Salmon in the Trees: Life in Alaska’s Tongass Rain Forest

Being a conservation photographer is more than just tripping the camera shutter. The real work begins after the pictures are made. What defines an International League of Conservation Photographers ( iLCP) photographer is a commitment to using powerful images for conservation. An example of this commitment is iLCP Fellow Amy Gulick.  She takes the time to step out from behind the camera and put her images in front of those who can make a difference.

Black Bear Cub in tree, Anan Creek, Tongass National Forest

Amy spent two years paddling and trekking among the bears, misty islands, and salmon streams to document the intricate connections within the Tongass, the largest national forest in the United States, and home to nearly a third of the world’s remaining old-growth temperate rain forest.

Her book, “Salmon in the Trees: Life in Alaska’s Tongass Rain Forest” , is a tribute to one of the wildest and rarest ecosystems in the world. “There is still time to get it right here, to conserve this astounding ecosystem for the benefit of both people and wildlife,” says Gulick. “The question is will we?”

Salmon in the Trees: 2011 International Year of Forests

by Amy Gulick

One of the rarest ecosystems on Earth, the Tongass rain forest fringes the coastal panhandle of Alaska and covers thousands of islands in the Alexander Archipelago. It’s a place where humpback whales, orcas, and sea lions cruise the forested shorelines. Millions of wild salmon swim upstream into the forest, feeding some of the world’s highest densities of grizzlies, black bears, and bald eagles. Native cultures and local communities benefit from the gifts of both the forest and the sea. It’s a place that is still thriving as it has for millennia.

Remarkably, all of the species that existed at the time of European settlement in the 1700s are still here. But the global demands of our modern world may threaten this great forest’s biological treasures. Is it just a matter of time until this glorious part of the planet is carved up into scraps of its magnificent self?

2011 is the International Year of Forests as designated by the U.N. General Assembly — perfect timing to showcase the Tongass National Forest of Alaska and call attention to one of the most magnificent forests on Earth. The International Year of Forests is a global celebration highlighting actions being taken by individuals, communities, government agencies, and private groups to sustainably manage and conserve the world’s forests.

In recognition of International Year of Forests, the U.S. Forest Service, National Forest Foundation, Alaska Wilderness League, and Braided River have collaborated to bring the photography exhibit Salmon in the Trees: Life in Alaska’s Tongass Rain Forest to five communities throughout Southeast Alaska: Sitka, Yakutat, Ketchikan, Wrangell, and Craig. The images of Salmon in the Trees, by acclaimed photographer Amy Gulick, showcase the remarkable connections among the salmon, trees, and people of the Tongass National Forest and celebrate all that makes it unique.

Amy is using her book, traveling exhibit, and social media outlets like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter to reach as many people as possible. For more information about the events that will take place to celebrate the Tongass National Forest, click here. To learn more about Amy’s latest book: Salmon in the Trees, click here.

A firm believer in the power of images and words to shape public opinion, photographer and writer Amy Gulick uses her work to educate both the public and decision makers on conservation issues. Her work has appeared in Audubon, Sierra, National Wildlife, Outdoor Photographer, High Country News, and other publications. She has covered numerous topics including: endangered species, old-growth forests, illegal wildlife trade, commercial whaling, plastics in the oceans, and the effects of the aquarium trade on coral reefs. Her photographs have been featured in the conservation campaigns of the Alaska Wilderness League, Sierra Club, Alaska Rainforest Campaign, and other organizations.

Gulick’s current work focuses on the Tongass National Forest of Alaska. The Tongass contains one-third of the world’s remaining old-growth coastal temperate rain forests, and the largest reserves of old-growth forests left in the United States. Her book “Salmon in the Trees: Life in Alaska’s Tongass Rain Forest” is a 2010 Independent Publisher Book Award winner. See

Gulick’s work has received numerous honors including the prestigious Daniel Housberg Wilderness Image Award from the Alaska Conservation Foundation, the Voice of the Wild Award from the Alaska Wilderness League, and a Lowell Thomas Award from the Society of American Travel Writers Foundation. She is also the recipient of a Philip Hyde Grant Award for her work in the Tongass National Forest, and a Mission Award, both presented by the North American Nature Photography Association.

Gulick is a national speaker on both the Tongass National Forest and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge of Alaska. She is a member of the Society of Environmental Journalists, and is a conservation columnist for Currents, the magazine of the North American Nature Photography Association.

The views expressed in this guest blog post are those of the International League of Conservation Photographers and not necessarily those of the National Geographic Society. Readers are welcome to exchange ideas or comments, but National Geographic reserves the right to edit or delete abusive or objectionable content.

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The mission of the International League of Conservation Photographers (iLCP) is to further environmental and cultural conservation through photography. iLCP is a Fellowship of more than 100 photographers from all around the globe. As a project based organization, iLCP coordinates Conservation Photography Expeditions to get world-renowned photographers in the field teamed with scientists, writers, videographers and conservation groups to gather visual assets that are used to create conservation communications campaigns to foment conservation successes. iLCP is a 501 (c) (3) organization. Support our work at this link.