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Defend the Tongass National Forest

Supporters Spoke up in this Action
Delivery to the U.S. Forest Service

Action Ended On

January 24, 2022

What Happens Next

Thank you to all who spoke up and pushed the administration to act on this issue.

What was at Stake

We have sounded the alarm about this fight on several occasions — and now is the time to finish the fight. Tell the Biden administration to fully reinstate the Roadless Rule in the TongassScientists call the Tongass National Forest in Alaska the “lungs of our country” because it can store over 3 billion tons of climate-warming carbon — keeping that carbon from being released into the atmosphere. However, for decades the logging industry has been given a pass to clear-cut the Tongass, turning this ancient forest into a carbon emitter. Fortunately, the legal framework exists to protect this climate-stabilizing forest. The Roadless Rule, implemented 20 years ago today, prevents clearcutting and other damaging activities in about 56 million acres of national forestland across the country, but currently doesn’t apply to the Tongass.

Under the Trump administration, the Forest Service withdrew protections for the Tongass established under the Roadless Rule and opened the door to clear-cut logging across the forest. These actions ignored the repeated requests from Alaska Native Tribes in the region urging a halt to the destruction of this essential ecosystem that supports the traditional lifeways, medicine, and food systems of the region’s indigenous communities.  

Because of your efforts to raise the alarm, the Biden administration has now announced a process that will reverse the Trump action and reinstate the Roadless Rule in the Tongass to protect the integrity of North America’s largest carbon sink, but we must hold their feet to the fire — and we need your help.  

We must use our collective voice — again — to tell the Biden administration that fully protecting the Tongass is the only option. Tell them to take decisive action to protect one of the United States’ best tools in the fight against climate change. 

Herbert River and Herbert Glacier
John Hyde

Herbert River is born from the meltwaters of the Herbert Glacier as it winds its way down through granite peaks and cliffs towards the sea, Juneau Ice Field, Juneau, Alaska.

Your Actions Matter

Your messages make a difference, even if we have leaders who don't want to listen. Here's why.

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You level the playing field.

Elected officials pay attention when they see that we are paying attention.

They may be hearing from industry lobbyists left and right, but hearing the stories of their constituents — that’s your power.

Our legislators serve at the pleasure of the people who gave them their job — you. When you contact your elected official, you’re putting a face and a name on an issue. Whether or not you voted for them, they work for you, for the duration of their term.

Make sure your elected officials know whose community and whose values they represent. (Find your local, state, and federal elected officials.)

Your action is with us in court.

If a federal agency finalizes a harmful action, the record of public comments provides a basis for bringing them into court.

Throughout each of the public comment periods we alert you to, Earthjustice’s attorneys are researching and writing in-depth, technical comments to submit — detailing how the regulation could and should be stronger to protect the environment, our communities, and our planet.

We need you to join us — your specific experiences, knowledge, and voice are crucial to add to the Administrative Record through the comment periods.

Lawsuits we file that challenge weak or harmful federal regulations rely on what was submitted during the comment period. The court can only look at documents that are in the Administrative Record — including the public comments — to decide if the agency did something improper.

Your actions aid our litigation. Taking action and submitting comments during a comment period is substantively important.

It’s the law.

Federal agencies must pause what they’re doing and ask for — and consider — your comment.

Many of us may have never heard of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), but laws like these require our government to ask the public to weigh in before agencies adopt or change regulations.

Regulations essentially describe how federal agencies will carry out laws — including decisions that could undermine science, or weaken safeguards on public health.

Public comments are collected at various points throughout the federal government’s rulemaking process, including when a regulation is proposed and finalized. (Learn more about the rulemaking process.) These comments become part of the official, legal public record — the “Administrative Record.”

When the public responds with a huge outpouring of support for environmental protections, these individual messages collectively undercut politicians' attempts to claim otherwise.

What this means is each of us can take a role in shaping the rules our government creates — and ensuring those rules are fair and effective.