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Cave and karst resource education on the Tongass National Forest

, : Cave and karst resource education on the Tongass National Forest. Geological Society of America 42.5

The Tongass National Forest is the largest forest in the National Forest System in the United States, encompassing over 6.9 million hectares covering the islands of the Alexander Archipelago and the narrow band of mainland from Dixon Entrance to Icy Bay. The Tongass contains 85 percent of the total karst in southeast Alaska, approximately 400,000 hectares primarily on Chicagof, Prince of Wales, and surrounding smaller islands. Living in areas with cave and karst resource development presents special responsibilities as well as special opportunities to the residents. Cave and karst resource education has occurred on the Tongass for the past twenty years with the goal of educating residents and involving local children in the world class resource in their backyard through a developed curriculum and classroom visits from karst resource specialists. The Tongass uniquely offers two established interpretive sites free to the public specifically for cave and karst resource education. These two sites are the Beaver Falls Karst Interpretive site, which is a developed handicap accessible wooden boardwalk with interpretive signs, and interpreter-led cave tours at El Capitan Cave, Alaska's longest mapped cave. These two sites receive visitation from 800-1,000 people from May through August. In the past five years, the Tongass has revamped their classroom education materials including new cave and karst resource education and paleontology trunks. In addition, with the help of scientists from all over the country and partnerships with groups such as Project Underground, Tongass Interpretive specialists worked with the resource geology department to develop new educational curriculum for local teachers and all age ranges. In addition, with the Forest Service's new focus on "Kids in the Woods", the resource geology department has worked with groups from Boy Scouts of America to get local southeast Alaskan kids underground. It is hoped that in the coming years, the Tongass will continue to build partnerships and work with educators in order to help the residents of southeast Alaska appreciate and utilize their world class cave and karst resources.


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