The Post reported for the first time on the President's plan to expand logging in the Tongass in August. The US Department of Forests had initially planned to make more modest changes to nearly 9.5 million acres of land on which roads are banned: according to the government's "preferred alternative," this entire area would be open to development.
Congress has designated an additional 5.7 million acres from the forest as a wilderness, which must under no circumstances be closed to such activities.
Located in southeastern Alaska, the Tongass is home to vast old populations and provides habitat for a variety of wildlife. About 40 percent of the wild salmon that swim along the west coast spawn in the Tongass and produce a fishery worth $ 986 million per year, according to forestry officials.
The agency stated in a statement that the Tongass ̵
1; the only one in the federal forest system – covers 80 percent of the country along the 800-kilometer Southeast Alaska Panhandle. "It's rich in natural resources and cultural heritage," the statement said.
While President George W. Bush attempted to reverse Clinton's roadblock policy in the Tongass in 2003, a federal judge reinstated it in 2011, and the decision was upheld.
In a statement, Forest Service officials said that the plan, which lists five other alternatives that include stricter logging restrictions, will be publicly commented on for 60 days. These comments "will inform the department" while Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue "is moving toward a final decision," added one official.
But Trump, who has spoken to Alaska Governor Michael J. Dunleavy (R) on this issue several times
The entire Alaska Congressional delegation, which is all Republican, has also asked Trump to expand the development in the Tongass. While the forestry authority has approved at least 55 projects in non-road areas, including 36 for mining and 10 for the power sector, the legislator has stated that the permit has caused unnecessary delays.
Harvesting wood responsibly, promoting minerals, linking communities or building energy projects to cut costs – including renewable energy projects such as hydropower, which significantly impact the Southeast Asian economy, "said Senator Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) in a statement.
Wood represents a small proportion of jobs in southeast Alaska – just under 1 percent, according to the Southeast Conference regional development group, compared to 8 percent for seafood and 17 percent for tourism.
Eric Jorgensen, managing lawyer at Juneau's environmental office, Earthjustice, said in a telephone interview that his group would challenge the move and was confident that it would prevail because previous courts had reaffirmed the 2001 directive.
"The bottom line is that the agency will face a heavy burden to justify this exemption," said Jorgensen. "President Trump's attack on the Tongass National Forest threatens an irreplaceable national treasure." before the end of Trump's first term, because the forestry agency would need to conduct an environmental analysis for each new auction and revise its existing concession plan for the Tongass If more wood had to be removed, a critical habitat could become fragmented and trees could be removed by deforestation Trap sediments and keep the waterways cool.
"They first went to the simple places. Now they have to build roads to reach the next round of wood, "Emeritus Forest Service scientist Gordon Reeves, who recently spent 35 years as a researcher in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska, said in an interview. "They're putting the streets in, and that tends to change everything."