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Defend the Tongass National Forest

Supporters Spoke up in this Action
Delivery to the Biden administration

Action Ended On

July 15, 2020

What Happens Next

On July 15, the Biden administration announced its intention to fully reinstate the Roadless Rule in the Tongass National Forest, reversing a sweeping Trump-era rollback that would have allowed new logging to take place across some nine million acres of temperate rainforest in Southeast Alaska. Thank you to all who spoke up and pushed the administration to act on this issue.

What was at Stake

Scientists call the Tongass National Forest in Alaska the “lungs of our country” because it can store close to a 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. We have sounded the alarm about this fight on several occasions — and it’s more urgent now than ever. With less than a decade left before the damage from climate change becomes irreversible, we need these trees standing and growing now. Tell the Biden administration to defend the Tongass and all our temperate rainforests. 

Under the Trump administration, the Forest Service withdrew protections for the Tongass established under the Roadless Rule and pursued 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. 

The Roadless Rule, implemented 20 years ago, prevents clearcutting and other damaging activities in about 56 million acres of national forests across the country. The Biden administration needs to take decisive action to respect people’s wishes and preserve the Tongass by reinstating the Roadless Rule and stopping all commercial old-growth logging in the Tongass. 

While protecting the Tongass is a critical part of cutting our carbon emissions, the Tongass is also a globally significant temperate rainforest that should be protected for its amazing lands and wildlife, which support vital ways of life for Alaska Native people and local economies based on the natural forest, like salmon fishing and tourism. 

The Biden administration can restore roadless area protections to the Tongass and go further by protecting all of the Tongass and old-growth federal forests in the Pacific Northwest from clear-cut logging. This administration must put public interest over corporate profits and protect our national forests and our climate for future generations! 

Bakewell Lake in the Tongass National Forest
Jeff DeFreest / USDA

Bakewell Lake in the Tongass National Forest

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.