Trump administration chops logging restrictions in the Tongass National Forest

But President-elect Biden could reinstate them once in office.


The Trump Administration lifted protections on about 9.3 million acres of Tongass National Forest, the world’s largest intact temperate rainforest.

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The Tongass National Forest in Alaska holds life-sustaining value for the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian peoples. It’s also at the center of a decades-long battle over logging. Since 2001, part of the 16.7 million-acre forest has been protected by the “Roadless Rule,” a federal regulation banning timber harvesting in certain areas of national forests. In July, 11 Southeast Alaska Native tribes asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture for a new rule that would require it to work more closely with tribes on forest management (“Eleven Alaska Native tribes offer new way forward on managing the Tongass,” October 2020).

In October, the USDA formally exempted the Tongass National Forest from the Roadless Rule, lifting protections on about 9.3 million acres of the world’s largest intact temperate rainforest, home to centuries-old Sitka spruce, hemlock and cedar. None of the 11 Alaska tribes recommended a full repeal of the rule, and around 95% of public comments opposed complete exemption. President-elect Joe Biden’s administration, however, could reinstate protections for the Tongass. Meanwhile, the tribes’ July petition remains under review.

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