FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Austin Williams, Trout Unlimited, (907) 227-1590 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Forest Service to repeal roadless areas protections on the Tongass National Forest
JUNEAU, AK — An announcement expected tomorrow by the U.S. Forest Service says the agency will repeal the Roadless Rule on the Tongass National Forest, opening previously-protected lands containing rare, old-growth trees to industrial clear-cut logging and construction of expensive and highly-subsidized logging roads. Removing the Roadless Rule from the Tongass is the most extreme of six alternatives considered by the Forest Service.
The move comes despite overwhelming public comment in support of the rule (see page 2) and its long-standing protections for fish and wildlife on more than 9 million acres of the Tongass.
“Make no mistake, this decision is all about opening up old-growth forest to clear-cut logging in an effort to prop up an outdated and highly-subsidized logging industry,” said Austin Williams, Alaska Director of Law and Policy for Trout Unlimited. “Renewable energy, community infrastructure, mining, and transportation projects would have proceeded under any of the six alternatives considered. This decision only makes sense if your primary goal is to clear cut more old-growth forest.”
The Forest Service reports every single project proposed in a roadless area in Alaska had been granted an exemption and allowed to move forward, typically within a matter of weeks. These projects include mining projects, energy and utility projects, transportation roads, and community infrastructure development. (see page 6).
In public meetings on the proposed repeal last fall, southeast Alaskans overwhelmingly testified in opposition to the repeal. Nearly all the testimony reiterated the importance of the rule’s benefits to local fisheries and related jobs.
“Communities, fish, wildlife, tourism, subsistence, and recreation have thrived in the Tongass with the Roadless Rule in place, and it’s a disgrace to see logging special interests win out over the wishes of Alaskans and the long-term health of the region,” said Williams. “Fish, wildlife, and recreation are the future for southeast, not some half-baked plan to give away and cut down the best remaining stands of old-growth forest.”
The Tongass produces more salmon than all other national forests combined, and supports fishing and tourism industries that account for more than 26 percent of local jobs in the region. Science shows clear-cut logging pollutes streams, and harms salmon and deer populations. More than 30% of all instances where Tongass roads cross fish streams (1,120 crossings in total) fail to meet state or federal standards for fish migration, impeding salmon and trout from nearly 250 miles of important spawning and rearing habitat.
The record of decision will be noticed in the federal register Thursday.
Trout Unlimited is the nation’s oldest and largest coldwater fisheries conservation organization. In Alaska, we work with sportsmen and women to ensure the state’s trout and salmon resources remain healthy far into the future through our local chapters and offices in Anchorage and Juneau. Learn more about our work to conserve key areas of the Tongass National Forest at www.americansalmonforest.org
by Austin Williams, Trout Unlimited Alaska's Director of Law and Policy
My introduction to the Tongass was as a Forest Service employee on Prince of Wales Island—where industrial logging’s heyday was its most intense and most severe. I’ve slogged through more than my fair share of clear cuts—where logging stretched onto such steep slopes it caused landslides that caved into and smothered salmon spawning streams, where roads were constructed and maintained so haphazardly they diverted entire streams out of their natural channel, and where once-cut landscapes grew back with stunted trees so dense the forest was entirely uninhabitable for wildlife like deer. One memorable logging road I surveyed was so derelict it failed to have a single functioning culvert despite crossing numerous salmon streams.
More than 96% of public comments on this proposed decision favored keeping the roadless rule in place. See Page 2. In some Alaska communities, every single comment submitted to the Forest Service wanted roadless areas protected. Tribes, small business owners, hunters and anglers, subsistence users, scientists, and people from all walks of life spoke up in favor of fish, wildlife, beautiful scenery, and for putting an end to unsustainable clear-cut logging of our best remaining old-growth forest.
Recognizing how unpopular clear-cut logging of old-growth forest has become, some individuals have taken to claiming this decision isn’t about logging at all. Don’t buy what they’re selling.
Atop the list of exciting projects in store for Alaska are trail, cabin and campground projects. These recreation infrastructure projects are all desperately needed on the Tongass. A sample of what’s included for National Forests in Alaska include: Yakutat Cabin Maintenance, Juneau Ranger District Strike Team, Pack Creek Trail Reconstruction and Thayer Lake Shelter Repairs, and the El Cap Recreation Area improvements.
For Southeast Alaskans, marine access and transportation for guiding, fishing, hunting, subsistence, and getting to and from other communities is essential. GAOA funding will be used to address deferred maintenance issues on multiple docks and marine facilities, gangways, pads and piers throughout the Southeast Alaska region.
As you know, an alarmingly large number of the culverts and bridges on the Tongass fail to meet applicable standards for fish passage. More than 30% of all instances where forest roads cross fish streams on the Tongass—1,120 instances in total--fail to meet applicable standards for fish migration and disturb fish access to nearly 250 miles of salmon and trout streams! Poorly maintained or degraded forest roads make travel difficult or dangerous, increase erosion and degrade nearby streams, block fish passage and migration, and are expensive to maintain. This is one of the main reasons we are excited about road improvements being added to the priority with new GAOA funding.
It’s no surprise that outdoor recreation and recreation access is on the rise and continues to be one of the most important public services provided by the Forest Service. We are excited about the variety of maintenance and infrastructure projects that are planned for the Tongass.
We're excited to tell you about an amazing new project we have been working on!
This Thursday, we will launch a short-film telling the story of ongoing work to find undocumented - thus unprotected - wild steelhead in the Tongass National Forest. ANADROMOUS WATERS, will be released as part of Trout Unlimited's "Science Week," and we have plenty of online events leading up to it.
History of the Project:
Trout Unlimited has worked to increase the number of officially recognized anadromous streams by using community science – going to select Tongass 77 watersheds and surveying the area for steelhead.
Join us next week as we share this amazing story of discovery and what comes next.
Follow us on Instagram for daily event updates: America's Salmon Forest.
Clear cut logging the Tongass’ old-growth trees affects fish, wildlife and the landscape on many levels, and that is why the Roadless Rule should stay in place on the Tongass.
In less than 10 days the U.S. Forest Service could release its final decision and fully repeal the Roadless Rule on the Tongass National Forest. Speak up today and tell federal decision makers that you want the Roadless Rule intact on the Tongass.