06/17/2012 - Environmental advocates readied for battle in Congress this week over what they maintain is an erosion of protections for the biggest, oldest trees in Alaska's Tongass National Forest, often called the crown jewel of the U.S. forest system.
A vast swath of woodland that stretches along the southeast Alaskan coast and inland over more that 17 million acres (70,000 square km), the Tongass is one of the last temperate rainforests on Earth with centuries-old trees critical to wildlife habitat and Alaska's salmon fishery.
Legislation expected to be considered on the House of Representatives floor this week would cede nearly 6 5,000 acres (263 square km) of public land in the Tongass to the native-owned Sealaska Corporation.
"This is the biggest and oldest old-growth, the crème de la crème of ancient forests," Jane Danowitz of the Pew Environment Group said in a telephone interview. "This legislation would allow these last remaining ancient forests to be commercially logged and even clear-cut by a single corporation."
The measure that would let Sealaska pick different sites in the Tongass forest is part of a wide-ranging package of legislation involving U.S. wilderness areas called the National Security and Federal Lands Protection Act.
Among its other provisions, the bill would give operational control of federal public lands within 100 miles of the Mexican and Canadian borders to the U.S. border patrol, which conservationists say could open national parks, wildlife refuges and other public lands to development and road-building.
Read the full article, Alaska's Tongass Forest Sparks Battle Over Logging, on Reuters' website.