Course:FRST370/2022/Hoonah community forest, Chichagof Island, Alaska, USA

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Summary of Case Study

This Wikipedia page examines the governance and land use of the Hoonah Indigenous Peoples who are based in Southeastern Alaska on the small island of Chichagof. The page discusses the different governing bodies, land-use policies, and stakeholders involved in the management of the Hoonah community. It further goes on to investigate partnerships, remediation efforts, and possible ways to mitigate some of the communities carbon footprint.


Hoonah, Tlingit, community forest, stakeholders...


Aerial photo of Hoonah, Alaska, USA.

The Hoonah Tlingit Indigenous people of Alaska, United States of America are composed of 4 clans: The Chookaneidi, Kaagwaantaan, T’akdeintaan, and Wooshkeetaan. Prior to the 1700s, the Tlingit originally permanently occupied L’eiwshaa Shakee Aan near the southeast of Chichagof Island, Alaska. However, the Tlingit were forced from their village due to the advancing glaciers of the Little Ice age in the mid 1700s. In 1754, they permanently settled 200 miles south of their original village where harvesting from the land was successful and achievable. This area is now known as present-day Xunaa (pronounced as Hoonah), meaning “protected from the north wind”[1]. Nearly 200 years after settlement, the Hoonah Indian Association was authorised as a Federally Recognized Tribe in 1939, which is a designation form the federal government that provided the Hoonah with "powers of self-government and entitlement to certain federal benefits, services, and protections"[1][2]. In 1946, Hoonah reached the population threshold of 400 individuals, designating it as a First Class City[1][3]. Today, Hoonah is known as the largest Tlingit settlement in Alaska, and is known for its skilled hunters, fishermen, and artisans. Cultural traditions and practices are still very important to the community, which includes surviving off the land by harvesting, hunting, gathering, and fishing for deer, salmon, and berries. Other cultural and traditional practices currently executed by the Hoonah are performing traditional dances and speaking and teaching Tlingit language in the local school[1].

The Hoonah community forest and management plans evolved in response to the mass logging that began in the 1980s. The logging was disrupting the wildlife habitats and causing a decline of the species the community relied on. The locals wanted to reduce the future footprint of the forest industry, while still keeping the local mills running efficiently. Subsequently, the community gained support from the state government, and organizations and partnerships formed in response to aid the community. As a result, management plans in regard to fishing, wildlife, and timber were created to ensure sustainable use of forest while maintaining local economic diversity[4].

Tenure arrangements

Brief History of Timber Harvesting in Southeastern Alaska

In the early 1900’s, the Timber industry was just beginning to ramp up in Southeastern Alaska. The year was 1907 when president Theodore Roosevelt made a proclamation that created the Tongass National Forest[5]. The boundaries of this new national forest encompassed the majority of the forest in Southeast Alaska which included the Island of Chichagof and the territory of the Hoonah Tribe. The logging in this area was limited to small, hand logging operations until 1951 when the Forest Service initiated a 50 year long contract to Ketchikan Pulp Company (KPC) to help with increased timber demand from japan following World War 2[6]. This contract gave the cutting rights of approximately 8.25 billion board feet to KPC over the 50 year period and allowed them to cut in the Tongass National Forest[6]. In 1953 a second 50 year long contract was issued to a company called Alaskan Lumber and Pulp (ALP). This contract was issued for an approximate 5.25 billion board feet of lumber, with their primary areas of logging around Baranof Island and Chichagof Island[6]. In 1990, the Tongass Timber Reform Act was implemented with the goal of reducing logging in the Tongass National Forest with emphasis on protecting old growth and increasing wildlife reserves[7]. Due to the importance of the both major mills (KPC and ALP) providing much of the employment opportunities for the people in Alaska, the government tried to mitigate the damage by providing subsidies[7]. However, due to these companies having reduced harvesting areas, reduced access to old growth, and increased environmental constrictions, both mills ended up closing down.

Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA)

Map showing off the boundaries of land management between Sealaska, Huna Totem Corporation, and the Municipality of Hoonah.

The Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) was a policy mandating the return of over 45.5 million acres of public land to Indigenous communities across Alaska[8]. The ANCSA came into effect in the year of 1971 however it has been a long process, taking many years to fully distribute the land. With ANCSA came the creation of 13 different Indigenous, regional, for-profit corporations tasked with the governance of the newly distributed land[8]. As a form of reconciliation and way to boost the local economy, each Indigenous member was granted 100 shares of their regional corporation. This also lead to the creation of more, local jobs while increasing the likelihood of the economic gains remaining in the community. The regional corporation for the Hoonah community is Sealaska which manages a portion of land around the city of Hoonah. At a village level, there is the Huna Totem Corporation (HTC), a local for-profit corporation that focuses solely on the Hoonah community[8]. Out of the 45.5 million acres given out across Alaska, Sealaska was given approximately 290,000 acres of which a small portion is situate around the city of Hoonah. The HTC manages an additional 23,043 acres around the municipality[9]. The Hoonah Nation (Sealaska, Huna Totem Corporation, and the City of Hoonah) have exclusive land rights to this land and have been entrusted with the task of governing it[9].

Current Land Use Policy

Currently, Hoonah residents are allowed to take down trees for cultural use such as totem carving as long as they get permission from the HTC. Any commercial activities such as small scale logging or fishing must recieve written permission from the HTC[9]. The HTC also requires that they be contacted before any structures or buildings be created. Additionally, any non-shareholders must get written permission from the HTC before entering onto the land[9]. This gives the community the right of access, use, exclusion, and management.

Administrative Arrangements

The Hoonah land is primarily governed by 3 main entities; the City of Hoonah, the HTC, and Sealaska. The City of Hoonah is the municipal government which operates all the day-to-day operations such as garbage removal or road maintenance. The HTC is the corporation that controls and manages the land while overseeing any large-scale land use operation. This is the primary entity that the public must get approval from before doing any projects on the land. Sealaska is the regional corporation which governs over the whole of Southeastern Alaska. This is the company that has delegated power to the HTC and works with them and the Municipality of Hoonah to manage the land around the City of Hoonah.  

One of the major issues faced by the Hoonah community has been the degradation of the surrounding ecosystem due to a multitude of factors which include but are not limited to the over-harvesting of natural resources, the pollution from forestry and fishing operations, the un-sustainable use of the natural forest landscape from past generations and mismanagement of roadways around Hoonah land[10]. To help mitigate some of the past wrongs and create a healthier ecosystem, Sealaska, HTC, and the Municipality Hoonah have collaborated and helped create the Hoonah Native Forest Partnership.

Hoonah Native Forest Partnership

The Hoonah Native Forest Partnership (HNFP) is a partnership of landowners, organisations and stakeholders protecting and advocating for the Hoonah region. It was created in 2014 and aims to assess the condition of existing natural resources while identifying areas of improvement that could improve fish and wildlife habitat, support sustainable watershed management, or ensure long-term timber production[10]. The HNFP encompassed the collaboration from many different organizations which provided funding, resources, and guidance to the HNFP workforce[10]. Of the many organizations, here are the top 4:

  • The Nature Conservancy
  • The Sustainable Southeast Partnership
  • University of Alaska
  • US Fish and Wildlife Service

Through this large-scale collaboration, the HNFP was able to create local opportunities for  Hoonah residents to get valuable field experience involving many different tools, while working with a sustainable mindset to better their own community. Through this project, the HNFP was able to identify 6 primary areas of focus in and around Hoonah that would greatly benefit from restoration efforts[10].

Affected Stakeholders

An affected stakeholder is one that is affected directly by actions, objectives and policies made by organizations/government about the Hoonah community forests. The affected stakeholders in the Hoonah community case study are, the Chookaneidi, the Kaagwaantaan, the T’akdeintaan, the Wooshkeetaan peoples, as well as other residents of Hoonah [1]. The Chookaneidi, the Kaagwaantaan, the T’akdeintaan and the Wooshkeetaan peoples would be considered ‘Rights Holders’, not ‘Affected stakeholders’. They are not merely stakeholders because they have rights and titles to the land. They are included in this section, as they are still an affected entity within the decision making and management process, regarding the land.

All 4 tribes, as well as local community members reside in forest based communities[4]. They are affected by decisions made in and around the forests, because they have, geographical ties, cultural ties and subsistence ties, to the land. These four clans have been living on the land for generations and make up the indigenous communities within the Hoonah Tlingit forested land  in Alaska[1]. Community members living in and around the forests, and that rely on forest products as a source of resources, whether that be, economic, social or environmental, all are affected by  the decisions and management of the Hoonah forests[4]. Forest based communities, such as the local Indigenouse tribes, have higher risks associated with disturbances from management activities and natural processes.

Interested Stakeholders

Interested stakeholders are entities that can be linked to transactional activities related to the Hoonah forests, but who do not have long term dependence on the land. These entities include, Governmental bodies, The Nature Conservancy, The United States Forest Service, Icy Strait, Huna Totem and Seaalaska. The government, more specifically, Alaska Department of Fish and Game transactional economic benefits from the resources derived from the forest [6]. This includes Timber and non-timber products that are commercially used. The department benefits from the wildlife and forests, as a way to monetize the forests. Fishing excursions, cruise ships, whale watching and bear hunting tours, are the primary drivers for increased visitation from non-local, which all benefit the department and government economically[6]. Tourism growth from the increase in tourism can and has created positive impacts on the local economy. The Nature Conservancy helped establish the Hoonah Native forest partnership, whose purpose was to bring since and local community knowledge together, to ensure decisions were made by a diverse body of entities[11]. These decisions are  affecting the surrounding 205,000 acres of forest and the natural resources the forest/area provides (fish and berries)[11]. The United States Forest Service is an interested stakeholder, they gain economic and social benefits from the forests but do not solely rely on it to provide these benefits long term[12]. With regards to social benefits, the more forests governed by the US Forest Service, the more power they have in the decision making process. This interim gives them stronger rights of the management of the Hoonah forest which is directly affecting the Forest based communities residing within the area[8].

Assessment of Relative Power

Within the Hoonah community forest there is a major power imbalance. The affected stakeholders hold less power over the legal agreements and in the policy making process then those of the interested. More specifically the government and US forest service have more say in the overall decision making process. This can create dynamics in forest management practices that do not favour the rights and needs of forest based communities. The Indigenous communities have some involvement in the decision making process [2]. There has been a shift in the past decade for more indigenous stewardship and increase in indigenous involvement at all levels of management. Using traditional Indigenous practices and allowing for more cultural uses of forests, allows Indigenous communities to better connect with the land surrounding their communities. Forest based communities have benefitted from this shift. even with this shift, there are still few legal rights local community members and Indigenous communities have within the surrounding forested lands. The improvement of Community Forestry in the local forests has improved the livelihoods of local and Indigneous communities, but there are still improvements to be made to give these communities greater legal rights[3]. Interested stakeholders like The Nature Conservancy, need greater involvement in the management of the forests. This company works with local and Indigenous communities, bringing science and traditional knowledge together, and figures out how to increase the ecological integrity of the forest[11]. Overall, the affected stake holders need more involvement in policy and land management processes. With that being said, the affected stakeholders, state government, logging companies and companies that benefit from tourism, should decrease their involvement in the policy making process. More specifically the affected stalk holder, those that are living within the Hoonah communities should have a larger proportion of involvement.


The community forest and corresponding agreements had many resulting outcomes on the Hoonah community. Economically, tourism had drastically increased, resulting in greater revenue and more jobs within the community. The increased tourism also provided social aspects by enhancing cultural pride and sense of community by focusing on the cultural practices of the Hoonah[12]. Additionally, the Hoonah Native Forest Partnership (HNFP) itself provided many locals with good jobs and work experience that resulted in future jobs for many[13]. Socially, there has been increased collaboration and an alliance was formed between the landowners, stakeholders, and organizations[14]. The partnerships have also provided training to teach the community members practices to sustain the forests correctly. Such practices are embedded in the Indigenous culture and promote traditional-ways of life[14].

Positive changes to the ecosystem also resulted from the agreements. Stream bed restoration through downing trees into rivers and creeks was implemented to improve the habitats for salmon that were degraded by the previous logging activities[11]. An example of such innovation is the successful completion of the stream restoration in Spasski during August of 202[15]. Additionally, restoration of the forest through thinning ang gap treatments was implemented to improves species diversity, wildlife habitats, and deer populations[16]. Overall, the ecosystem health increases as the restoration efforts continue.

However, the logging companies have been negatively impacted by the agreements. Tourism has overshadowed logging in economic terms, with tourism being the main economic driver in the Hoonah community[11]. Logging has also reached a large barrier to operation, since all kinds of commercial activity in the area cannot occur without a land-use permit. How much and where can be logged is now restricted by this permit to ensure the sustainable use of the forest is achieved[9]. Consequently, the logging industry in Hoonah has decreased significantly.

Critical Issues

Most of the information on the topic of the Hoonah community forest is positive and successful. Although, a few issues persist with the community forest, as well as in the community itself. 5-year funding was provided to the HNFP from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service in order to operate the program and restoration processes, with the latest renewal of funding being in 2021[15]. However, if the renewal for funding is denied, the HNFP would not be able to sustain the activities they execute or retain staff members. There is currently no plan for longevity or guarantee that the renewable funding will be reserved every 5 years[13].

Additionally, there is a lack of Tlingit Indigenous peoples land rights. In 1955, the Hoonah were granted permission by the Supreme Court to occupy their traditional homelands, but title to the land was not given to them [17]. Today, the Tlingit peoples still have no title to the land and are still battling for their rights to their traditional territory.

Lastly, tourism is becoming a concern globally, since tourism is known to degrade the natural environment[18]. High rates of tourism within a small range of landscape can cause negative effects to the surrounding ecosystems. In response to the issue, many of the tourism cooperations associated with Hoonah, such as Huna Totem Corporation, have included sustainable growth into their mission statements[19].


The HNFP has had countless beneficial impacts on the community from increased local jobs, to improved ecosystem quality. The efforts made by the HNFP to identify and work on problem areas in the Hoonah region will without a doubt help mitigate some of the environmental pressures brought on by climate change. However, the HNFP is heavily dependent on outside funding from other organizations which is required if they are to continue doing the work[13]. That is why we recommend that the HNFP work with the Huna Totem Corporation, Municipality of Hoonah, and Icy Straight Point to develop a funding plan that would take a small portion of the money brought in through the cruise industry and put it towards the HNFP projects. This could be added as a tax and be viewed to help off-set some of the negative impact the cruise industry has on the environment. Additionally, we suggest that more research be done on the effectiveness of the stream remediation projects that have been undertaken to ensure the effects are noticeable and worth the time, effort, and money.

Every year the tourism industry continues to grow in the city of Hoonah. This means that the effects of tourism (both good and bad) continue to become more and more prevalent. Not all Hoonah residents are thrilled about the increase of foreign visitors who often wander down from the port at Icy Strait Point and into the city where they interact with the locals[20]. We recommend that more research be done on the impacts of a growing tourist industry on Indigenous culture and community. Additionally, having more community involvement when discussing the quantity cruise ships accepted to the port could be an additional tool to help decrease the amount of upset members of the community.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 "Hoonah History". City of Hoonah. 2018. Retrieved December 11, 2022.
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Office of Tribal Justice: Frequently Asked Questions about Native Americans". U.S. Department of Justice. 2022. Retrieved December 11, 2022.
  3. 3.0 3.1 "Local Government in Alaska" (PDF). Alaska Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development. 2015. Retrieved December 11, 2022.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Christensen, B.; et Bjorum, E. (2008). "The Hoonah Community Forest Project" (PDF). Retrieved December 11, 2022.
  5. "History of the Tongass National Forest".
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 Morse, Kathleen (1997). "Historical Overview, Division of Community and Regional Affairs". Official Alaska State Website.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Steiner, Rick (1998). "Deforestation in Alaska's Coastal Rainforest: Causes and Solutions". World Rainforest Movement. University of Alaska. line feed character in |title= at position 46 (help)
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 Knapp, Gunnar (1992). "Native timber harvests in southeast Alaska". U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 "Land Use". Huna Totem Corporation.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 "An Interdisciplinary, Collaborative Approach to Watershed Assessment and Resource Planning" (PDF). Hoonah Native Forest Partnership. Sustainable SouthEast Partnership. 2021. line feed character in |title= at position 46 (help)
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 11.4 "Forest for the People". The Nature Conservancy. December 24, 2019. Retrieved December 11, 2022.
  12. 12.0 12.1 Cerveny, L. K. (2007). "Sociocultural effects of tourism in Hoonah, Alaska". U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station. Retrieved December 11, 2022.
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 Gasteiger, C.; Portner, D. (2019). "Hoonah Native Forest Partnership: Best Practices and Lessons Learned" (PDF). Meridian Institute. Retrieved December 11, 2022. line feed character in |title= at position 54 (help)
  14. 14.0 14.1 Savell, S.; Robillard, T. (April 30, 2021). "Fridays on the Farm: Maintaining Healthy Streams and Forests in Alaska". USDA Department of Agriculture: Retrieved December 11, 2022.
  15. 15.0 15.1 "Hoonah Stewardship Council August 2021". HIA Environmental. September 22, 2021. Retrieved December 11, 2022.
  16. Sustainable Southeast Partnership (July 19, 2019). "Hoonah Native Forest Partnership Spasski Stream Restoration 2019". Youtube. Retrieved December 11, 2022.
  17. McChesney, R. (November 8, 2019). "In Tlingit land-rights loss, a Native American rights attorney lays out injustice and hope for the future". KTOO. Retrieved December 11, 2022.
  18. Goudie, A. S.; Viles, H. A. (1997). The earth transformed: an introduction to human impacts on the environment. Oxford: John Wiley and Sons Ltd. ISBN 0631194649.
  19. Wanasuk, P.; Thornton, T. F. (September, 2015). "Aboriginal Tourism as Sustainable Social- Environmental Enterprise (SSEE): A Tlingit Case Study from Southeast Alaska". The International Indigenous Policy Journal. 6 (4). doi:10.18584/iipj.2015.6.4.8. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  20. Cerveny, Lee (2007). "Sociocultural effects of tourism in Hoonah, Alaska". United States Department of Agriculture.

Country: USA

This conservation resource was created by Course:FRST370.