Protect the Tongass

The United States Forest Service Roadless Area Conservation Rule Talking Points

(Roadless Rule)

The intent of the 2001 Roadless Rule is to provide lasting protection for remaining wild and pristine areas within the National Forest System in the context of multiple-use management.

One of America’s most important conservation measures, Roadless Rule protects drinking water, wildlife habitat, and world-class recreation opportunities across 58.5 million acres of national forests.

The Tongass National Forest in southeast Alaska — one of the world’s last intact temperate rainforests, and the LARGEST national forest in the United States at 16.7 million acres — helps feed Americans across the country, enriches the environment, and contributes to a tourism economy that surrounding communities depend on.

A fundamental strength of the Rule is its flexibility for some new road connections between communities, personal-use tree cutting, management of wildfire risks, hard rock mining projects, off-road vehicle use, construction of utility lines and hydropower development.

The current administration proposed on October 15th of 2019 to lift protections on 9.5 million acres of land, which makes up almost 40% of the remaining intact forest landscape managed by the U.S. Forest Service in the entire country.

Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy is in full support of removing the Roadless Rule protecting Tongass, as is Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK).

Impacts of opening up the Tongass to logging and clearcutting–

  • Water. Roadless forests provide clean drinking water for 48 million Americans. Building roads and commercial logging in these areas threaten our drinking water.
    • protecting clean water sources in 661 of the more than 2,000 major watersheds
  • Climate. Roadless forests help slow climate change by protecting some of the most important trees that are storing carbon in their leaves, branches trunks and roots.
  • Recreation. Some of America’s most popular recreation destinations are in Roadless Areas. The Roadless Rule helps fishing, hunting and outdoor recreation thrive in our forests and does not place any limits on recreation.
    • Two of Alaska’s biggest economic engines, tourism and the seafood industry make up nearly 26 percent of the local economy
    • Tourism supports over 10,000 jobs just WITHIN the Tongass National Forest
  • Wildlife. National forest Roadless Areas in our national forests provide pristine habitat for bears, elk, bighorn sheep, moose, and many other species helping to support a thriving

tourism and hunting/fishing industry. Indeed, 2,100 proposed, threatened, endangered, and sensitive species inhabit national forest roadless areas.

  • 25 percent of the wild salmon that populate the West Coast of the U.S. are hatched in Tongass waters.
  • Fire. The Roadless Rule allows forest management to reduce wildfire hazards. In fact, no fire mitigation project proposed on lands protected by the Roadless Rule has been denied in places like Utah in recent years. Fires start more often near roads. Therefore, building more roads into forests will lead to more human-caused fires.
  • TaxpayersThe U.S. Forest Service has an existing backlog of $3.2 billion in road maintenance. It’s nonsensical to add to that backlog and waste taxpayer dollars.
    • Taxpayers for Common Sense reports that timber sales in the Tongass have resulted in taxpayer losses of nearly $600 million over the past two decades — $30 million per year — because “the costs incurred by the Forest Service to administer its timber sales program have far surpassed receipts generated from the resulting sales.
    • Headwaters Economics estimated that taxpayers subsidize the Tongass timber program to the tune of $20 million per year, or about $130,000 per timber job.
  • Threat- Allowing road building in these areas opens the door to logging and other industrial development, such as mining, on our favorite public forests. There is no such thing as a temporary road. Once you build a road, it scars the landscape and invites illegal behavior like poaching and trash-dumping.

Strong Public Support for protecting the Tongass

  1. Indian Tribes—
    1. Organized Villages of Saxman, Kake, the Tlingit-Haida Central Council (composed of 16 Southeast Tribes) the Angoon Community Association, Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians and the National Congress of American Indians strongly support lasting protection for the Roadless Rule
  2. Southeast Alaska Subsistence Regional Advisory Council
  3. Public comments- 140,000 public comments submitted after the state of Alaska petitioned the White House to remove the Roadless Rule protections in Tongass and supported keeping the policy in place
  4. Fishermen- over 200 commercial fishermen and women in southeast Alaska sent a letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen
  5. Poll results of Alaska residents, overwhelming support from registered Republican hunters/fishers—see information from Baselice & Associates below