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.
The 2018 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the Alliance of World Scientists, and #Scientists4Future all warn that if we do not transition away from fossil fuels quickly, climate change will threaten civilization itself in the coming decades. Scientists are now saying that pristine areas, like roadless areas and unlogged forests, can buy us time as we transition to a carbon-free economy but only if protected from relentless development.
Unfortunately, the fate of millions of acres of roadless areas in Alaska and Utah is now at risk from the Trump administration’s efforts to upend one of the nation’s landmark conservation achievements – the Roadless Area Conservation Rule of 2000. This is coming at a time when we need every wild place to avoid an unprecedent global crisis of 1 million species extinctions, as the authoritative Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services recently warned.
Anyone in the Bay Area who cares about wild spaces ought to be alarmed by the pending extinction crisis and the administration’s efforts to usher in clearcut logging and road building in Alaska’s coastal temperate rainforests and Utah’s roadless forests. Here’s why.
Forest Legacies opens new office in Juneau to protect the Tongass magnificient rainforest
The Geos Institute has been working on the Tongass rainforest for many years as part of its Forest Legacies initiative. Through our work to protect old growth and roadless areas on the Tongass we decided to open an office to increase our presence and reach with decision makers given the Tongass is a world class rainforest and recognized climate sanctuary.
Juneau Office 175 South Franklin Street, Suite 320 Juneau, AK, 99801
Published November 20, 2018 (Part one of a series)
By Paul Koberstein and Jessica Applegate
Starting in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest, the Trump administration is proposing to eliminate long-standing rules protecting 50 million acres of ancient forests across the country from logging and roadbuilding, raising new alarms about the president’s disregard for the climate and wildlife.
Taxpayers, already spending billions to keep Alaska’s timber industry afloat, could end up paying even more. If Trump strips roadless protection from the Tongass, no National Forest is safe.
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.