area.

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