USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack’s proposal to transition away from old-growth logging in the Tongass National Forest is a welcome shift that has the potential to save our nation’s last remaining rainforest, according to conservation groups.
But to be effective, the transition away from old-growth logging must be done more quickly than proposed, and large-scale old-growth timber sales—like the massive Big Thorne sale just announced—must be curtailed.
Following are comments from conservation groups involved in preserving the Tongass:
Cindy Shogan, executive director, Alaska Wilderness League said, “I appreciate Secretary Vilsack’s commitment to crafting a transition for the Tongass National Forest. However, any transition that includes massive timber sales, like Big Thorne, the largest timber sale in any of our nation’s forests in many years, turns back the clock to the old days of taxpayer-subsidized industrial logging in the Tongass.”
Niel Lawrence, senior attorney, Natural Resources Defense Council said, “Secretary Vilsack is right to recognize the root of the problem: For the sake of our largest national forest, our environment and our heritage, we must stop mowing down old-growth trees that can never be replaced. But opening the door to another 10-15 years of large-scale old-growth logging in the Tongass, as this proposal would do, misses the forest for the trees. Industrial liquidation of old-growth trees through the year 2028 means catastrophe for our country’s last great rainforest. The Obama administration has to lock in a faster transition to preserve old-growth trees, and lock it in soon.”
Tom Waldo, attorney, Earthjustice said, “Secretary Vilsack’s announcement recognizes that the future of the Tongass is not in old growth logging, but the Tongass can’t wait another decade or more for that shift. The Forest Service must amend the forest plan, but with a much faster transition.”
Jim Adams, policy director, Audubon Alaska said, “A rapid transition away from clear-cut old-growth logging on the Tongass is essential to protecting the forest’s fish and wildlife, and the Secretary’s message is welcome. Unfortunately, the decision announced Monday to cut 6,186 acres of old-growth at Big Thorne despite impacts on declining wildlife populations like the Alexander Archipelago wolf undermines the Secretary’s announcement. The Department of Agriculture needs to commit to a concrete process that ends clear-cut, old-growth logging on the Tongass in five years.”
Bob Claus, forest program director and long-time resident on Prince of Wales Island (where Big Thorne is located), Southeast Alaska Conservation Council said, “We agree with Secretary Vilsack that a speedy transition away from old-growth timber sales like Big Thorne is essential and we think the only way to achieve this high priority is to amend the Tongass plan now.”