Trump Administration Proposes Another Timber Sale in Alaska’s Tongass

Graphic by Annabel Driussi for Our Daily Planet

After its first proposed sale was blocked by a federal judge, the Trump Administration proposed on Friday a second timber sale in the pristine Tongass National Forest in Alaska, The Hill reported.  The sale would cover 6000 acres, including 5000 acres of old-growth trees and the proposal also includes road-building activities.  The Tongass National Forest is one of the largest intact old-growth forests in the Americas and is an important carbon sink.  In July, Inside Climate News reported that nine native Alaska tribes filed a petition calling on the Agriculture Department to halt the removal of protections for the Forest, which the tribes say is vital to their livelihoods.

Why This Matters:  The Tongass is the largest national forest and one of the most important forests in the world (as the Ag Department itself says – watch the video). It contains some of the last surviving old-growth temperate rainforests in North America and is home to numerous species of endangered wildlife and is very important to several native tribes.  As the Tlingit tribal members said last fall, “If you destroy the Tongass Forest if you destroy the ecosystem, the salmon, the rivers, the trees, you also are committing cultural genocide against indigenous people because they are the land the land is them.”

The Administration’s Alaska Jobs Push

The Agriculture Department’s proposal justified the sale as needed to “contribute jobs and labor income in local and regional communities in the timber and tourism sectors, contribute to improved terrestrial and aquatic conditions, support access to subsistence resources, and provide safe access to Forest users.”  The harvest would occur on Revillagigedo Island, which is part of the national forest. This is a different timber harvesting proposal from one that a judge blocked earlier this year  because, according to The Hill, the Forest Service’s environmental analysis for a sale on Prince of Wales Island had “serious shortcomings.”

The Tribes’ Claims To Hunting And Fishing Rights

The Tribes argued in their petition that “One of our sovereign Tribes’ highest priorities is to protect the traditional and customary hunting, fishing, and gathering areas within our traditional tribal territory. Our customary and traditional uses cannot be protected when, ignoring our input and sovereign interests, road construction, logging, mining, mineral leasing, and other large-scale industrial development, which has already devastated large expanses of the forest, is permitted to farther impact the Tongass National Forest (“Tongass”).”  They requested that the Trump Administration “to commence a rulemaking process, in collaboration with the Tribes of Southeast Alaska, to create a Traditional Homelands Conservation Rule that protects the traditional and customary uses and areas of the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian peoples in the Tongass National Forest.”  That request was apparently ignored.

What You Can Do:  The proposal is open for public comments for the next 40 days.  You can file your comments here.

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