As if we needed any more forest land to worry about, President Trump has directed Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to exempt southeast Alaska’s Tongass National Forest from logging restrictions passed by the Clinton administration. Spanning 16.7 million acres, Tongass is the largest national forest in the United States and the most extensive intact temperate rainforest on the planet. Trump’s plan opens it up to not only logging but also energy and mining operations. If successful, roughly 9.5 million acres of protected land could be impacted.
This isn’t the first time Clinton’s conservation measure has been challenged: President George W. Bush also sought to reverse his predecessor’s “roadless rule” restrictions, which prohibit road construction and timber harvesting in over half of Tongass National Forest. Though he was ultimately unsuccessful, it remains to be seen whether or not Trump, who has expressed interest in becoming more involved with forestry decisions, will triumph.
Where labor is concerned, the timber industry in southeast Alaska represents only one percent of jobs whereas seafood processing and tourism make up eight and 17 percent, respectively. According to the US Forest Service, the salmon industry alone is said to bring in around $986 million per year. Both industries rely on the national forest remaining intact, as do the many species that call Tongass home. The forest’s old-growth spruce, cedar, and hemlock trees are an important habitat for brown and black bears, Sitka black-tailed deer, bald eagles, and other precious species.