27 April 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."