Rollback of protections would allow logging in Alaska forest
Federal protections for Alaska’s Tongass National Forest will be lifted this week by the Trump administration, allowing “logging and other forms of development” to occur in the world’s largest intact temperate rainforest known as America’s Amazon, the federal government announced.
“As of Thursday, it will be legal for logging companies to build roads and cut and remove timber throughout more than 9.3 million acres of forest,” The Washington Post reported Wednesday.
Conservation groups vowed to fight the decision.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture said it has decided to exempt the Tongass National Forest, the country’s largest national forest, from the so-called roadless rule, protections that ban road construction and timber harvests with limited exceptions. It applies to nearly one-quarter of all U.S. Forest Service lands.
The rule, dating to 2001, has long been a focus of litigation.
The Post, which noted that the federal protections were put in place in 2001 during the waning days of Bill Clinton’s presidency, said the rollback by President Donald Trump represents “one of the most sweeping public lands rollbacks” Trump has made during his tenure. The president previously removed acreage from two national monuments and worked to open more federal lands and waters to oil drilling and mining.
The forest, about the size of West Virginia, and region form the world’s largest intact temperate rainforest. The area is a vibrant habitat for bear, eagle and salmon, plus towering old-growth cedar, hemlock and spruce. It includes Alaska’s capital, Juneau, and 31 other communities.
The area also features “old-growth stands of red and yellow cedar, Sitka spruce and Western hemlock,” according to the Post, which said some of the trees “are between 300 and 1,000 years old (and) absorb at least 8 percent of all the carbon stored in the entire Lower 48′s forests combined.”
Dominick DellaSala, the chief scientist with the Earth Island Institute’s Wild Heritage project, told the Post that although “tropical rainforests are the lungs of the planet, the Tongass is the lungs of North America,” adding that the forest is “America’s last climate sanctuary.”