The Tongass National Forest is under threat from logging, with troubling implications for Salmon and other Alaska wildlife
by Craig Weatherby
We hesitate to step into political disputes, but we consider ourselves stewards of the wild Alaska Salmon fishery, and as such, the correct course on a current controversy seems pretty clear to us.
The Tongass National Forest is America's greatest temperate rainforest, and encompasses the mountainous terrain of southeast Alaska and its famed, island-dotted Inside Passage waterway.
Anyone who’s ever sailed through the Inside Passage will attest to the unique beauty of this maze of lush green islands and pristine water, filled with whales, fish, and wildlife of all kinds.
But as we’ve seen on recent trips, the rainforest on the islands and shore is scarred by clear-cut logging.
This sight always draws cries of disbelief from visitors astonished that this desecration is allowed. And they’re incredulous to discover that logging in the Tongass is made possible by public expenditures on logging roads.
Over the last 25 years, more than one billion taxpayer dollars have been spent to clear-cut and build roads through this irreplaceable gem. Only these wasteful handouts make it economical for timber companies to expand their reach into the unspoiled heart of America's rainforest.
The Tongass: an indispensable resource and wonder
The 500-year-old giant spruce trees of the Forest support much of the life below them. Soaring over 200 feet high, their broad, moss-draped limbs furnish nests for birds. In the winter, their canopy acts like a warm coat for the wildlife on the forest floor, blocking harsh snows and preserving bushes that sustain wildlife through the coldest months.
The roots of these giant trees and the plants they shelter secure soil and gravel that would otherwise wash into streams and rivers, smothering the spawning grounds for the world’s most productive Salmon runs.
Acre for acre, the Tongass is a far more productive ecosystem than any tropical rainforest, and it constitutes a critical habitat for grizzly bears, salmon runs, bald eagles and the rare Alexander Archipelago wolf.
The 2001 Roadless Rule halted logging and road construction in wild national forests, but the administration later issued an exemption for the Tongass, opening the way for more clear cutting and destructive road-building.
Already, nearly 6,000 miles of logging roads cut through the Tongass, the vast majority of them built with taxpayer subsidies.
Urgent action is needed to ensure that Congress blocks taxpayer subsidies for lumbering activities that are destroying America's greatest temperate rainforest.
In response to voter pressure, the House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly in June to halt taxpayer subsidies for destructive new logging roads in the Tongass forest.
We urge you to write your senators and representative now and tell them to protect the Tongass.
Alaska's senior senator, Ted Stevens, is now working quietly to kill this long-overdue legislation. And he's drafting his own amendment to restrict the public's ability to halt wasteful and devastating Tongass logging in court.
Contact your Congresspersons
It’s easy to send an email to your Representative and both of your Senators.
House of Representatives—Go to http://www.house.gov/writerep/
US Senate—Go to http://www.senate.gov/
Here is some suggested language… don’t forget to replace our blue “name/state here” reminder with the name of your Congressperson and state! Otherwise, your message will be dismissed as a form letter, which carry much less weight.
In fact, we encourage you to edit this message to make it more personal.
Dear [Congressperson’s name]:
I am a voting resident of [state name], and I do not want to subsidize destructive logging and road-building in the Tongass National Forest, which is our country's biggest national forest and the heart of the world's largest intact coastal temperate rainforest.
I am an avid consumer of wild salmon, whose spawning grounds are threatened by the run-off created by clear-cutting in the Tongass, which is also a critical habitat for grizzly bears, salmon, bald eagles and other precious wildlife.
Over the past 25 years, the US of Forest Service has spent nearly $1 billion to facilitate clear cutting in this irreplaceable gem.
In June, the House voted, for a third time, in favor of this amendment to end use of taxpayer dollars on new logging roads in the Tongass National Forest in Alaska.
I respectfully request that you please support inclusion of the Andrews/Chabot Tongass subsidy amendment in the final FY08 Interior Department appropriations bill.
Please also block current efforts to restrict legal protections or judicial review for Tongass logging plans. Restricting access to the courthouse would thwart public efforts to hold the Forest Service accountable for misguided management of our public lands.
Thank your for your attention. I look forward to hearing how you stand on this critical environmental issue.