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Restored Protections Spare World’s Largest Remaining Temperate Rainforest and America’s Most Important Carbon Sink

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Biden administration’s restoration of protections for the Tongass National Forest is good news for wildlife, Indigenous communities, climate mitigation, and for the economy of Southeast Alaska.

“The Tongass National Forest is the world’s largest remaining temperate rainforest and the most intact forest in the U.S. The Biden Administration’s decision to restore the Roadless Rule protections to the nation’s largest old growth forest will protect the iconic wildlife, important fisheries, Indigenous communities, outdoor recreation, and the small businesses of Southeast Alaska that depend on a healthy, robust ecosystem,” said Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation. “Keeping the roadless areas of the Tongass intact will also ensure that this natural treasure continues its vital role in absorbing greenhouse gas emissions to mitigate climate change.” 

"The announcement today that the U.S. Forest Service will move to repeal the Trump-era Alaska Roadless Rule and also end large-scale old-growth logging on the Tongass as part of the Southeast Alaska Sustainability Strategy brought cheers of joy and tears of relief for thousands of Southeast Alaskans who have asked for this outcome over and over again in the twenty years since the National Roadless Rule was created," said Meredith Trainor, Executive Director of the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council. "This has been a long-sought outcome in a hard-fought battle: Tribal leaders, small business owners in the fishing, recreation, and tourism industries, and everyday folks from throughout Southeast Alaska repeatedly came out in droves over the years to champion the place we love and call home, and to ask for this outcome."

The Tongass is 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 Tongass National Forest is also 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 in 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 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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