Alaska Native, Tourism, and
Conservation Groups Seek Protection for
Roadless Areas in Tongass National Forest
December 23, 2009
Juneau, Alaska - A diverse coalition of Alaska Native, tourism
industry, and environmental organizations took action Tuesday
to protect some of the last pristine old-growth areas in the
Tongass National Forest. These areas are important to Southeast
Alaskans for hunting, fishing, customary and traditional subsistence
uses, tourism, and recreation. They are also important to the
world for their storage of carbon, which combats global warming.
The lawsuit filed yesterday - Organized Village of Kake v U.S.
Department of Agriculture - seeks to end the 2003, Bush-era decision
to "temporarily" exempt the Tongass from the national
Roadless Rule. The lawsuit asserts that this exemption was illegally
"We must not lose more roadless areas here," said Mike
Jackson with the Organized Village of Kake. "For Tribal
members, these lands are essential sources of food, medicine,
clothing, and traditional items for artistic and spiritual use,"
he continued. "Our deer hunting and other customary uses
of the forest have suffered too much already from past logging,"
he added. Two large timber sales are slated for roadless areas
near Kake, on North Kuiu Island and Central Kupreanof Island.
"The natural values of these watersheds are essential for
the survival of small businesses around Southeast," explained
Hanna Waterstrat, executive director of the Alaska Wilderness
Recreation & Tourism Association. "Very few folks will
pay to go see clearcuts and decaying logging roads."
"Over our 30 years in operation, it has started to get harder
to find pristine watersheds to take our clients," Hunter
McIntosh of The Boat Company reported. "Now," he said,
"dropping anchor in a bay free of logging damage often means
doubling or tripling up with other tour boats. For the future
of our company and our industry, it's crucial to protect the
Tongass wildlands we have left."
"Intact areas of the Tongass National Forest are the foundation
of our unparalleled Southeast Alaska quality of life and of the
fish and wildlife that make this forest a global treasure,"
explained Mark Gnadt of the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council.
"This so-called temporary exemption has become an excuse
to delay coming up with a truly sustainable plan for America's
"After six years of waiting for the Forest Service to come
up with a defensible plan for the Tongass, communities, businesses
and wildlife of the Tongass can't wait any longer for the protections
they deserve," said Tom Waldo of Earthjustice, who is co-counsel
in the lawsuit along with Natural Resources Defense Council.
Said Mark Rorick of the Sierra Club's Juneau Group, "It's
time to get rid of this cloud over the future of America's rainforest.
The Bush administration had no business opening up Tongass roadless
areas to destructive industrial logging. We need to be sure that
loophole is closed for good.
His concerns were echoed by Carol Cairnes of the Ketchikan-based
Tongass Conservation Society, "The Tongass is an icon, the
last fully functioning national forest ecosystem left, and the
only one where wildlife and fish exist in something like the
abundance they enjoyed in days gone by. It's outrageous that
some of the wildest places left in America's most intact national
forest have not received roadless protection yet."
"The roadless areas on the Tongass National Forest are critical
for providing habitat for wildlife species found only in America's
rainforest," said Natalie Dawson of the Center for Biological
Diversity. "Without protection, the U.S. Forest Service
and private industry will continue to chip away at the some of
the last remaining, intact stands of old-growth temperate rainforest
in the world."
As USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack told the UN Climate Conference
last week, Tongass roadless areas also have international significance
as they are, "critical in conserving and storing carbon."
The Tongass stores nearly 8 percent of carbon contained in U.S.
forests according to Vilsack.
The plaintiffs, represented by Earthjustice and the Natural Resources
Defense Council, include the Organized Village of Kake, Alaska
Wilderness Recreation & Tourism Association, The Boat Company,
Sierra Club, Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, Tongass Conservation
Society, Greenpeace, Wrangell Resource Council, Center for Biological
Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, and Cascadia Wildlands in the
On the Web:
Download and read the complaint
Source of News:
Southeast Alaska Conservation
Organized Village of Kake
The Boat Company
Tongass Conservation Society
Center for Biological Diversity
Natural Resources Defense Council
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