Statement: Trump administration takes another dangerous step toward removing key protections for Tongass National Forest
WASHINGTON -- The Trump administration announced Thursday that it will release a final environmental impact statement (FEIS) in its quest to remove the Tongass National Forest from a key conservation policy known as “The Roadless Rule.” The rule was adopted in 2001 by the Clinton administration and serves to keep wild spaces in America’s national forests wild. It prohibits logging and road-building in areas where neither exist.
Leading up to its adoption, more than 1.6 million citizens commented on the rule, with 95 percent expressing support for full protection. Nearly half the comments—700,000 in all—came through efforts by Environment America’s network. Since the late 1990s, our organization and a coalition of environmentalists, scientists, religious leaders and outdoors enthusiasts have made preservation of the nation’s remaining wild forests a priority.
The Tongass comprises 16.8 million acres -- of which 9.2 million acres (55 percent) are designated as roadless areas. Those 9.2 million acres are now subject to this new rollback. With this environmental statement now complete, the next step for the administration is to publish a record of decision, which will allow road construction and logging to begin in this pristine area.
Steve Blackledge, Conservation Program director for Environment America, issued the following statement:
“The administration is serving up a big, glossy invitation to the timber industry to set up industrial logging activities in America’s largest national forest. Damaging the Tongass in this way is like demolishing your log cabin for kindling wood to toast marshmallows -- it’s a terribly short-sighted decision that trades something permanent for something of fleeting value.
“This plan is hostile to the vast, soul-enriching wild places that Americans hold dear. The administration should withdraw it, and failing that, Congress should pass a strong roadless rule that prevents this and future administrations from heading down the wrong road.
“To that end, we call on Congress to pass the Roadless Area Conservation Acts, which are currently under consideration in the Senate thanks to Sen. Maria Cantwell and in the House thanks to Rep. Ruben Gallego.”