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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