US President Joe Biden and his administration announced plans to restore environmental protections to the Tongass National Forest in Alaska, and to reverse Trump-era policies that allowed large-scale logging and road construction in the largest national forest.
What is Happening?
- Following the announcement of the Clean Energy Plan that seeks to cut carbon emissions by 50% by 2030, the Biden administration on July 15 said that it would restore environmental protections to Tongass National Forest in Alaska, which is known to be the world’s largest temperate old-growth rainforest.
- In an effort to roll back policies put in place under President Donald Trump – they’ve already made plans to suspend oil and gas leases in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge earlier this year – Biden will also end all large-scale timber sales and shift focus on forest restoration, conservation and non-commercial uses.
- Effectively restoring to Clinton-era protections where the 2001 rule prohibits road constructions and timber harvests on nearly one-third of forest land, Biden’s policy reversal would help return “stability and certainty to the conservation of 9.3 million acres” of the largest national forest in the US.
- The sale of small timber will still be allowed for local and cultural uses, including totem poles and canoes.
- The Trump administration previously made exemptions to allow logging, mining and even road-building in the Southeast Alaska rainforest, areas which provide habitats for wildlife such as wolves and bears. It was a move that many Alaskan political leaders supported.
- Tongass National Forest is currently home to more than 400 species of wildlife and fish including nesting bald eagles, moose and the world’s greatest concentration of black bears. Some of the trees found here have been recorded to be at least 800 years old.
- The Agriculture Department states that they will invest up to USD$25 million in the Southeast Alaska region for economic and workforce development, particularly in industries like fishing and renewable energy.
- While environmental groups throw their support behind the restoration of forest protections, some critics said the 2001 rule restricts road constructions and fundamental access, which would impact economic opportunities, resource development and energy projects.
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