Washington,
10
April
2018
|
06:00 AM
America/New_York

For Immediate Release

Conservation Groups Oppose State of Alaska Attempt to Weaken the Roadless Rule

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Gwen Dobbs, Defenders of Wildlife, 202-772-0269

Conservation Groups Oppose State of Alaska Attempt to Weaken the Roadless Rule

WASHINGTON (April 10, 2018) – Today, about 100 conservation groups sent a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue opposing the State of Alaska's petition for rulemaking to exempt the Tongass National Forest in Alaska from the 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule (the Roadless Rule).

Defenders of Wildlife Director of Federal Lands, Peter Nelson, issued the following statement:

“Alaska's controversial petition to exempt the Tongass National Forest, our largest temperate rainforest, from the Roadless Rule condemns this vital landscape and the wildlife within. Rather than pushing for taxpayer subsidized roadbuilding to clear-cut priceless ancient forests, the State of Alaska should focus on restoring the Tongass’s watersheds and salmon runs that form the backbone of the region’s economy.

“Accepting this attack on the Roadless Rule will certainly lead to protracted and costly controversy while setting a dangerous precedent for undermining popular protections for national forests, wildlife and watersheds across the country.”

Background:

The 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule

  • Protecting nearly 60 million acres of unroaded areas within the National Forest System, the Roadless Rule is one of America’s most important conservation laws.
  • Roadless areas protected under the Rule provide for unparalleled recreation opportunities, clean drinking water for millions of Americans, and crucial habitat for at-risk fish and wildlife populations.
  • The Rule prohibits road construction and commercial logging within protected roadless areas with exceptions that honor existing laws and recognize socio-economic concerns.
  • There are roughly 375,000 miles of roads within the National Forest System – enough to circle the Earth 15 times – along with a multi-billion dollar road maintenance backlog.

The Tongass National Forest – America’s Rainforest

  • The Tongass National Forest encompasses almost 17 million acres of wild forest in southeast Alaska; roughly 9.5 million acres is classified as roadless under the Rule.
  • It is the largest intact temperate rainforest reserve on the continent.
  • The low-elevation, large old-growth trees—some more than 800 years old—provide important fish and wildlife habitat.
  • However, old-growth forest only constitutes 4 percent of the forest and about half of that prime habitat has already been lost to destructive clearcutting.
  • The forest is home to five species of salmon, brown and black bears, bald eagles, wolves, mountain goats and Sitka black-tailed deer. Migratory birds that come from all over the continent spend the summer nesting and breeding in the Tongass. Off the coast, there are orca and humpback whales, sea lions, seals and sea otters.

Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With over 1.8 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 Newsroom.Defenders.org and follow us on Twitter @DefendersNews.