Cape Pole, Fishermans Harbor

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Cape Pole, Fishermans Harbor

by | Feb 3, 2021

Cape Pole was a logging community on the eastern shore of Fishermans Harbor on Kosciusko Island, about 92 miles (148 km) northwest of Ketchikan and 6.7 miles (11 km) west of Edna Bay, Alaska. Fishermans Harbor is an estuary about 0.9 miles (1.5 km) long that provides a protected anchorage on the southwest coast of the island. Kosciusko Island is separated from Prince of Wales Island by El Capitan Passage. The island was named in 1879 by William Healey Dall of the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey for Tadeusz Andrzej Bonawentura Kosciusko, a Polish citizen who joined the American Revolutionary Army in 1776 as a volunteer. He was later appointed an engineer with the rank of colonel, and would advance to the rank of major general.

In 1902, President Theodore Roosevelt established the Alexander Archipelago Forest Reserve in Southeast Alaska. In 1907, another presidential proclamation made by Roosevelt created the Tongass National Forest. In 1908, the two forests were joined, and the combined forest area encompassed most of Southeast Alaska. Timber harvest initially consisted of individual hand logging operations focusing on easily accessible low-lying and beach fringe areas. In the 1950s when these forests were depleted, road networks were built to access more timber. In 1976, Congress passed the National Forest Management Act that requires the U.S. Forest Service to develop plans for national forests, set standards for timber sales, and create policies to regulate timber harvesting. The purpose of these objectives was to protect national forests from permanent damages caused by excessive logging and clear-cutting.

Logging on Kosciusko Island began out of Edna Bay during World War II when large Sitka spruce trees were in high demand for making airplanes. In 1946, a spruce bark beetle infestation in the vicinity of Fishermans Harbor prompted entomologists to recommend clear-cutting the dead and infested trees estimated at 134 million board feet of old-growth spruce. In 1954, a logging camp was established at Cape Pole, but the timber cutters were mainly based out of Edna Bay. In 1971,  Sealaska Corporation was formed as a result of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act with land holdings that represent the traditional homelands of the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian people. Sealaska Corporation owns 362,000 acres (146,496 ha) of surface land in Southeast Alaska and was the dominant timber producer in the region for over 35 years. In 2021, Sealaska’s Board of Directors voted unanimously to transition out of its logging operations. Read more here and here. Explore more of Cape Pole here:

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