Protections Stripped From Alaska's Tongass National Forest
"President Trump will open up all 16.7 million acres of Alaska’s Tongass National Forest to logging and other forms of development," reports Juliet Eilperin.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture published the final rule and record of decision to the Federal Register on October 29, 2020.
The decision overturns protections in place for two decades for one of the world’s largest intact temperate rainforests.
On October 29, it became legal "for logging companies to build roads and cut and remove timber throughout more than 9.3 million acres of forest — featuring old-growth stands of red and yellow cedar, Sitka spruce and Western hemlock."
"The new rule states that it will make 'an additional 188,000 forested acres available for timber harvest,' mainly 'old growth timber,'" according to Eilperin.
According to the article, the national forest is considered an ecological oasis, home to immense ecological diversity and a massive carbon sink—absorbing "at least 8 percent of all the carbon stored in the entire Lower 48′s forests combined," according to Eilperin.
Supporters of the decision, including Gov. Mike Dunleavy and Sen. Dan Sullivan, pressed for the rule change in the hopes of jumpstarting an economy suffering the consequences of the pandemic. Southeast Alaska usually sees 1.4 million cruise passengers a year to fuel its tourism industry. That number has dropped to just 48 people this summer, according to the article. Still, the article reports widespread public disapproval of the decision.