Trump administration will open up 9.3 million acres of Alaska’s Tongass National Forest – one of the world’s largest intact temperate rainforests – to logging and other forms of development
- Alaska’s Tongass National Forest is one of the largest temperate rainforests
- Protections were put into place for the forest by President Clinton in 2001
- The Trump administration will open parts of it to logging and road construction
- The decision is expected to be fought in court by environmental activists
The Trump administration is taking aim at one of the world’s largest intact temperate rainforests in an effort to boost the economy.
On Thursday, the administration is planning to roll back environmental protections for Alaska’s 16.7 million-acre Tongass National Forest.
More than half the forest – or 9.3 million acres – become available for various developmental activities, most notably building roads and logging.
The decision will be published Thursday in the Federal Register according to the Washington Post, just five days ahead of the end of voting in the election.
The Tongass National Forest is being opened up to development as soon as Thursday
The forest will immediately cede 9.3 million acres of land for logging and road building
The Trump administration is making this environmental rollback just days before voting ends
The current protections for the forest were put in place by President Clinton in 2001, right before he left office.
The forest is considered to be vital to the local ecology, propping up populations of wild Pacific salmon, along with the most dense population of brown bears on the continent.
Meanwhile, the endangered trees range anywhere from 300 to 1,000 years old.
‘It’s America’s last climate sanctuary,’ Dominick DellaSala, chief scientist at the Earth Island Institute’s Wild Heritage project, told the Washington Post.
This is not the first time the Trump administration has tried to log Tongass.
Just last week, the administration chose to abandon their appeal after a judge struck down a 1.8 million acre timber sale on Prince of Wales Island in the forest.
Roads are needed for development of the area, with President Trump reportedly saying ‘How the [expletive] do you have an economy without roads?’ in a conversation about the forest.
Alaska’s Tongass National Forest is 16.7 acres large total, meaning more than half is in danger
Conservation groups are planning on battling the Trump administration, even in court
Southeast Conference executive director Robert Venables sees short-term economic relief in the easing of environmental protections, but doesn’t see the policy sticking around if there’s a change in administrations after the election.
‘It seems like the ball’s being punted from one end to the other,’ Venables said.
To that end, environmental law firm Earthjustice is already speaking out against the decision.
Also opposed to the new easing of restrictions are the five tribal nations of Alaska.
‘We refuse to allow legitimacy upon a process that has disregarded our input at every turn,’ the tribal leaders started two weeks ago.
The U.S. Forest Service conducted an environmental review when considering whether or not to ease the environmental protections – 96 percent of comments opposed the decision.
The Tongass National Forest was created by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1907. It is 16.7 million acres large.
The Trump administration has a history of enacting significant rollbacks when it comes to environmental protections.
President Trump has worked to roll back the National Environmental Policy Act. He also withdrew the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement and has frequently used rhetoric disavowing the science behind climate change.