Submitted Date 11/13/2019

16.7 million acres—can you picture it? It's kind of like trying to wrap your head around infinity, a light-year, or an uninhabitable Earth. We should be able to tap into a few of those acres without consequences, right? Short answer: no. Let's look at what makes this forest's existence so important.

We need rainforests. Who relies on them? Every living creature on Earth. Tongass National Forest contains one of the largest intact temperate rainforests in the world. Rainforests act as lungs for this planet. They absorb huge amounts of carbon dioxide and release oxygen. They also store carbon dioxide and release it back into the atmosphere when they're burned and when they decay. Keep in mind that the Amazon Rainforest is experiencing unprecedented levels of deforestation. We are also facing a global climate crisis and researchers are actively trying to develop technology that will essentially do what trees do for us.

Here's the issue broken down into a manageable chunk:
The "Roadless Rule" was introduced in 2001 and limits where logging and road building can occur in the United States. It protects undeveloped forests from clearcutting practices. The Trump Administration is working to lift this and other environmental restrictions to give loggers access to this old-growth temperate rainforest. The Trump Administration is also proposing we open up 9.2 million acres—over half of the Tongass—to industry and development. (Hey, btw, this is public land…that means it belongs to the people).

Sediment being held by the forest's root systems would pour into streams, which would negatively affect salmon populations, which would negatively affect Alaska's economy while contributing to climate change by negatively affecting biodiversity. Whew.

Clearcutting forests also displaces and kills wild and endangered animals. Biodiversity is another ally in our battle against climate change.

Let's talk about the argument in favor of accessing and logging the Tongass. The timber industry in Alaska is suffering—partially due to tariffs—and old growth timber is valuable in the timber market. Can we help Alaskan communities by exploiting a natural resource like this? Not enough to warrant the destruction of a national treasure that is crucial to human life.

The lumber industry makes up about 1% of the Alaskan economy while tourism makes up 17%. Why do people come to Alaska as tourists? To experience wild places (that are also being threatened by climate change). This is about corporate greed and not about Alaskans or other Americans.

The US Forest Service gave Alaska $2 million in federal funding to engage with the public while the idea of lifting the roadless rule is being explored. Know how much was given to the Alaska Forest Association, a timber industry lobbying group? At least 10% of that. And indigenous tribes that rely on the forest for food security? $0. Their voices have repeatedly been silenced and ignored during the process. These indigenous communities rely on the food they hunt and gather from Tongass. To quote Tlingit advocate Wanda Culip, they would starve without wild places like Tongass. These communities are already living in impoverished conditions.
Oh, I know. We can build a Walmart for them on a swath of cleared land so they can rely on our environmentally sustainable food system. Ah, capitalism, I see you.

Excuse me while I organize a movement to save old-growth forests. Anyone down for some passive resistance? If enough of us camp out in the trees, we might be able to delay the process. We need tree huggers now more than ever.

Related Stories


Please login to post comments on this story