Ground-truthing Roadless Rainforest

Backstory: The 17-million-acre Tongass National Forest in Southeast Alaska is the largest temperate rainforest in the world. The Tongass covers more than 1,000 islands and is cradled between the open expanse of the Pacific Ocean and the highest coastal mountain range in the world. In 2001, about half of the Tongass was protected by the Roadless Rule; a federal policy that prohibits road building and logging in unroaded National Forest.

Threat: The Trump Administration’s Forest Service is working to draft an ‘Alaska specific’ version of the Roadless Rule. For the Tongass, this would mean that roadless rainforest would once again be open to logging and roadbuilding.

Ground-truthing sailboat at anchor. Photo by Colin Arisman.

Setting Sail to Groundtruth Roadless Areas

The core Last Stands expedition team set sail in May 2019 to circumnavigate and ground-truth threatened ‘roadless’ areas on Prince of Wales, the largest and most ecologically fragile island in Southeast Alaska.

Along the 350-nautical-mile voyage our team explored and documented roadless areas; and worked to better understand how roadless rainforest benefits wildlife, watersheds, and the cultural resilience of rural communities.


Captain Elsa Sebastian

Aboard the Murrelet

On our most recent journey to visit roadless designated rainforest on Prince of Wales, we sailed aboard a 38-foot sailboat named the Murrelet. A befitting name: murrelets happen to be a cute seabird dependent on old-growth forest for nesting habitat.

Scientific Illustrator, Mara Menahan

Storytelling through Art

This is primarily a story-telling voyage. Through scientific illustration, writing, photography and filmmaking we’re sharing a story of the land that will go far beyond the metrics which are used to subsidize clearcut old-growth logging in the Tongass National Forest.


“Attention without feeling…is only a report”

-Mary Oliver