“The Tongass National Forest’s indispensable habitats serve as home to a multitude of species and also play a vital role in helping fight global warming,” said one conservation advocate.
“We need to continue to protect old forests and big trees, such as those in the Tongass, to ensure our future includes essential species and a livable climate.”
“We applaud the Biden administration for listening to the voices of Southeast Alaska communities who have been relentless in their advocacy to protect the livelihoods, local economies, and wildlife that depend on the Tongass,” said Sierra Club Alaska chapter director Andrea Feniger in a statement. “The Tongass is a priceless resource and a critical tool in the fight against climate change, and this action brings us one step closer to ensuring that our forest wildlands remain protected for good.”
“We’ve had our fingers crossed, hoping this would be announced soon,” said Ellen Montgomery, public lands director for the group. “The Tongass National Forest’s indispensable habitats serve as home to a multitude of species and also play a vital role in helping fight global warming. We need to continue to protect old forests and big trees, such as those in the Tongass, to ensure our future includes essential species and a livable climate.”
Vilsack’s announcement came four months after the administration said it would ban large-scale logging for the entire 16 million acres of forest and invest $25 million in sustainable community development to improve the health of the forest. Officials also announced plans in July to cancel a timber sale from three major old-growth forests, including ones on Prince of Wales Island and Revillagigedo Island in the Tongass, while continuing to auction off newer trees.
The proposal also comes days after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled against the state of Alaska in its attempt to have the roadless rule vacated, with the court saying it would be “entirely inappropriate” to issue an opinion pushing the USDA to keep Trump’s rollback of the rule intact.
We’ve been fighting for more than 20 years to defend the Roadless Rule, a critical safeguard for our forests – and winning. Yesterday a D.C. district court dismissed the state of Alaska’s challenge to the Roadless Rule, cementing another legal victory. https://t.co/vpO41pXgGo
— Earthjustice (@Earthjustice) November 17, 2021
By reversing the rule, Alaska Wilderness League said the administration “will preserve a natural climate solution that benefits communities around the globe,” and help support Alaska’s economy—contrary to claims by the logging industry and its supporters.
“The Tongass is the linchpin of Southeast Alaska’s economy, supporting a $2 billion sustainable economy and more than one-quarter of jobs in the region,” said Andy Moderow, Alaska director for the group. “The forest attracts people from around the world for world-class recreation, hunting, and sport and commercial salmon fishing. And it remains as essential now as it has for thousands of years to Indigenous communities that continue to rely on the forest for their cultural and subsistence traditions.”
“We look forward to the upcoming public process and working with the administration to make sure the diverse constituencies of the Tongass are heard and that America’s largest national forest and one of the largest remaining temperate rainforests in the world remains intact,” he continued.
Vilsack’s proposal kicked off a 60-day public comment period, and advocates urged Americans to speak out on behalf of the Tongass.
“We hope that Americans head to their computers and submit lots of public comments in favor of both this forest and the idea that we need more nature,” said Montgomery.
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