Planning activities over large landscapes poses a complex of challenges when trying to balance the implementation of a conservation strategy while still allowing for a variety of consumptive and nonconsumptive uses. We examine a case in southeast Alaska to illustrate the breadth of these challenges and an approach to developing a science-based resource plan. Not only was the planning area, the Tongass National Forest, USA, exceptionally large (approximately 17 million acres or 6.9 million ha), but it also is primarily an island archipelago environment. The water system surrounding and going through much of the forest provides access to facilitate the movement of people, animals, and plants but at the same time functions as a barrier to others. This largest temperate rainforest in the world is an exceptional example of the complexity of managing at such a scale but also illustrates the role of science in the planning process. As we enter the 21st century, the list of questions needing scientific investigation has not only changed dramatically, but the character of the questions also has changed. Questions are contentious, cover broad scales in space and time, and are highly complex and interdependent. The provision of unbiased and objective information to all stakeholders is an important step in informed decision-making.