The following is courtesy of Trout Unlimited Alaska:
JUNEAU, AK – Today, the U.S. Forest Service announced it will release its draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) for the Alaska Roadless Rule this week, with a preferred alternative to repeal long-standing protections for more than 9 million acres of Southeast Alaska’s Tongass National Forest. The DEIS release will trigger a 60-day comment period where the public can weigh in on the agency’s proposal. Repealing the rule would make currently-protected lands available for expanded clear-cut logging of old-growth forest and construction of logging roads.
In response to the preferred alternative, Austin Williams, Trout Unlimited’s Alaska Legal and Policy Director, issued the following statement:
“The proposed repeal of the Roadless Rule caters to the outdated old-growth, clear-cut logging industry and shows blatant disregard for everyday Alaskans who rely on and enjoy salmon, wildlife, clean water, abundant subsistence resources, and beautiful natural scenery.
The Tongass is all of ours. Repealing the Roadless Rule would cast aside years of collaboration and thriving businesses that depend on healthy forests, and usher in a new era of reckless old-growth clear-cut logging that pollutes our streams, hurts our salmon and deer populations, and spoils the forest and scenery. This proposed rule is a complete about-face from the direction we should be headed and reflects the fact that special interests and not common sense are guiding this decision.
People throughout Alaska and the rest of the country depend on the productive rivers and wild fish of the Tongass for food, jobs, and recreation. We urge anyone who shares these values to comment to the Forest Service and urge them to uphold the Roadless Rule and conserve key areas of the Tongass, including the highest quality salmon-producing watersheds within the Tongass 77.”
The Tongass produces more salmon than all other national forests combined, and the fishing and tourism industry supported by the intact forest account for more than 25 percent of local jobs in the region. A statewide 2019 poll commissioned by Trout Unlimited found a majority of likely voters in Alaska opposed efforts to repeal the Roadless Rule and strongly supported efforts to protect salmon, the salmon industry, and high-value salmon streams in the Tongass such as those included in the Tongass 77.
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. Follow TU’s Tongass efforts on Facebook and visit us online at tu.org. Learn more about our work to conserve key areas of the Tongass National Forest at americansalmonforest.org.