I just returned from visiting from beautiful rainforests in Costa Rica to hear that the Tongass Rainforest, the largest remaining old-growth temperate rainforest anywhere in earth located in southeastern Alaska, is endangered with the Obama administration just approving a new logging contract. The U.S. Forest Service approved in June logging of more than 70 million board feet of timber in the Tongass on Prince of Wales Island but Audubon Alaska, the Alaska Wilderness League and the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council went to court arguing to have the amount reduced by about half, saying the area is a key watershed for fish and other wildlife.
The Tongass trees are 500 years old and the forest has hundreds of species but no legislative protection. The Tongass has been home to many Native tribes who claimed the area but the federal government took their lands away and gave out contracts to white timber companies who committed ecological havoc in the forest through their 1950s cutting. The pro-loggers argue for this deal saying that conservationists have shut down logging in southeast Alaska taking away jobs but this new logging would bring back a small amount of jobs. Costa Ricans have clearly showng the falseness of the logging-bring-jobs argument as they have developed more jobs through ecotourism in rainforests they have not logged, and the United States could do the same: develope a small ecotourism industry in southeast Alaska for the Tongas.
Already the majority of Tongass' old-growth forests have been clear-cut and almost 5,000 miles of logging road crisscross the area. In this country 99% of old growth forests have allready been destroyed. President Clinton signed the Roadless Rule directive which gave the Tongass temporary protection but President Bush rescinded the measure as a sop to his buddies in the timber industry.
Roadless areas provide safe harbors for the many plants, animals, and birds of the Tongass, many of whom are enadangered. I've also been to Olympia National Park, home of our other great rainforest in the state of Washington, and seen just outside the park clearcuts of this old growth rainforest. Also, forests are needed to combat global warming.I'd also like to hear more from Native peoples about their rights to the Tongass.
Environmental groups including the Sierra club are trying to get Congress to pass legislation to get Tongass and other National Forests permanently protected through passing the Roadless Rule Conservation Act. This act will permanently protect the remaining bits and scraps of old growth forests such as the Tongass. Costa Rica has saved 25 of its land in parks and preserves including rainforests.
I think that the Obama administration can reinstate Clinton's Roadless Rule directive for the Tongass which gives the land temporary protection and refuse to approve any more logging contracts in the Tongass. At the same time the administration can relook at Native claims to the Tongass as well as the ecological groups arguments to pass the Roadless Rule Act to give the Tongass permanent protection. Could more lodges for ecotourists just outside the Tongass help bring better jobs to the area logging?
Causes Julia Stein Supports
Doctors Without Borders