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June 11, 2021

Biden Administration Takes Action to Protect Tongass National Forest

U.S. Forest Service revisits Trump rollback of Roadless Rule

Contacts

Becca Bowe, Earthjustice, rbowe@earthjustice.org, (415) 217-2093

Joel Jackson, Organized Village of Kake, president@kake-nsn.gov, (907) 518-1592

Linda Behnken, Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association, (907) 738-3615

Meredith Trainor, Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, meredith@seacc.org, (907) 957-8347

Juneau, AK (Tlingit / Áak’w Ḵwáan lands)

The U.S. Forest Service today announced it will revisit a Trump administration decision to eliminate forest protections in much of Alaska’s Tongass National Forest and will soon engage in a process to reconsider the Trump rule. The move will impact new logging and roadbuilding proposals across some nine million acres of temperate rainforest in southeast Alaska. These vast swaths of the Tongass, where some trees have stood for centuries, were protected from logging and new roadbuilding by the long-standing federal Roadless Rule until Trump’s Forest Service finalized a decision in late 2020 exempting the Tongass from this rule.

Earthjustice, along with co-counsel Natural Resources Defense Council, filed a lawsuit late last year challenging the Roadless Rule rollback on behalf of Alaska Native Tribes, commercial fishermen, Southeast Alaska small businesses, and conservation organizations. Earthjustice Attorney Kate Glover, lead attorney on the litigation, issued the following statement in response:

“We’re encouraged that the Forest Service under Biden will revisit the previous administration’s ill-conceived and politically motivated plan to auction off the Tongass to the highest bidder. We urge the Forest Service to fully reinstate the Roadless Rule. Placing intact areas of this majestic temperate rainforest off-limits to industrial logging would benefit Alaska Native people who have always lived here, recreational small businesses, fishermen, visitors, and wildlife. And we encourage the administration to go further. Permanently protecting ancient, old-growth, and carbon-dense trees across the entire Tongass and in other national forests is one of the most obvious and cost-effective measures we can take to combat climate change.”

Members of the media who wish to speak with Earthjustice legal and policy experts, or clients, are encouraged to reach out using the contact information listed above.

Background

In December of 2020, Earthjustice and co-counsel Natural Resources Defense Council filed a lawsuit in federal court to defend the Roadless Rule in Alaska on behalf of Alaska Native Tribes, Southeast Alaska small businesses, commercial fishermen, and conservation organizations. Alaska has experienced unprecedented heat waves in recent years, yet the Tongass old growth forest serves as a buffer against climate change and as a refuge for salmon, birds, and other wildlife. Much like the Amazon rainforest, the Tongass’ stands of ancient trees are champions at absorbing greenhouse gas emissions, storing more than 40% of all carbon in U.S. national forests.

About Earthjustice

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