But it’s not REALLY roadless. The Rule was set up in a reasonable way. This means people seeking to do mineral exploration, personal use logging, or develop a renewable energy project can request an exemption to the rule. This has happened 58 times in the Tongass, and the Forest Service has granted 100% of those requests, all within a matter of weeks.
How’d it come about? Through a lot of compromise and public input. More than 1.6 million Americans weighed in to create the rule with 95% of them supporting it.
We don’t need more roads. There are already more than 5,000 miles of permanent logging roads crisscrossing the Tongass that give timber harvesters access to a great deal of timber. Existing roads have created a massive backlog of needed maintenance that adds to the millions taxpayers spend each year subsidizing logging on the Tongass. Many logging roads also don’t meet standards set to protect fish, and need updates. It does not make sense to ask taxpayers to fund new roads, especially in a place like the Tongass where new road building is very expensive. And it definitely does not make sense in places within the forest that have been identified as most important for fish and wildlife, like in the Tongass 77.
The timber industry says different. As management of the Tongass has smartly moved toward more sustainable industries like fishing and tourism, logging simply no longer plays a major role in the economy of Southeast. In fact, it currently creates less than 1% of jobs in the region. The truth is, when they do log the Tongass nowadays, timber companies increasingly send the logs overseas and skip the whole “local mill jobs” step altogether. Still, U.S. taxpayers subsidize what’s left of the “industry” massively, spending approximately $26 million each year while yielding just $1.3 million in return.
Roads are bad for fish. The Forest Service has surveyed 3,687 road crossings on fish streams and found that a third of them don’t allow fish to pass at all their life stages! Roads also result in erosion which can smother eggs and juvenile fish.
Moreover, adding roads in key areas on the Forest such as Tongass 77 or TNC/Audubon areas, which are proven to be most important for fish and wildlife, would be especially detrimental for the economy and future of the Forest.
That means when we conserve fish and wildlife habitat by keeping key areas of the Tongass road-free, we also protect our economy and way of life.
Check back soon! Once the comment period for the Tonass Roadless Rule begins, we hope you’ll join us in telling the Forest Service not to roll back Roadless Rule protections on the Tongass, and to ensure important fish and wildlife areas like the Tongass 77 are protected.