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By ZACHARY HALASCHAK
Daily News Staff Writer
Fourty-nine Southeast Alaska businesses announced Thursday that they will be urging the U.S. Forest Service, as well as elected officials, to support tourism in the Tongass.
In a press release, the Juneau Economic Development Council listed some of its requests to the Forest Service.
• Reverse the decline in appropriated funding.
• Provide timely, flexible and diverse special use permitting.
• Invest in infrastructure for recreation and tourism.
• Improve coordination and communication with outfitters and guides.
More than two-thirds of all total visitors to Alaska come to the Southeast region, according to the release. The McDowell Group reported that in 2016 alone, visitors to the region spent $657 million.
The Tongass National Forest plays a big role in bringing in tourists and precipitating that $657 million in revenue.
Daniel Kirkwood, general manager of Pack Creek Bear Tours, noted just how essential the forest is to the tourism industry and his company in particular.
“Access to the national forest is essential for my business,” Kirkwood said. “As we grow, we need healthy wild places where we can take people to see the wildlife that make(s) Alaska famous around the world.”
Executive Director of the Juneau Economic Development Council Brian Holst reiterated that point.
“2017 was another momentous year for the tourism industry and we’re seeing entrepreneurs enter this market, which has grown 32 percent since 2010,” Holst said. “Access to the Tongass is essential for our local businesses.”
An open letter to officials has been drafted, and the Juneau Economic Development Council is encouraging other companies in the Southeast to join these 49 businesses in signing the letter.
The letter may be viewed at www.jedc.org/VP-open-letter.