A national forest in Alaska faces the possibility of being opened to widespread logging. That forest is the 500-mile Tongass National Forest. Roughly the size of West Virginia, it is the largest national forest in the U.S. and it has the world’s largest temperate rainforest. It contains mountains, glaciers, old-growth forests, and salmon streams. Bears, wolves, eagles, and indigenous people groups that have inhabited the Tongass for over 10,000 years call it home. Only eight percent of land in the Tongass is developed.
The Trump administration presents options to log the Tongass
The U.S. Department of Agriculture released a draft environmental impact statement that would exempt the Tongass National Forest from the 2001 Roadless Rule, which prohibits road construction, road reconstruction, and timber harvesting on 58.5 million acres of roadless areas on National Forest System lands. The USDA Forest Service published the documents in the Federal Register in October which kicked off a 60-day public comment period on the statement
The draft environmental impact statement presents six options, one of which is taking no action and leaving all of Alaska under the 2001 Roadless Rule, including the Tongass National Forest. The other five options include:
- Providing regulatory protection for the majority (89 percent) of key watersheds inside roadless areas and converting 18,000 old-growth acres and 10,000 young-growth acres previously identified as unsuitable acres to suitable timberlands.
- Providing regulatory protections for all key watersheds inside and outside roadless areas, creating a community priority roadless designation allowing for recreational development and timber sales under one million board feet, and converting 76,000 old-growth acres and 14,000 young-growth acres previously identified as unsuitable
- Restricting harvest and road-building activities in scenic viewsheds and most (88%) key watersheds inside roadless areas and converting 158,000 old-growth acres and 15,000 young-growth acres previously identified as unsuitable timberlands to suitable timberlands.
- Removing 2.3 million acres from roadless area designation, protecting some (59%) key watersheds, and converting 165,000 old-growth acres and 17,000 young-growth acres previously identified as unsuitable timberlands to suitable timberlands.
- Exempting the Tongass National Forest from the 2001 Roadless Rule, removing all 9.2 million acres of inventoried roadless acres, and converting 165,000 old-growth acres and 20,000 young-growth acres previously identified as unsuitable timberlands to suitable timberlands.
Glacier Hub refers to the fifth scenario, which would convert 165,000 acres of old-growth forest and 20,000 acres of young-growth forest into lands suitable for logging, the “preferred alternative.”
Logging the Tongass National Forest makes no economic or environmental sense
Logging the Tongass does not make economic sense. A study by Headwaters Economics estimated that taxpayers subsidize the logging program in the Tongass at $20 million annually or around $130,000 per timber job. All that money delivers little in return, contributing less than one percent to the local economy.
It does not make environmental sense to log the Tongass, as it stores more carbon than any other national forest, according to The Wilderness Society. The Tongass captures around eight percent of all carbon stored in U.S. forests
What you can do
There is something you can do to make your voice heard about logging the Tongass. You have until December 17, 2019 at midnight EST to submit a comment. It is expected that the Secretary of Agriculture will a decision regarding the future of the 2001 Roadless Rule in the Tongass by June 2020. Let him know you want the Tongass to remain under the 2001 Roadless Rule.