Tongass Rainforest

Protecting ~2.5 million Acres of At-Risk Tongass Rainforest

In 2008, Geos Institute was part of a team of scientists from the Society for Conservation Biology that asked the newly minted Obama Administration to protect the Tongass rainforest as a carbon and wildlife refuge. At our mutual urging, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack mentioned in his speech at the UN Climate Change Summit in Copenhagen (2010) the importance of the Tongass in sequestering up to 8 percent of the nation’s forest carbon annually. Secretary Vilsack continued his interest in the Tongass by announcing in July 2013 that a transition out of old-growth logging would take place, but not for another 10–15 years while old-growth logging would serve as an economic “bridge” to previously cut young growth not yet available for re-harvest.

Meanwhile, the Forest Service has put forth controversial old-growth timber sales that routinely get litigated by conservation groups and local mills are starving for wood. The Forest Legacies program has been working with diverse participants on a project designed to accelerate the transition out of old-growth logging by solving for economic uncertainties created by transition.

Tongass logging plan is an embarrassment to President Obama's climate change policies

The Tongass National Forest is the nation's carbon champion, storing about 8% of the nation's annual global warming emissions in its productive old-growth rainforests. The Forest Service proposes to clearcut 43,000 acres of old growth, mostly in the next 16 years. Logging emissions would release the equivalent emissions of 4 million vehicles annually while squandering one of the world's last relatively intact temperate rainforests.

Media Coverage

 

My Turn: Tongass transition plan lacks initiative

By Dominick A. DellaSala and Jim Furnish, for the Juneau Empire

Change is not for the risk averse. It is scary stuff that takes us out of our comfort zones and into the unknown.

It’s also how we adapt, meet challenges and improve outcomes for our communities and ourselves. People in Southeast Alaska know that better than most. Over the past quarter century, the region has been moving beyond boom-and-bust cycles of unsustainable resource extraction and export. Today, world-class, sustainably managed fisheries, tourism and recreation lead economic diversification that has replaced most old-growth logging.

The time is past due for the Forest Service to ride the change wave. In 2010, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack recognized that when he announced a transition away from logging old growth and roadless areas on the Tongass would help “communities stabilize and grow new jobs.” His Alaska Regional Forester agreed, saying that the Forest Service would transition “quickly.”

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Tongass rainforest is Alaska's first line of climate change defense

tongass rainforest juneauGeos Institute released a new report demonstrating the importance of the Tongass rainforest in southeast Alaska as the State's first line of climate change defense. Old-growth rainforests on the Tongass store more atmospheric carbon than any national forest in the country and therefore act as a carbon "sink." The recent Paris climate change agreements called on nations to enhance and maintain forests as a carbon sink. Continued logging on the Tongass releases greenhouse gas emissions that will further place at risk Alaska's climate and world-class wildlife and fisheries.

Primary (unlogged) forests hold keys to lessening global warming impacts

Only about one-third of the world's forests remain as intact primary forests with no roads or logging having taken place. Scientists have long recognized the unique values these forests provide including unmatched biodiversity, clean water, and, more recently, climate benefits. Geos Institute was part of an international team of scientists and conservation groups calling on countries, including the USA, to protect their dwindling primary forests as part of the historic climate change agreements negotiated this December in Paris.

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 tongass rainforest dds  tropical rainforest LamingtonNP Australia dds
Tongass rainforest - primary temperate rainforests on the Tongass National Forest in southeast Alaska sequester (absorb) the equivalent of about 8% of the annual US greenhouse gas emissions. No other forest in the nation sequesters and stores more carbon. Geos Institute works to preserve these rainforests for their climate and biodiversity benefits. Tropical rainforest, Australia - tropical rainforests are a global carbon "sink," absorbing atmospheric carbon through photosynthesis and storing it in long-lived trees, dense foliage, and soils. Geos Institute is a member of the steering committee of "IntAct," an international effort to protect the world's primary forests. Photo credit: Dominick DellaSala

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