Pew Commends USDA Action to Restore Protections for Tongass National Forest

Decision conserves more than 9 million acres, limits roads and related development in rare temperate rainforest

USDA to Restore Protections for Tongass National Forest
Aerial view of Tongass National Forest (Alaska)
The Tongass National Forest in southeast Alaska provides vital habitat for a wide range of wildlife, along with climate change mitigation and economic benefits to residents across the state.
Arabani/flickr

WASHINGTON—The Pew Charitable Trusts today expressed its support for a U.S. Department of Agriculture Record of Decision repealing the 2020 Alaska Roadless Rule and reinstating a ban on most road construction, reconstruction, and timber harvest in inventoried roadless areas of the Tongass National Forest.

The Tongass, in southeast Alaska, is the largest forest in the U.S. and the largest intact coastal temperate rainforest in the world. In addition, it holds more biomass per acre than any other rainforest in the world and stores more carbon than any other U.S. national forest.

Pew has long advocated for protections in the Tongass—one of the world’s last intact temperate rainforests—and has worked to safeguard national forests since its 1998 creation of the Heritage Forest Campaign. This campaign successfully advocated for the 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule, which restricted road construction and development across 60 million acres of national forest land.

Marcia Argust, director of Pew’s U.S. public lands and rivers conservation project, issued this statement: 

“We applaud the Department of Agriculture for restoring protections to roadless areas of the Tongass National Forest, the crown jewel of our national forest system. Scientific research has confirmed the importance of conserving roadless national forests as a bulwark against climate change,  and the benefits of conserving the last roadless areas in the Tongass have been buoyed by numerous studies showing that large, contiguous protected areas are necessary to sustain healthy ecosystems.  “A wide range of Alaskans have advocated for safeguards on the Tongass, including Tribes, the commercial fishing community, and tourism-centered businesses in southeast Alaska. Tribes in the region have been at the forefront of efforts to conserve the Tongass through intergovernmental discussions and advocacy in the courts. The department’s decision honors Indigenous people’s leadership on behalf of the Tongass, as stewards of areas within their traditional territories and as judicial advocates for reinstatement of safeguards.

“By reinstating roadless protections to the Tongass National Forest, the U.S. has averted damage to the forest, honored Indigenous peoples, supported local economies, deterred additional climate change impacts, and helped ensure that the Tongass will serve the interests of all Americans far into the future.”

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