More than 9 million acres of the Tongass National Forest in Southeast Alaska are safe once again from almost certain logging and mining greenlighted by the last administration.
An exemption to the Roadless Rule that was approved by then President Donald Trump last fall has been reversed by the Biden administration’s US Department of Agriculture, restoring full environmental protections for the Tongass region. Additional safeguards to end large-scale old-growth logging in the Tongass and make a $25 million investment in local sustainable development are also included.
The Tongass is North America’s largest temperate rainforest and home to three indigenous tribes, the highest density of brown bears in North America, ancient stands of hemlock and western red cedar, and Sitka spruce that are hundreds of years old.
It’s also one of the largest remaining salmon strongholds in North America, thus earning the name America’s Salmon Forest.
The Roadless Rule was established in 2001. It prohibits road construction in 58.5 million acres of the National Forest System, including the 17-million-acre Tongass, essentially halting the logging of old-growth timber and mining in the region.
In a recent statement, Austin Williams, Trout Unlimited’s Alaska director of law and policy, identified natural resources other than trees and minerals as a far better focus for the future of Southeast Alaska.
“The real value of the Tongass is in its abundant fish and wildlife, its cultural resources, and in its beautiful scenery and wild landscapes,” said Williams. “This announcement will help ensure these values remain long into the future, that we are investing where we see the greatest return, and that management of the Tongass supports the region’s economic mainstays of fishing and tourism.
“For far too long, our fish and wildlife were taken for granted on the Tongass,” Williams added. “It’s a breath of fresh air to see investments made to ensure they are around for future generations.”