20 October 2014

At the end of last month, the Bush Administration failed yet another test of responsible management on America's public lands, signing off on a forest plan revision that fails to protect Alaska's magnificent Tongass National Forest. The Forest Service reviewed over nine million roadless acres and determined that not a single acre deserved long-term protection, leaving open to logging much of what's left of the largest and oldest trees in the rainforest.

February's decision builds off a bad draft plan which failed to recommend any new wilderness and drew widespread criticism in Alaska and nationally. During a public comment period on the draft plan, testimony at Alaska-based public hearings on the plan ran at almost ninety percent in favor of new wilderness protections. In addition, over 170,000 Americans from across the country submitted comments in support of new Tongass wilderness.

"This decision is a disgrace, it's a complete cave-in to Alaska's politicians and their friends in the timber industry," said Tim Bristol, Executive Director of the Alaska Coalition. "The Forest Service ignored science, the public, and common sense with this decision. Nearly all the areas analyzed would make tremendous contributions to America's Wilderness system. The agency had an opportunity to something great, something wildly popular, something future generations would thank them for. Instead, they fell flat."

The completion of this plan ends a court ordered prohibition on logging and road building operations in many of the areas analyzed in the plan. The Forest Service has over 50 timber sales in the works at this time. Nearly all of them will enter areas of the Tongass that for the time being are still road free and wild.

"It's a leave no tree behind policy in the Tongass," said Cindy Shogan, Executive Director of the Alaska Wilderness League. "This decision is more evidence of the influence the logging industry has over the management of America's national forests.

"The Administration made a stark choice for the Tongass," said Michael Finkelstein, Manager of the Alaska Rainforest Campaign. "This decision tells the public that fishing, tourism, recreation, subsistence, and the region's incomparable fish and wildlife, are not as important as one-time road building and logging operations. History and the public will judge them harshly."