Both teem with wildlife, and the Tongass supports one of the world’s best salmon fisheries, with millions of wild salmon returning to more than 5,500 salmon streams in the region each year. Together, these important renewable natural resources also support the region’s main economic drivers of fishing, tourism and recreation.
So it is disappointing that there is yet another attempt to cut protections for these magnificent forests, this time coming from Congressman Don Young and Senator Mark Begich, both from Alaska. Their bill (introduced Wednesday in the House and Senate) would exempt the Tongass and Chugach forests from the Roadless Area Conservation Rule, which keeps large tracts of pristine forest safe from industrial-scale logging and road building while providing flexibility for needed economic development for southeast Alaska communities.
This new bill would open up more than 14 million acres in the two forests and prolong the boom-and-bust old-growth dependent timber industry—an industry that costs U.S. taxpayers $32 million annually and accounts for less than 1% of local jobs. Commercial fishing in the Tongass alone, by comparison, contributes more than $986 million annually and provides more than 10% of the region’s jobs.
The Wilderness Society will continue to monitor each of these bills. While it is impossible to predict the likelihood of these bills becoming law, any attack on these lands is unacceptable.