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Conservation News

Save the Last Great Forest

The deadline to speak up for the Roadless Rule in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest is December 17, 2019.

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There’s a small subset of American who are beset with a terrible affliction. They look at forests and see nothing but money. Instead of clear-running streams, they see clear cuts. Instead of sun filtering through the overstory, they see smoke. They are destroyers beholden to a sad sort of greed that runs counter to logic. And they’re coming for what’s yours.

The Tongass National Forest in Alaska is under threat by this tiny but powerful minority who want to build industrial logging and mineral extraction roads through one of the last great forests in North America. They want to turn a million-year-old, 9.2-million-acre forest into cardboard boxes, toilet paper, and toothpicks.

They also want to roll back a prohibition on logging old-growth forest there, opening up to 165,000 acres for the skidders and feller-bunchers. And then presumably stroke their oiled, cartoon-villain mustaches while some of the best trout and salmon rivers we have left run brown.

The last day of the public comment period—the “speak now or forever hold your peace” moment for the Tongass—is tomorrow. Do one last good deed this year and stand with the forest by weighing in. Tell them you’re for Alternative 1 (to leave the place alone). It’s doing pretty well without us. (Go here, if you need a template for what to say.)

This isn’t about jobs: Just 100 jobs – fewer than 1 percent of the jobs in the region – come from logging. This isn’t about state’s rights: Those forests are national public land that belong to us all and have for decades. The 2001 Roadless Rule that protects the area drew 95 percent support during its public comment period. This isn’t about lack of resources: The other 8 million acres of the Tongass National Forest has no such roadless restrictions.

This is about the greed of a tiny minority and the expense we will all be forced to pay for it. According to the watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense, the U.S. Forest Service has, since 1999, spent nearly $632 million to develop logging sites in the Tongass, while taking in just $33.8 million from actual timber sales there. Which is to say the wood is worth less than nothing when cut.

And the argument that they’ll replant all those logged acres? That’s a greenwash. In the few decades that will pass before that monoculture forest is logged again, none of the biodiversity will have had a chance to recover. The forest won’t be the same and it won’t grow back. All that’s left to do is protect it.

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