A final environmental impact statement released today indicates the Forest Service plans to exempt the Tongass National Forest from the Roadless Rule despite overwhelming public comment in support of the rule and its long-standing protections for fish and wildlife.
If finalized, the rule change would repeal conservation measures for more than 9 million acres of the forest, making currently protected lands available for expanded industrial clear-cut logging of old growth trees and construction of expensive and highly subsidized logging roads.
“This is the wrong call for the Tongass,” said Austin Williams, Alaska Director of Law and Policy for Trout Unlimited. “It’s clear the State of Alaska, the old-growth clear-cut logging industry, and others behind this short-sighted new rule want a return to the days of reckless clear-cut logging that sacrifices our fish, wildlife and forests without regard for the costs to Southeast Alaska’s fishing and tourism economy, subsistence users, recreationists, or the long-term health of the region. It’s far past time we recognize fish, wildlife, tourism, subsistence, and recreation are the most valuable uses for the Tongass.”
The Tongass produces more salmon than all other national forests combined, and the fishing and tourism industry supported by the intact forest account for more than 26 percent of local jobs in the region. Science shows clear-cut logging pollutes streams, and harms salmon and deer populations.
Every single project (more than 80 in total) proposed in a roadless area in Alaska has been granted an exemption and allowed to move forward, typically within a matter of weeks. These projects include mining projects, energy and utility projects, transportation roads, and community infrastructure development.
“We should conserve our remaining roadless areas instead of rolling back the protections for fish and wildlife that make businesses like mine possible,” said Keegan McCarthy, owner of Coastal Alaska Adventures and Custom Alaska Cruises. “Our livelihoods and the future of our families depend on this forest. Sacrificing more of the Tongass to expanded and unsustainable clear-cut logging ignores the economic and social realities of today, and threatens to destroy thousands of jobs and hundreds of businesses just like mine.”
A statewide 2019 poll commissioned by Trout Unlimited found a majority of likely voters in Alaska opposed efforts to repeal the Roadless Rule and strongly supported efforts to protect salmon, the salmon industry, and high-value salmon streams in the Tongass such as those included in the Tongass 77. 96 percent of all public comments submitted to the Forest Service supported keeping the Roadless Rule.
Trout Unlimited is the nation’s oldest and largest coldwater fisheries conservation organization. In Alaska, we work with sportsmen and women to ensure the state’s trout and salmon resources remain healthy far into the future through our local chapters and offices in Anchorage and Juneau. Learn more about our work to conserve key areas of the Tongass National Forest at www.americansalmonforest.org