Tongass Roads

America's special rainforest remains in a state of regulatory limbo

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The Ketchikan newspaper just published a long editorial titled "We Love Surprises," urging Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to surprise them and approve some new roads and timber sales in the Tongass National Forest despite the recent directive that suggests the administration is planning to take a year or two to study the situation and decide whether to make the 2001 Roadless Rule permanent.

The editorial makes it sound as if the only thing at stake is the very survival of Southeast Alaska. The piece also makes it sound as if the environmental movement is all powerful and dictating how the Obama administration acts in these matter.

If only that were so.

To recapitulate, the Tongass was excised from the Roadless Rule via a sneaky-Pete, behind-closed-doors conspiracy between the state of Alaska and the Bush Forest Service that environmental groups were not allowed to participate in.

Alaska sued, the feds said, "OK, you win," and the Tongass disappeared from the ambit of the rule.

As successful as the environmental groups have been in subsequent litigation, they have been unable to restore protection to the Tongass via the rule. Now, they (we) see a chance to persuade the administration to restore those vital protections. Appeals are being made to Mr. Vilsack and his boss. Please don’t surprise us, sir. The Tongass is too important to be sacrificed to parochial economic interests.

Tom Turner literally wrote the books about Earthjustice during his more-than-25 years with the organization. A lifelong resident of Berkeley, CA, he is most passionate about Earthjustice's maiden issue: wilderness preservation.