JUNEAU, AK September 24, 2020 – The U.S. Forest Service today announced a final environmental impact statement for plans to overturn the federal Roadless Rule, a widely supported policy that closely restricts logging and roadbuilding, in Southeast Alaska’s Tongass National Forest. Undoing the rule would exempt 9.2 million acres of temperate rainforest, including centuries-old stands of old-growth trees, from the protective safeguard.
In response, Juneau-based Earthjustice staff attorney Kate Glover issued the following statement:
“Of all the things our federal government could be devoting resources toward in 2020, slashing a rule to make way for clear-cutting in one of the world’s last intact temperate rainforests shouldn’t rank as a priority. The centuries-old trees of the Tongass National Forest act as a counterbalance against climate change because they absorb greenhouse gas emissions. The lands targeted for new industrial logging operations are the ancestral homeland of Indigenous people, who have resided here for millennia. Earthjustice has spent decades in court defending the Tongass, and we will use every tool available to continue defending this majestic and irreplaceable national forest.”
The plan that would gut the Roadless Rule comes just weeks after the Forest Service issued two separate proposals for new logging operations in the Tongass National Forest. The first targets 5,000 acres of old growth forest for the South Revilla timber project, while the second proposes 3,000 acres of old growth liquidation on the heavily logged Prince of Wales Island as part of the Twin Mountain II timber project. Both proposals are in areas of the national forest that are not protected by the Roadless Rule, but the proposals are a sign of what is to come for the currently protected areas if the rule change goes into effect.