11:02 PM

For Immediate Release

U.S. Forest Service Moves Backwards on Tongass Forest Old-Growth Logging

Today the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) released a draft Record of Decision proposing the largest old-growth logging project in the nation in decades. The proposal would log up to 235 million board feet of mostly old-growth forest over 15 years. In 2016, the USFS committed to a transition out of old-growth logging and away from uneconomical and destructive timber sales like this proposal.

Defenders of Wildlife Senior Alaska Representative, Pat Lavin, issued the following statement:

“The U.S. Forest Service committed to transition away from logging old-growth on the Tongass realizing that there is no economic future in clearcutting this magnificent forest. More taxpayer-subsidized logging won’t create many jobs but will threaten wildlife such as the Alexander Archipelago wolf, Sitka black-tailed deer, northern flying squirrel and many other old-growth dependent species.

“The Forest Service is proposing a return to the destructive industrial-scale clear-cut logging history on the Tongass – a history from which the region has moved on. The Forest Service should be leading rather than impeding the economic transition in southeast Alaska – restoring wildlife habitat and watersheds and supporting the sustainable economy of fishing and tourism, not unsustainable old-growth logging.”


 Prince of Wales Landscape Level Analysis Project

  • The Forest Service is proposing to cut up to 235 million board feet of old-growth forest - the largest old-growth sale on the Tongass in decades.
  • The sale dwarfs any project on the Tongass since the Ketchikan pulp mill was still in operation under a 50-year timber contract.
  • The sale is located in an area of the Tongass that has already experienced significant habitat loss from past logging, reducing populations of both Alexander Archipelago wolves and their primary prey, Sitka black-tailed deer.
  • The Tongass supports vibrant sustainable fishing, recreation and tourism industries that are now the primary economic drivers in southeast Alaska after government employment, providing 25% of the region’s jobs and economic activity. In contrast, the timber industry provides less than 1% of the region’s jobs and earnings. The timber industry has long struggled to make ends meet, costing taxpayers more than $130 million from 2009–2013 alone as timber sale receipts consistently fell far short of U.S. Forest Service expenses.

The Tongass National Forest -- American'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.
  • The Tongass National Forest contains the largest intact temperate rainforest on the continent.
  • These low-elevation temperate rainforests are renowned for their large old-growth trees—some more than 800 years old—which provide important fish and wildlife habitat.
  • However, these large old-growth trees only constitute about 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, Stellar sea lions, seals and Northern 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.