WASHINGTON – Environment America along with other environmental organizations and a coalition of Indigenous Tribes and small businesses from Southeast Alaska filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the Trump administration over the administration’s repeal of “Roadless Rule” protections for the Tongass National Forest. The Roadless Rule, established in 2001, is intended to help keep wild spaces in our national forest system wild. Expanding logging operations into roadless areas in the Tongass would be devastating for such species as the Prince of Wales flying squirrel, Sitka black-tailed deer and Queen Charlotte goshawks.
“The Trump administration’s move to allow logging and road building in the wildest parts of the Tongass National Forest is wrong-headed and would have tragic consequences for the species that make it their homes,” said Environment America’s Director of Public Lands Campaigns Ellen Montgomery. “The Tongass is home to trees older than our country and that old growth provides home to bears, wolves, salmon and hundreds of bird species. To come close to a goal of protecting 30 percent of our country’s lands and waters by 2030, the nearly 17 million acres of the Tongass must be protected — and this effort to open it up for crass commercial gain does just the opposite.”
The Roadless Rule was adopted in 2001 by the Clinton administration as a way to protect America’s national forests. It prevents the addition of human-made infrastructure in areas where neither logging nor roads exist. Leading up to the Clinton-era rule, more than 1.6 million citizens commented on it, and nearly half the comments—700,000 in all—came via efforts by Environment America’s network. The Tongass, America’s largest national forest, is 16.8 million acres — of which 9.2 million acres (55 percent) were designated as roadless areas. Those acres are subject to this rollback.
“As Southeast Alaskans are keenly aware, the public process around the Alaska-specific Roadless Rule, in which the Trump administration exempted the Tongass from the Roadless Rule itself, was flawed from the start,” said Meredith Trainor, executive director of the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council. “The Southeast Alaska Conservation Council has always gone to court to fight to save the places we love, and we are honored to do so today in partnership with Tribal leaders and other partners from the conservation community. We will work to reinstate Roadless Rule protections for our forest in the early days of the incoming Biden administration, even as we challenge the Record of Decision from the dark days of Trump, in court.”
In addition to Environment America, the other plaintiffs are Organized Village Of Kake, Organized Village Of Saxman, Hoonah Indian Association, Ketchikan Indian Community, Klawock Cooperative Association, Women’s Earth And Climate Action Network, The Boat Company, Uncruise, Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association, Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, Natural Resources Defense Council, Alaska Rainforest Defenders, Alaska Wilderness League, Sierra Club, Defenders Of Wildlife, National Audubon Society, Wilderness Society, Greenpeace and National Wildlife Federation.
This post was originally published on Radio Free.