The sky and mountains are reflected in the water on April 5, 2012, at the Kootznoowoo Wilderness in the Tongass National Forest’s Admiralty Island National Monument. Conservation organizations bought some private land and transferred it to the U.S. Forest Service, resulting in an incremental expansion of the Kootznoowoo Wilderness and protection of habitat important to salmon and wildlife. (Photo by Don MacDougall/U.S. Forest Service)

The sky and mountains are reflected in the water on April 5, 2012, at the Kootznoowoo Wilderness in the Tongass National Forest’s Admiralty Island National Monument. Conservation organizations bought some private land and transferred it to the U.S. Forest Service, resulting in an incremental expansion of the Kootznoowoo Wilderness and protection of habitat important to salmon and wildlife. (Photo by Don MacDougall/U.S. Forest Service)

Conservation groups’ purchase preserves additional land in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest

A designated wilderness area in Southeast Alaska’s Tongass National Forest, the largest U.S. national forest, is now a little bit bigger, thanks to a land purchase and transfer arranged by two conservation organizations. ‘

Five acres of land that was formerly privately owned has been added to the forest’s Kootznoowoo Wilderness area on Admiralty Island, one of the organizations, The Wilderness Land Trust, said in a news release issued on Thursday.

The project, a partnership with the Juneau-based Southeast Alaska Land Trust, is the latest in a series of land purchases or conservation transactions aimed at preserving sections of the Southeast Alaska rainforest.

The 5-acre parcel, at a site called Wheeler Creek, was purchased in 2022, The Wilderness Land Trust said in its announcement. The organizations worked since then to transfer it to U.S. Forest Service ownership.

The Wheeler Creek site is valuable for multiple reasons, said Margosia Jadkowski, director of marketing and communications for The Wilderness Land Trust.

A map shows the sites in the Tongass National Forest where the Wilderness Land Trust has purchased privately owned land for conservation in designated wilderness areas. (Map provided by The Wilderness Land Trust)

A map shows the sites in the Tongass National Forest where the Wilderness Land Trust has purchased privately owned land for conservation in designated wilderness areas. (Map provided by The Wilderness Land Trust)

It holds important salmon and wildlife habitat, and as part of an old-growth forest, it absorbs atmospheric carbon, making it a buffer against climate change, Jadkowski said. When considering land parcels to buy for conservation, “climate resilience is definitely one of the functions we look at,” she said.

The Wilderness Land Trust is a national organization that is dedicated to purchasing inholdings — a term for private land within publicly owned, protected land — and transferring them to public ownership for conservation. It has protected 586 properties over about 58,000 acres and began working in Alaska in 2017. It has two prior projects in Southeast Alaska totaling about 180 acres, both in the Chuck River Wilderness area of the Tongass, Jadkowski said.

The Southeast Alaska Land Trust has already preserved 3,600 acres of wetlands, recreation sites, wildlife habitat, open space and subsistence areas in the region, according to its website.

Other Southeast Alaska rainforest sites have been conserved through a different process.

Sealaska Corp., a regional Native for-profit corporation, in 2018 struck the first deal in Alaska to issue carbon-offset credits through the California cap-and-trade program. Through that program, Sealaska has preserved about 165,000 acres of forest, about half of its land, for 100 years, according to the corporation’s website.

• Yereth Rosen came to Alaska in 1987 to work for the Anchorage Times. She has reported for Reuters, for the Alaska Dispatch News, for Arctic Today and for other organizations. She covers environmental issues, energy, climate change, natural resources, economic and business news, health, science and Arctic concerns. This story originally appeared at alaskabeacon.com. Alaska Beacon, an affiliate of States Newsroom, is an independent, nonpartisan news organization focused on connecting Alaskans to their state government.

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