The Tongass is the Nation’s largest national forest and supplies habitat for the fisheries and ample recreation opportunity of the region. Combined, fishing and tourism supply 26% of the jobs in Southeast Alaska, but these important industries are being cast aside for outdated and unsustainable old-growth logging that accounts for less than 1% of regional jobs and costs taxpayers millions in annual federal subsidies.
Unfortunately, elected officials in the U.S. Congress and the State of Alaska continue to advance efforts to promote heavily-subsidized industrial uses of the Tongass or to privatize them through corporate giveaways and bad land swaps, ignoring impacts to sustainable industries that rely on intact habitat, beautiful scenery and wild places.
In recent months, the attack on the Tongass has spread to include the Chugach and has grown to include the following measures:
- The State of Alaska’s Roadless petition: The national Roadless Rule was created almost two decades ago to protect wild areas on federal lands that provide important fish habitat, drinking water, and recreational and business opportunities. In Alaska, -many of these areas have become critical to local economies and are essential to the fishing and tourism industries. This winter, the State petitioned the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees the U.S. Forest Service, to exempt the Tongass from the Rule in a move that would enable highly-controversial logging and road building, prop up an outdated and highly-subsidized old-growth logging industry, and turn back the clock on years of successful collaboration in the region. We expect the State and U.S. Forest Service to move forward with rulemaking on this petition any day now.
- Sen. Murkowski (R-AK) riders: Alaska’s senior senator has repeatedly introduced riders to exempt the state from the Roadless Rule and to repeal the 2016 Tongass forest plan, which added protections for high-value habitat areas while enabling a sustainable forest products industry based on a 16-year transition away from old growth logging. More than 270,000 public comments were received in favor of the Tongass Plan amendment and 7,233 Alaskans voiced support for increased protections for important fish and wildlife habitat in the creation of the Tongass forest plan. Most recently, Sen. Murkowski has introduced riders to exempt Alaska from the Roadless Rule in the FY19 appropriations bill.
- Rep. Young (R-AK) riders: Alaska’s sole House representative passed a rider through that chamber to exempt Alaska from the Roadless Rule in the Farm Bill, and introduced a similar rider to the FY19 appropriations bill, though that was ruled out of order as of July 17.
- Additional public lands bills: Senator Murkowski and Congressman Young have introduced an assortment of land transfer and privatization bills. A very short summary of these bills is includes:
- Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (S. 1481, 1483, 1484 and 1491) These bills would create brand new for-profit ANCSA corporations, increase the corporate land cap, expand corporate selection power, remove important federal protections for fish and wildlife, block public access, grant unwarranted subsurface rights, and privatize valuable public infrastructure (roads, log transfer facilities, docks, etc.).
- Alaska Native Allotment Act (S. 785 and 1481) Allows an estimated 2,800 individuals or their heirs to select and receive two parcels totaling 160 acres, each, from across federal land in Alaska including within designated wilderness areas. This would create a patchwork of 5,600 inholdings totaling 448,000 acres where the most valuable and important places in Alaska are private and closed to public access.