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‘America’s Climate Forest’ Now Safe From Major Old-Growth Logging

This page was published 2 years ago. Find the latest on Earthjustice’s work.

In a huge victory for the climate, the Biden administration is ending large-scale old-growth logging in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest. For years, Earthjustice has fought to defend this temperate rainforest’s massive trees and meandering streams. Read on to learn why this win matters for wildlife, local Indigenous communities, and every human on Earth.

This is a victory for public lands that has been decades in the making.

  • A federal law called the Roadless Rule protects about a third of our national forests — including 9 million acres of the Tongass — from damaging new roads and clear-cuts. Earthjustice has been successfully defending this law in court since 2001.
  • In 2020, the Trump administration exempted the Tongass from the Roadless Rule’s protection, opening areas to logging, including centuries-old stands of old-growth trees.
  • Earthjustice filed a federal lawsuit challenging the rollback of protections on behalf of five Alaska Native Tribes, Southeast Alaska small businesses, and conservation organizations.

The Biden administration’s actions go beyond restoring protections stripped away by Trump.

  • On July 15, the U.S. Forest Service announced it will undo the Trump-era rollback of the Roadless Rule.
  • The agency also added new protections for the Tongass’ ancient trees, eliminating large-scale old growth logging across all 17 million acres of the forest.
  • Three old-growth harvests that were slated to happen within the Tongass will no longer take place, according to reporting by the Washington Post.

Logging in the Tongass would have catastrophic effects on people and the planet.

  • The Tongass is the homeland of Alaska Native Tribes, and many Indigenous communities in Southeast Alaska continue to rely on the Tongass for food and cultural traditions.
  • The forest sustains an endless variety of wildlife. It produces some 25% of West Coast salmon, and it attracts millions of visitors annually from throughout the world.
  • Known as “the lungs of our country,” the Tongass is also a climate powerhouse that holds more than 40% of the carbon stored by all U.S. national forests.
  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s own analysis showed that the Roadless Rule exemption would not provide any new jobs or income from logging — but it would have negative consequences for Indigenous ways of life, the climate, and the tourism and fishing industries at the heart of the regional economy.
Bakewell Lake in the Tongass National Forest
Bakewell Lake in the Tongass National Forest (Jeff DeFreest / USDA)