The Tongass National Forest, known as "America's rainforest," is a land where huge bears grow fat on salmon, eagles soar the endless skies, and 500-year-old trees stand silent sentry over a rich and verdant world. However, the future of the Tongass National Forest is a puzzle awaiting completion.
We all know that the forest's ecosystem is intricately balanced between salmon, bears and old-growth trees - but the network of human interests is just as complex. Conservationists, fishermen, Native groups, lumberjacks, and town governments - all depend on the forest's ecosystem for their livelihoods as well.
A historic thing is happening in the Tongass right now as these groups put decades of conflict on hold to come to the table and try to fit all the pieces together, knowing that a sustainable vision of the forest awaits at the end.
But the Sealaska Corporation, having profited from years of clearcutting, is trying to force its piece of the puzzle where it doesn't belong. The U.S. Senate is preparing to discard the keystone of conservation and authorize Sealaska to clearcut public lands in the Tongass. The "Sealaska bill" will only perpetuate conflict in the Tongass, razing old-growth along the way. Tell your Senators to stop this bill now!
Photo copyright Mark Linneman/Greenpeace
According to the U.S. Forest Service, the “magnitude of changes” resulting from the proposed land transfer include “losses in the Conservation Strategy” and impact to “key lands associated with old-growth reserves.” Simply put, the land legislation fails to consider the needs of the unique and rare rainforest environment and could adversely impact small, forest-dependent communities and local industries including the region’s leading economic engines–tourism and commercial fishing.
At 17 million acres, the Tongass is our largest national forest and is one of the last, intact coastal temperate rainforests left on our changing planet. It is a place of balance, where old-growth forests and salmon streams still support abundant fish and wildlife populations, sustain traditional ways of life, and serve as the lynchpin for local economies. Yet for decades, the Tongass has also been a place of controversy where land issues pit neighbor against neighbor. The Sealaska bill only serves to continue and codify this conflict.
There is an alternative. Over the past several years, a diverse set of stakeholders representing regional and national conservation interests, local sawmills, Southeast Alaska communities, native tribes and organizations, as well as the commercial fishing industry, have begun to break down barriers and move toward a shared vision for the Tongass. This collaborative work can produce groundbreaking results to resolve the Sealaska land entitlements, secure a sustainable future for the local economy, and provide durable protection for valuable areas of America’s rainforest. The Sealaska bill could serve to undermine the collective dialogue at a critical juncture and reaffirm a divisive way of doing business. Rather than a unilateral and controversial piece of legislation, a collaborative and multi-stakeholder solution on the Tongass provides the best hope for common ground in determining the future of these vital lands.
I ask that you support a collaborative and multi-stakeholder solution on the Tongass National Forest and oppose S. 881, a unilateral and controversial piece of legislation.