The Landmark Trees Project is an effort to find, describe and understand the most magnificent remaining forests of Southeast Alaska. Founded by Sam Skaggs and led by Richard Carstensen, the project documented 76 one-acre sites across the Tongass between 1996 and 2005.

Largest known tree on Mitkof Island.

Largest known tree on Mitkof Island.

Landmark Tree sites are scored according to dimensions of the largest tree and wood volume of the surrounding acre. They’re also assessed for ecological values such as winter deer and summer bear habitat. The project has involved Alaskans from Ketchikan to Hoonah. We found trees up to 11 feet in diameter, and 250 feet tall. Our highest scoring stand is on limestone bedrock (karst), but most of our sites grow on stream and river deposits (alluvium).

Most of those streams have salmon, and therefore, of course, bears. Our search takes us far from beaches and roads, into the most remote and sensitive bear concentrations of the Tongass. Most of our highest-scoring stands are feeding places for brown and black bears that rarely encounter people in those areas, and we don’t want that to change. Locations of many LT sites should not be made public. So how can Landmark Trees be shared and experienced by residents and visitors?

In discussions with the Forest Service  and Southeast conservation groups, we identified several Landmark Tree sites appropriate for recreational and educational use. While our highest-scoring LT sites are typically remote and sensitive, we’ve also assessed, mapped, and intensively studied several impressive one-acre stands on trails near Ketchikan, Petersburg, Kake, and Sitka. These Community Landmark Tree Stands already receive heavy use. In 2000-2001, with funding from the Leighty Foundation and the Alaska Conservation Foundation, we created interpretive booklets for these Community LT Stands.

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Juneau-Area Landmark Trees

Landmark Tree stand on Peterson Creek, Douglas Island. At 200 feet, this is one of the tallest known trees in the CBJ.

Landmark Tree stand on Peterson Creek, Douglas Island. At 200 feet, this is one of the tallest known trees in the CBJ.

 

As you might expect, our highest-scoring Landmark Tree stands are on the central and southern Tongass. But we’ve measured 10 sites within the City and Borough of Juneau. One, on Cowee Creek, ranks 31st of 71 Tongass stands; others rank 52 through 71, in the bottom quarter of the pool. Northeast of the blue line on the map below, most alluvial Landmark Tree forests have tall but relatively young trees. Stands are almost pure spruce, with dominants roughly the same age. Where the Little Ice Age was most pronounced, increased flood frequency and severity apparently removed the all-aged alluvial stands with stronger hemlock/blueberry component that we find more commonly to the south.

 

71 Landmark Tree sites color-coded for substrate type. Dot sizes are scaled to overall stand score. CBJ’s largest trees are smaller than those of the central and southern Tongass.

71 Landmark Tree sites color-coded for substrate type. Dot sizes are scaled to overall stand score. CBJ’s largest trees are smaller than those of the central and southern Tongass.

 

The Landmark Trees stand score is an ‘index of majesty’ that may have little to do with ecological value. What most alluvial spruce forests share—regardless of tree size—are berries and salmon who attract bears and myriad other visitors. Forested salmon streams export annual surplus to neighboring terrestrial and marine habitats. We call this streamside forest the heart of the Tongass.

Landmark Trees Project – Kake

This is an interpretive guide for the Hamilton Forest, a landmark tree area near Kake.  You will find descriptions of individual trees, a list of plant species, a brief natural history of the region, maps, diagrams, and more.

Download Here (3.2MB): PDF_Download

 

Landmark Trees Project – Ketchikan

This is a comprehensive guide to the Ward Forest, a Landmark Trees Forest near Ketchikan.  Part one focuses on individual trees and the natural history of the forest, and part two offers context for large tree forests in the region.

Download Here (3.2MB): PDF_Download

 

 

Landmark Trees Project – Petersburg

This is a guide to Ohmer Creek Forest, a Landmark Trees area near Petersburg.  In part one you will find information on individual trees and on the area’s natural history.  In part two you will find context for the large tree forest areas in the region.

Download Here (3.3MB): PDF_Download

 

Landmark Trees Project – Sitka

This Landmark Trees project report from Sitka, AK covers the Gavan Forest.  Part one of the report is a tree-by-tree description of the forest, and part two gives context for big tree forests across the region.

Download Here (3.2MB): PDF_Download