The Tongass National Forest is a sight to behold. From a boat you can watch bears fishing at the mouths of streams and eagles flying through pristine old-growth forests. This natural beauty is what makes America’s largest temperate rainforest such a draw. Ecotourism, hunting, and fishing trips, are building a new economy for the people of Southeast Alaska.
The Tongass has permanent economic value, if kept intact. But money losing clear-cut logging practices that have scarred this forest over the years. As Hanna Waterstrat, executive director of the Alaska Wilderness Recreation & Tourism Association, explains, "Very few folks will pay to go see clearcuts and decaying logging roads."
Here’s the hitch.
Nearly six years ago, the Bush administration "temporarily" exempted the Tongass from the national Roadless Rule that protects unspoiled areas in other national forests. That exemption is still in effect, and new logging plans are in the works.
Earthjustice attorney Tom Waldo, working with attorneys from NRDC, filed a lawsuit in Juneau, Alaska last week on behalf of a diverse coalition of Alaska Natives, local tourism businesses, and environmental groups who are asking the Obama administration to fully protect the remaining roadless areas of America’s temperate rainforest, the Tongass National Forest.
This lawsuit seeks to give permanent protection to the remaining intact old-growth forest ecosystems in the Tongass so they can continue to dazzle visitors forever.