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Forest Service

More than a decade ago, dedicated conservationists within and without the Forest Service began clamoring for a nation-wide policy to protect the last remnants of roadless lands across the National Forests. The rationales were many: providing solitude for wildlife, preventing wildfires (which occur most often near roads), protecting water supplies for cities and towns, and leaving the last scraps of land unharmed by the buldozer after a century of pressure from loggers, miners, and other development.

Last year, the U.S. government started taking environmental protection seriously again, but as 2010 dawns, we continue to see political and economic interests preventing or stalling critical environmental solutions.

In the face of this opposition, this year Earthjustice is targeting key issues with our legal and advocacy work. Our focus is on three core priorities: building a clean energy future, protecting our natural heritage, and safeguarding our health.

Regional officials with Alaska's Tongass National Forest, the crown jewel of our national forest system, recently announced plans to log nearly 1,500 acres of old-growth forest in two roadless areas. The Central Kupreanof and Sue timber sales jeopardize intact blocks of old-growth habitat within one of the last remaining temperate rainforests in the world.

Earthjustice was more than a little surprised to hear that a regional office of the Tongass National Forest is moving ahead with plans to open a roadless area in America's largest temperate rainforest to logging. The Central Kupreanof timber sale project, would carve 15 miles of new roads and log 1,339 acres of old growth forest.

But this is not a done deal. As the press release from the regional national forest office admits…

"The Final EIS is being released without an accompanying Record of Decision (ROD) in light of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary's memorandum dated May 28, 2009, which stated the Secretary reserved decision-making authority over construction and reconstruction of roads and the cutting, sale or removal of timber in Inventoried Roadless Areas (IRA)."

Earthjustice attorney, Tom Waldo called the news, "a reckless action by local officials in the Tongass National Forest…The Secretary of Agriculture should just say no to this project."

The final decision now sits on the desk of Agriculture secretary, Tom Vilsack.

What does it take to peel back the abstractions of email, press reports, and legal briefs and really see some of what is at stake in Earthjustice's work? It's as easy as getting away from the computer, out of airports, and off the interstate.

Over the last couple of weeks I was lucky enough to travel across the Great Plains and the Rockies. Everywhere I went, I saw our country wrestling with the big challenges of energy supply and climate change, biodiversity and wildlands protection, and the human consequences of poorly enforced environmental standards.

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About the Earthjustice Blog

unEARTHED is a forum for the voices and stories of the people behind Earthjustice's work. The views and opinions expressed in this blog do not necessarily represent the opinion or position of Earthjustice or its board, clients, or funders. Learn more about Earthjustice.