Alaska's Tongass is America’s largest national forest and is referred to as the "crown jewel" of the National Forest System. Currently, large areas of the forest are protected by The Roadless Rule—The 2001 rule establishes prohibitions on road construction, road reconstruction, and timber harvesting on 58.5 million acres of inventoried roadless areas on National Forest System lands.
For nearly 20 years, the Roadless Rule has protected 9 million acres of watersheds, old-growth forests, and habitat in the Tongass from being destroyed. Now, the Trump administration is rolling back those Roadless Rule protections. That would mean slashing protections for an area bigger than Yellowstone, Glacier, and Grand Canyon National Parks combined and opening it up to logging, road building, and extraction.
This development would threaten the wolves, northern goshawks, bears, and five species of salmon that call the Tongass home. It would be devastating to the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian people who rely on the land for cultural and traditional practices like hunting and fishing, and put Southeast Alaska’s thriving tourism and commercial fishing industries at risk.
Slashing protections for the Tongass would also set a dangerous precedent for public lands across the country. If corporations can clear-cut the Tongass, then no national forest is truly safe.
This would be a disaster for our climate. One of the most important ways we can address the climate crisis is by focusing on forests. Forests store more carbon per acre than any other terrestrial ecosystem on the planet and old-growth forests tend to store significantly more carbon. The Tongass alone holds about 650 million tons of carbon, which roughly converts to half of US carbon dioxide emissions in 2017. Logging the old-growth trees there would release that carbon into the atmosphere.
We know the next few years are critical if we’re going to mitigate the worst effects of climate change. Instead of making our public lands part of the climate problem, we should be making them part of the solution. This extreme proposal from the Trump administration is a step in exactly the wrong direction.
Latest News: In January 2023 Biden reinstated the Roadless Rule in Tongass National Forest.