Alaska tourism businesses ask Congress to increase funding

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JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - Tourism leaders in Alaska are asking Congress to increase U.S. Forest Service recreation funding.

The Juneau Empire reports tourism leaders representing 49 businesses in Southeast Alaska wrote in an open letter last week that the U.S. Forest Service's budget has shrunk by nearly half in a little more than a decade, hampering growth in Southeast Alaska's visitor industry.

The businesses say the U.S. Forest Service's funding for recreation on the Tongass and Chugach national forests declined 46 percent from 2004-2014. They say that's hurting businesses who depend on U.S. Forest Service staff to issue permits and maintain cabins and trails in the Tongass.

Tourism companies pay for permits to guide tours in Juneau. Some companies say those permits are coming late because U.S. Forest Service staff is overburdened.