“Defenders applauds this welcome shift in priorities for the Forest Service on the Tongass, from destructive liquidation of irreplaceable old-growth forests to restoration and recreation investments developed with local input and participation. Protecting roadless and old-growth forests on the Tongass will conserve biodiversity and help address climate change while aligning Tongass management with the economic realities in Southeast Alaska and with overwhelming public opinion. Protecting the Tongass is an important and historic step in recognizing the role of our forests in fighting today’s biodiversity and climate crises. We look forward to working with the Biden administration to similarly protect older forests and wildlands across the nation," said Patrick Lavin, Alaska policy advisor for Defenders of Wildlife.

Washington, DC

Today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that it will end large-scale old-growth timber sales and move to reinstate the national Roadless Area Conservation Rule in the Tongass National Forest in Southeast Alaska. The Department will invest $25 million to support forest restoration, recreation and resilience, including for climate, wildlife habit and watershed improvement.

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 United States and internationally 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, Sitka black-tailed deer, 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.

Patrick Lavin, Alaska policy advisor for Defenders of Wildlife, said, “Defenders applauds this welcome shift in priorities for the Forest Service on the Tongass, from destructive liquidation of irreplaceable old-growth forests to restoration and recreation investments developed with local input and participation. Protecting roadless and old-growth forests on the Tongass will conserve biodiversity and help address climate change while aligning Tongass management with the economic realities in Southeast Alaska and with overwhelming public opinion.”

This move by the Biden administration will rollback a Trump-era rule that exempted the Tongass from the national Roadless Rule. The administration made an announcement about a month ago that promised to “repeal or replace” the Trump administration rule.

Lavin continued, “Protecting the Tongass is an important and historic step in recognizing the role of our forests in fighting today’s biodiversity and climate crises. We look forward to working with the Biden administration to similarly protect older forests and wildlands across the nation.”
 

Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With nearly 2.2 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit defenders.org/newsroom and follow us on Twitter @Defenders.

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