WASHINGTON, D.C. — The decision by the Trump administration to lift protections from the roadless areas of the Tongass National Forest poses a grave threat to diverse wildlife habitat, old-growth forests, and the rural economies of Southeast Alaska. The exemption will allow logging on more than half of North America’s largest intact rainforest.
“The determination of this administration to destroy nine million acres of an old-growth forest that provides a home to iconic wildlife and helps mitigate climate change is completely mind-boggling,” said said Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation. “At a time when one-third of wildlife face a risk of extinction, this extreme proposal is an ecological disaster that not only harms a broad array of species but also undermines the local economies that depend on a vibrant outdoor recreation industry.”
“The decision to roll back the Roadless Rule on the Tongass was made in spite of, not in support of, Southeast Alaskans and our communities,” said Meredith Trainor, executive director of the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council. “In making this decision, the Trump Administration — and the sham rulemaking process it undertook in our region — ignored economic realities, environmental imperatives, and worst of all, the will of the people who actually live here.”
The Tongass National Forest is the largest forest in the United States and one of the largest intact temperate rainforests in the world. It plays a vital role in absorbing greenhouse gas emissions, storing approximately 8 percent of the total carbon of all the national forests of the lower 48 states combined. It contains sacred sites of great importance to the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian people who have called the Tongass home since time immemorial.
The Tongass is also home to a remarkable diversity of wildlife, including rare Alexander Archipelago wolves, Sitka black-tailed deer, brown bears, and bald eagles. Every year more than a million visitors come to the Tongass to enjoy the old growth forest and to hunt, fish, hike, and camp there. The forest supports a robust economy of tourism, commercial and sport fishing, and many other small businesses.
The Roadless Rule was adopted in 2001 and has helped protect 58 million acres of inventoried roadless areas in national forests while giving flexibility for activities such as recreation, hydropower, mining access, and wildfire response.
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