JUNEAU, AK—SalmonState commented on the U.S. Forest Service’s announcement Thursday, in a press release, that it will open more than 9 million acres of the Tongass National Forest to taxpayer-subsidized old-growth logging and industrial development. The Forest Service said it is forging ahead with a full exemption to the Roadless Rule, something Alaska’s Congressional Delegation and governor have pressed for despite overwhelming testimony from Alaskans asking for protections to remain in place. The Final Environmental Impact Statement for the decision will be released tomorrow, September 25, with a Record of Decision coming as early as October 26.
The decision continues several years of ignoring Tribes, Southeast Alaskans and Americans who have commented on this issue. It also endangers food security and salmon runs; threatens $2 billion, on average, in economic benefit from fisheries and tourism in the Inside Passage; threatens traditional ways of life; and paves the way to eradicating one of America’s greatest resources in the fight against climate change.
“The largest intact temperate rainforest left in the world, the millions of salmon, 650 million tons of carbon storage, and the people, businesses and jobs that depend on an intact Tongass National Forest are too important to throw away for a politically-motivated industry handout,” said SalmonState Executive Director Tim Bristol. “This reprehensible move disregards years of collaborative work in favor of money-losing taxpayer giveaways to an industry that was shutting down before the Roadless Rule went into place.”
Ninety-five percent of public testimony in Fall 2019 was in favor of keeping protections in place, as was 90-plus percent of in-person subsistence testimony in rural Southeast Alaska communities. Eleven Southeast Alaska Tribes have also petitioned for a new, more responsible approach in the Tongass, saying that the U.S. Forest Service has for years ignored their input as sovereign Tribal governments and cooperating agencies.
“It’s clear that the decision-making process for America’s largest national forest is broken. We need a new approach that actually heeds Tribes and Southeast Alaskan stakeholders,” Bristol said. “This move represents a focus on the past, not the future; is deeply disappointing; is wildly unpopular; and is likely to be overturned in the courts.”