Today, the U.S. Forest Service held the final public hearing on a proposal to exempt Alaska’s rustic Tongass National Forest from the 2001 Roadless Rule. A wide variety of environmental, taxpayer and other groups filled the hearing to urge the administration to withdraw its plan.
“The Wild West isn’t just part of American history and mythology. It’s a key part of what makes the United States special to this day,” said Emily Fieberling, conservation associate with Environment America. “We can’t allow the government to take a chainsaw to this important conservation measure and open up the Tongass to logging and road building.”
Relaxing the Roadless Rule would defy the will of the vast majority of Americans. It was adopted after 600 hearings across the country and a record-breaking number of public comments.
Heralded as one of America’s most successful conservation measures, the Roadless Rule protects undeveloped places in our national forests by prohibiting road construction there. No roads and no logging equals cleaner drinking water, intact wildlife habitats, and pastoral recreation opportunities across 58.5 million acres of pristine forests in 39 states.
The Tongass is the world’s largest remaining intact coastal temperate rainforest and contains the largest tracts of old-growth forests left in the United States. Its 800-year-old trees hold 8 percent of all the carbon stored in U.S. national forests and provide home to myriad majestic species, including grizzly bears, wolves and bald eagles.
“If the Roadless Rule is weakened in the Tongass, who’s to say that won’t happen in all of our national forests,” said Fieberling. “We should be protecting wild areas, not paving paradise to put up logging roads.”