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‘Hail Mary Pass’ in Alaska’s Tongass Forest Sets Up Carbon Clash

By Bobby Magill, originally published December 9, 2019 at Bloomberg Environment

Deep within the Tongass National Forest, the rain was just heavy enough to need an umbrella—and to wash away a light dusting of snow coating the mountains above Juneau, Alaska.

The low that mid-November morning was 38 degrees, 10 degrees above normal. That’s been the new normal in Alaska’s warmest year on record, slowing the salmon runs in what should be icy streams and killing an estimated 600,000 acres of towering yellow cedar trees.

“See all this rain? We should be having snow,” said Kenneth Weitzel, a natural resources specialist with the Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska, who’d just returned from a float-plane trip into the Tongass to collect water samples from streams. “Less snow, more rain—that’s the regime we’re changing into now.”

Would Trump’s reelection lead to climate catastrophe?

By Maxine Joselow and Adam Aton, E&E News reporters
Published: Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Ask environmental experts what would happen to the global climate fight if President Trump were reelected, and the answer is often the same.

“God help us all,” said David Hayes, executive director of the State Energy & Environmental Impact Center at the New York University School of Law.

“A second term would be a disaster in general,” said Dominick DellaSala, president and chief scientist of the Geos Institute.

“It will not be good,” said Andrew Light, who served as a senior adviser on climate change under former President Obama.

More than 11,000 scientists from around the world declare a ‘climate emergency’

Study outlines six major steps that ‘must’ be taken to address the situation.

By Andrew Freedman
Published November 5, 2019 at the Washington Post

A new report by 11,258 scientists in 153 countries from a broad range of disciplines warns that the planet “clearly and unequivocally faces a climate emergency,” and provides six broad policy goals that must be met to address it.

The analysis is a stark departure from recent scientific assessments of global warming, such as those of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, in that it does not couch its conclusions in the language of uncertainties, and it does prescribe policies.

The study, called the “World scientists’ warning of a climate emergency,” marks the first time a large group of scientists has formally come out in favor of labeling climate change an “emergency,” which the study notes is caused by many human trends that are together increasing greenhouse gas emissions.

For Many, Issue Of Logging In America’s Largest National Forest Cuts Deep

By Emily Kwong for NPR’s Short Wave, October 23, 2019

The Trump administration is seeking to lift federal protections on the Tongass National Forest in Alaska, paving the way for possible timber harvests and road construction in the largest national forest in the U.S.

Last week, the U.S. Forest Service, part of the Department of Agriculture, called for the Tongass to be fully exempted from the Roadless Rule, a 2001 policy passed in the waning days of the Clinton administration.

The rule has long prohibited development on 9.2 million acres of inventoried roadless areas in the Tongass. The Forest Service’s proposal, if approved by the Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, would eliminate that rule for the Tongass and convert 165,000 acres of old-growth and 20,000 acres of young-growth to suitable timber lands.

Experts claim admin used ‘misinformation’ to justify logging

By Adam Aton, Originally published by E&E News Tuesday, October 22, 2019

The Trump administration says the Tongass National Forest is America’s best carbon warehouse — so it’s fine to increase logging there.

The Forest Service last week released a draft environmental impact statement for building new roads through the Tongass, a precondition for feeding more old-growth trees into southeastern Alaska’s struggling timber mills. Every 21st-century president has fought over whether to expand or curtail logging in the massive forest. Trump has gone the furthest; his Forest Service last week said the time had come for a final resolution and recommended opening almost the entire area to development.

At stake is the country’s largest forest. The Tongass is among the world’s best carbon sinks, and it’s one of the largest unfragmented ecosystems in North America. Its trees hold about 650 million tons of carbon, which roughly converts to half of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions in 2017.

Trump Wants to Erase Protections in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest, a Storehouse of Carbon

The old-growth rainforest is a major North American carbon sink. The Trump administration is moving to lift a Clinton-era ban on logging there. 

By Sabrina Shankman

Originally published Oct 16, 2019 at InsideClimate News

The Trump Administration wants to allow logging in previously off-limit areas of Alaska’s Tongass National Forest, the U.S. Forest Service announced Tuesday, a move that could turn one of the nation’s largest carbon sinks into a source of new climate-changing emissions.

The old-growth temperate rainforest contains trees that are centuries old and play a crucial role in storing carbon. In a state that is synonymous with oil production, the Tongass National Forest represents the potential for natural solutions to help combat the climate crisis. 

A 9.4-million acre swath of the Tongass has been protected under a Clinton-era requirement called the Roadless Rule, which safeguarded 58 million acres of undeveloped national forest lands from roadbuilding, logging and mineral leasing. But the Tongass has long been an area of hot dispute.

The Forest Service is now moving to exempt the rainforest — and make tens of thousands of old-growth acres available to logging.

‘Hundreds of hectares of moonscape’: B.C. spruce beetle infestation used to accelerate clear cuts

The largest spruce beetle epidemic in decades is attacking B.C.’s rain-rich interior, intensifying logging in forests that provide habitat for imperilled species like mountain caribou. But scientists and ecologists say resilient trees will survive and the forest will recover if we only give it a chance

By Sarah Cox, Originally published on October 16, 2019 at The Narwhal

Retired B.C. government forester Judy Thomas bushwhacks down a steep incline in B.C.’s Anzac River valley, north of Prince George, in search of a spruce beetle the size of a mouse turd.

To find one of the marauding insects Thomas has to chop through the coarse bark of an old-growth spruce to its soft inner layer, where a single beetle lays as many as 1,200 eggs. Extended ‘galleries’ of beetle larvae feed on the sapwood, killing the tree in tandem with an associated blue stain fungi.

“Let’s see if they’ve flown the coop,” says Thomas.

She points to telltale signs that the tree, still green and healthy-looking, has been under siege as part of the largest spruce beetle infestation B.C. has witnessed in 30 years.

Frass — a reddish brown sawdust-like substance that is a mixture of beetle poop and chewed tree debris — is sprinkled in bark crevices. The bark also has pitch tubes, appearing as tiny blobs of sap, that form as the tree tries to expel its miniature attackers.

Continue reading at The Narwhal

Scientists Call on Forest Service to Uphold Roadless Protections on Tongass rainforest, southeast Alaska

Media Advisory

October 16, 2019
Contact: Dominick DellaSala, dominick@geosinstitute.org; 541-621-7223

Re: Scientists Call on Forest Service to Uphold Roadless Protections on Tongass rainforest, southeast Alaska

Ashland, OR – 234 scientists joined a growing chorus of public opposition to the recently announced[1] Trump Administration’s plans to open up over 9.4 million acres of pristine roadless areas to road construction, logging, and mining on the Tongass rainforest in Alaska.

At 16.8 million acres, the Tongass is the premier national forest within the 131 national forest system. Towering old-growth rainforests soak up the equivalent of at least 8% of all the carbon stored in national forests, while the Tongass’ roadless areas represent 16% of all undeveloped areas within the entire national forest system. Free of development, these forests allow all five species of Pacific salmon to replenish; abundant deer, wolves, bears and other wildlife find sanctuary in them. The region’s thriving subsistence and fishery-based economies depends on old-growth forests and roadless areas remaining intact. The economic value of carbon stored in Tongass old-growth forests also may exceed timber in developing carbon offset markets[2].

According to Dr Dominick A. DellaSala, Chief Scientist, Geos Institute, the Tongass is one of the world’s last relatively intact temperate rainforests that is serving as North America’s “lungs,” soaking up vast quantities of carbon dioxide pollution from unprecedented burning of fossil fuels and global deforestation. Opening up these rainforests to developers is an international crisis that will bring global attention to the region not unlike what has happened in Amazonia.”

Alaska is experiencing one of the fastest rates of climate change in the nation[3], evident in retreating glaciers, melting permafrost, and displacement of native Alaskan villages.

The scientist letter concludes that the Trump administration must recognize that undermining the Roadless Rule in Alaska will only prove divisive, reversing a multi-stakeholder agreement[4] finalized during the Obama administration to protect roadless areas while rapidly transitioning the Alaska timber industry out of old-growth logging and into a newly emerging supply of young trees that can begin sustaining wood volume needs without destroying the rainforest.


[1]https://www.usda.gov/media/press-releases/2019/10/15/usda-forest-service-seeks-public-comment-draft-environmental-impact
[2]https://www.researchgate.net/publication/225169208_Effects_of_Management_on_Carbon_Sequestration_in_Forest_Biomass_in_Southeast_Alaska
[3]https://www.adn.com/alaska-news/science/2018/11/24/alaska-experiencing-some-of-the-most-extreme-climate-changes-in-the-united-states-says-new-report/
[4]https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/tongass/home/?cid=stelprdb5444388

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