Trump administration proposes timber sale in Tongass National Forest
The Trump administration on Friday proposed a sale that would allow logging across thousands of acres of the Tongass National Forest in Alaska, which critics say will exacerbate climate change and harm wildlife habitats.
The Forest Service proposed allowing the timber industry to chop down trees across up to more than 6,000 acres of forest. This includes more than 5,000 acres of what’s known as “old growth” forest, containing older trees that are important to fighting climate change.
The Tongass National Forest is a major carbon sink, meaning its trees soak up carbon from the atmosphere, mitigating the impacts of climate change.
In a letter attached to the draft of the environmental impact statement outlining the proposal, Tongass Forest Supervisor Earl Stewart wrote that the sale intends 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.”
However, critics have expressed concerns about the climate impacts of allowing logging in the region, especially the large, older trees that can be found in the forest.
“The older and bigger the tree is means the more carbon it is holding in the tree trunks, the roots, the branches …the bigger, the better. And what you have in the Tongass are some of the carbon-storing champions,” said Randi Spivak, the Center for Biological Diversity’s public lands director.
She also expressed concern that allowing the trees to be cut down could harm animal species that use it for cover, and native people who eat animals like deer.
“Deer need these old-growth forests for thermal cover in winter and food sources, and when you log these forests, you lose that thermal cover from these forests. Likewise, the archipelago wolf, whose populations have really been devastated, they prey on deer and they also utilize these forests,” she said.
The logging would take place on Revillagigedo Island, which is part of the national forest.
The proposal is separate from a prior attempt to allow logging in a different area of the Tongass on Prince of Wales Island, which a court stalled earlier this year. The judge argued that the Forest Service’s environmental analysis had “serious shortcomings.”
Despite its attempts to advance logging in the Tongass, the Trump administration has put forth planting trees as a possible solution to climate change.
President Trump announced in January that he wanted to join the global Trillion Trees initiative, which seeks to “grow, restore and conserve” a trillion trees worldwide, according to the World Economic Forum and a U.S. chapter launched recently.
Asked recently what the president hopes to do to combat climate change, his campaign pointed The Hill to his support for this program.