"Thorne Bay, Alaska -- Decades after many of America's national forests have been tamed into tree farms and campgrounds, the Tongass National Forest stands as a reminder of what wilderness once was. Beneath its 800-year-old stands of Sitka spruce and Western hemlock lurks a mossy hush, a thick, verdant silence.
But even the 17-million-acre crown jewel of the national forest system has not been immune to the demands of the dollar. Years of heavy logging laid bare large swaths of the forest, especially on Prince of Wales Island, where entire hillsides were shaved by clear cuts.
The end of the logging heyday saved the forest but crushed the rest of southeast Alaska, turning massive lumber mills into rusting hulks and leaving timber towns struggling to keep their schools open.
Now, Alaska's congressional delegation is sponsoring legislation to hand over prized sections of the Tongass to a private Alaska Native corporation that has engaged in some of the region's most aggressive clear-cutting campaigns."