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Published on : Tuesday, November 14, 2017
Last week, the tourism leaders representing 49 businesses in Southeast Alaska wrote an open letter last week that the U.S. Forest Service’s budget has shrunk by nearly half in a little more than a decade, and this has hindered growth in southeast Alaska’s visitor industry.
The U.S. Forest Service’s funding for recreation on the Tongass and Chugach national forests declined 46 percent from 2004-2014. This is affecting businesses that depend on U.S. Forest Service staff to issue permits and maintain cabins and trails in the Tongass.
Tourism companies pay for permits to guide tours in Juneau. Some companies said those permits are coming late because the U.S. Forest Service staffs are overburdened.
The businesses, 16 of which are based in Juneau, are requesting the Congress to “reverse the decline and appropriate funding for Tongass recreation programs that reflects their relative importance in terms of economic influence in the region.”
Over a million tourists visited Juneau in 2017. Tourism is the largest private-sector employer in southeast Alaska in terms of jobs and wages, going past the seafood industry for the first time.