Preserving Old Growth Forests while Supporting Livelihoods in the Tongass Rainforest
Recognizing the importance of Tongass old-growth rainforests in sequestering the equivalent of over 8% of the nation’s annual emissions, the US Secretary of Agriculture issued a directive to the Forest Service in 2013 to transition away from old-growth logging and into ‘suitable’ young- growth acres that can support the timber industry in perpetuity. Suitable young-growth acres are those considered to be assessible by currently open Forest Service roads (no road building required) and have relatively low ecological values due to non-regulated pulp and paper harvest regimes that occurred decades ago. With the best information on hand at the time, the directive from the Secretary assumed that it would take at least 16-years of continued old-growth logging to achieve a transition. Since then, Geos Institute has spearheaded innovative research to greatly accelerate the transition to young-growth logging in the next half decade. We focused on defining a pathway to move from a ‘wall of litigation” resulting from continued old-growth logging to a “wall of wood” through suitable young-growth acres available to support industry.
In 2015, we conducted the most intensive in-field timber inventory ever on the Tongass. This resulted in identifying a young-growth transition that could regrow an ecologically and socially responsible forest-products industry in a half decade while protecting millions of acres of at-risk old-growth forests. A year later, we took the lead in helping the Forest Service to secure Congressional funding to inventory over 25,000 acres of suitable young-growth forests that built on our initial results. We are now actively engaged in securing important funding for a Tongass-wide young-growth manufacturing and marketing study to be completed by 2021, a final step in demonstrating how the Forest Service can rapidly transition out of old-growth logging.
In 2019 we opened an office in Juneau to increase our presence and reach with decision-makers.
Alaskans are blessed with some of the wildest, most biologically prolific forests on the planet. Nowhere else is this more evident than the Tongass rainforest, the crown jewel of the national forest system. Unfortunately, the State of Alaska announced plans to team up with the Trump Administration to open up millions of acres to logging and road-based developments. This ill-conceived proposal would degrade the region’s pristine character and the foundation of a robust outdoor economy.
The Roadless Conservation Rule of 2001 protected over 58 million acres of the nation’s most remote places. It was the premier conservation achievement of its time that took years of careful deliberation, an unprecedented number of public meetings, over 1 million strongly (more than 95 percent) supportive public comments, and the backing of hundreds of scientists, all of who wanted the Tongass included.
While the Roadless Rule protects intact areas larger than 5,000 acres from logging, it has numerous allowances to include road connections between communities and other state highway projects, access to mining claims under the Mining Law of 1872, and access to utility corridors and hydropower projects. Some 55 projects within roadless areas in Alaska have been rapidly approved by the Forest Service. The Roadless Rule there fore is working in Alaska and plans to gut it are misguided.
Originally published March 15, 2018, available online at Seattle Times
There is no better place to experience old-growth forests than the Tongass and Chugach national forests. Here, all five species of Pacific salmon line up to spawn like rush-hour traffic, spruce and hemlock trees tower like skyscrapers, and bears and wolves still run free.
By Gordon Orians and Dominick A. DellaSala
The Tongass National Forest in Alaska, the crown jewel of our national forest system, is facing an unprecedented threat.
At the end of last year, U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, introduced two legislative budget riders aimed at allowing thousands of acres of pristine, roadless old-growth rain forest on the Tongass and the Chugach National Forest to be clear-cut.
We recently joined more than 220 of our fellow scientists from Alaska and across the country in sending a letter to Congress urging members to reject these backdoor efforts to undermine long-standing roadless and old-growth forest protections.
Geos Institute is part of an international coalition dedicated to protecting the world’s last remaining primary (unlogged) and intact forest landscapes (forest legacies). We are on the steering committee and science committee for Intact: International Action for Primary Forests. You can learn about the climate, water quality, and biodiversity benefits of these remarkable forests by clcking here: www.primaryforest.org – our position is that the planet’s remaining primary (old growth) forests should be free of industrial activities. Read our statement and see the list of organizations that have already signed on.
Originally published January 28, 2018 05:58 am at the Juneau Empire
Tongass old growth, aquatic life put at stake by spending bill, they say
A group of 220 natural resource scientists urged Congress with a joint letter Friday not to eliminate the so-called “roadless rule” on Alaska’s Tongass and Chugach national forests.
The letter comes in response to two proposed changes U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, attached to an Interior Department spending bill in November that hasn’t yet passed. One provision exempts the Tongass and Chugach from prohibitions on road construction and timber harvesting in certain areas of the national forests.
Another section overturns protections in the Forest Service’s Tongass Management Plan for valuable old-growth timber. The plan instead charts a path toward logging younger tree stands.
Overturning these protections, the scientists write, would threaten salmon runs and the Tongass’ ability to store carbon and mitigate climate change.
More than 200 scientists urged Congress in a letter today to protect the Tongass National Forest in Alaska from increased logging of old-growth trees, an issue that’s in the background of budget negotiations in the Senate.
The 220 researchers, mainly from universities and nonprofit organizations, spoke out against proposals by Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) to exempt the Tongass and Chugach national forests from rules limiting road construction in national forests and to slow the Forest Service’s transition to younger-growth timber in the Tongass.
Originally Published: Friday, January 26, 2018, E&E Newswire
The old-growth timber industry’s fight for survival in Alaska may be complicating congressional efforts to reach a long-term solution to costly wildfires.
Senate aides and lobbyists told E&E News that Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s focus on protecting southeast Alaska’s shrinking old-growth timber business is one potential wrinkle as lawmakers balance environmental and forest industry interests in search of a compromise, possibly in a spending bill covering the rest of this fiscal year.
As the Republican chairwoman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and often a swing vote on issues in the Senate, Alaska’s senior senator is a key player in the wildfire and forest management debate. She told E&E News on Wednesday she’s still working toward including a wildfire measure in a broader bill but didn’t elaborate.
Originally Published by E&E on Wednesday, December 6, 2017
A fight over road construction in the Tongass National Forest may flare up in spending negotiations.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) sponsored a provision in draft Senate appropriations legislation for Interior and related agencies that would exempt Alaska from federal rules that restrict building of roads in national forests.
Murkowski’s move against the “roadless rule” marks another line in a battle that’s been playing out, mainly in federal courts, since the Clinton administration handed down the regulations in 2001.
A U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia judge in September dismissed a lawsuit by Alaska seeking to overturn the rule.
Murkowski, chairwoman of the Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee, is also pushing a provision that would slow the Forest Service’s transition from old-growth logging to young-growth logging in Tongass and Chugach national forests.
Clearcutting ancient trees in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest makes little sense—ecologically, climatically, even economically. So why is it so hard to stop?
“I am sensitive to the fact that these are rural communities where every job matters,” said Dominick DellaSala, president of Geos. “That’s why we said, ‘If you go this way, you get a wall of wood. If you go this way, you get a wall of litigation.’ We were trying to help.”