Protecting the Roadless Rule: Alaska’s Tongass National Forest Under Pressure

Just getting started on the Roadless Rule? Learn the basics about what the Roadless Rule is here.

The Roadless Rule protects roughly 58.8 million acres of roadless areas on different National Forests across the country. Around 9 million acres of those protected lands reside in the Tongass National Forest, America’s largest forest, and in combination with the Great Bear Rainforest of British Columbia, the Tongass is the world’s largest intact temperate rainforest.

Photo: Sam Ortiz

Homeland of the Tlingit and Haida people, this unique landscape is described by the Audubon Society as being filled with “glacial fjords, streams, lush valleys, mountains, and some of the oldest, most valuable, trees in the world.”

It is home to “an abundance” of fish and wildlife including “including all five species of Pacific salmon, brown (grizzly) bears, wolves, Bald Eagles, Northern Goshawks,” and many more valuable species. Throughout the last century, economic growth in Alaska came about from the logging industry which is evident when considering how logging has altered the Tongass. 9% of productive old-growth forests have been clearcut, and about half of the “big-tree old growth” have been cut. 

Map of Tongass National Forest Roadless + Recreation Areas (Outdoor Alliance)

In collaboration with the powerful timber lobby, the current administration threatens to continue the devastation of the Tongass’ old-growth forests by allowing the Forest to undermine the Roadless Rule and exempt the Tongass from its protections in order to allow more freedoms to logging. Currently, the Tongass still allows large scale clear cut logging of old-growth forests in certain areas of the forest. According to the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council (SEACC), in 2015, 6,000 acres of forest were logged in a timber sale. Not only is this practice outdated and harmful to the ecosystem, but the logging is also done at a loss to American taxpayers. The SEACC states that it is estimated that taxpayers subsidize the Tongass timber program “to the tune of $20 million per year” and is contributing to “less than 1%” of the local Alaskan economy. Recreation, on the other hand, generates $7.3 billion and sustains more than four times the number of jobs in Alaska than oil and gas production, mining, and logging combined, according to the Outdoor Industry Association.

Where are we now and how can I take action?

Currently, the proposal from the US Forest Service is undergoing the NEPA process. Thanks to that process, the Forest Service is required to hear comments from the public regarding what they think about the project. This comment period is open until December 17, 2019, and the Outdoor Alliance recommends asking the Forest Service to support the “no action alternative” in order to keep the Roadless Rule alive on the Tongass National Forest.

Use Outdoor Alliances’s letter writing tool–it only takes 30 seconds to make your voice heard.

Sign up for a virtual roadless rule public comment workshop with Last Stands on 12/15.

Resources: 

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NOTE: THIS IS A LIVING RESOURCE! As with all resources on Outdoor Advocacy Project, there is always room to continue the conversation, add a new perspective, bolster the resources, and share new findings. Got something you want to add, change, challenge or amplify? Let us know in the comments, or e-mail team@outdooradvocacy.com to write your own.

Amelia Howe
Amelia Howe

Amelia Howe is an environmental advocacy and policy professional based in Salt Lake City. She analyzes complex legislation, creating digestible summaries that inspire thoughtful engagement. Coffee and climbing fill her time when she isn’t nerding out over the latest policy news. 

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