Today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reinstated the national Roadless Area Conservation Rule in the Tongass National Forest in Southeast Alaska. The move restricts development on roughly 9.3 million acres in North America’s largest temperate rainforest.
“Protecting the Tongass National Forest is an important step in recognizing the role of our forests in fighting the biodiversity and climate crises,” said Patrick Lavin, Alaska policy advisor for Defenders of Wildlife. “Today’s action helps restore responsible stewardship in the Tongass, as demanded by an overwhelming majority of people during the public process. We look forward to working with the Biden administration to similarly protect older forests and wildlands across the nation.”
Among the largest temperate rainforests in the world, the Tongass contains rare expanses of pristine old-growth forest and as many as 17,000 miles of creeks, rivers and lakes. These waters abound with all five species of Pacific salmon, which anchor the economy of Southeast Alaska. Approximately 1 million visitors come from all over the U.S. and internationally each year to see its glaciers, old-growth forests and abundant wildlife.
The Tongass supports an incredible array of biodiversity and is home to the Alexander Archipelago wolf, brown bears, bald eagles, northern goshawks, and Pacific marten, among others. The Tongass is also one of the world’s largest carbon reservoirs, storing the equivalent of about 8% of the carbon stored in all the U.S. forests combined. In addition, a broad coalition of tribal leaders, outdoor recreation businesses and conservationists in southeast Alaska have fought to preserve the region’s remaining cedar, hemlock and Sitka spruce trees.