Chair Grijalva, Rep. Huffman Request Administration Data on Impacts From Potential Rollback of Roadless Rule in Tongass National Forest

Washington, D.C. – Chair Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Water, Oceans, and Wildlife Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) sent a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and U.S. Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen today seeking more information on how the Trump administration’s proposal to end Roadless Rule protections for the Tongass National Forest will impact indigenous communities, the regional economy, local salmon habitats, and the health of vital watersheds.

As Grijalva and Huffman point out in the letter, available at https://naturalresources.house.gov/grijalva-huffman-letter-to-usda-usfs-on-roadless-rule-and-tongass-nf-october-24-2019, the Tongass provides habitat for a quarter of all salmon caught along the West Coast. The 2001 Roadless Rule was intended to provide lasting protections to roadless national forests by preventing industrial-scale logging, which is known to cause widespread ecological damage. This is especially true in places like the Tongass, which contains the largest tracts of old-growth forest in the United States.

More than 100 fishermen and fisherwomen across the region wrote to Perdue and Christiansen in August to support continued Roadless Rule protections in the Tongass. A Forest Service analysis of initial public comment determined that “The majority of comments received opposed changing the 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule for Alaska.” The move is locally and regionally unpopular.

Removing the Roadless Rule’s protections in the Tongass is corporate welfare for the timber industry and does not serve any legitimate public purpose. The rule, created in 2001, prohibits road construction, road reconstruction, and timber harvesting on approximately 58.5 million acres of roadless areas within the National Forest System.

“The Trump administration has made destroying our environment a central feature of its agenda, and the consequences are going to be felt for a long time,” Rep. Grijalva said. “Cutting down old-growth trees is not a sustainable jobs plan. This administration and its cheerleaders aren’t happy unless big corporations are happy, and that’s not a balanced way to set conservation policy.”

“The Trump administration wants to allow industrial-scale logging in the Tongass National Forest, a fragile ecosystem of old-growth trees that supports some of the most important salmon habitats in the world,” Rep. Huffman said. “Their relentless pursuit of environmental degradation will devastate communities and have far-reaching impacts that will last generations. We need to know how this reckless plan will impact salmon habitat, communities, and our planet – all are at risk.”

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