Alaska Native, Tourism, and Conservation Groups Seek Protection for Roadless Areas in Tongass National Forest

For Immediate Release

Conservation Groups
Contact: 
Mike Jackson, Organized Village of Kake, 907-785-6471 x124.
Hanna Waterstrat, AWRTA, 206-658-3083
Hunter McIntosh, The Boat Company, 202-468-8055
Carol Cairnes, Tongass Conservation Society, 907-617-8908

Mark Rorick, Sierra Club, 907-789-5472

Mark Gnadt, Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, 907-586-6942

Tom Waldo, Earthjustice, 907-586-2751
Natalie Dawson, Center for Biological Diversity, 907-274-1110
James Navarro, Defenders of Wildlife, 202-772-0247
Niel Lawrence, Natural Resources Defense Council, 360-534-9900
 

Alaska Native, Tourism, and Conservation Groups Seek Protection for Roadless Areas in Tongass National Forest

JUNEAU, Alaska - A diverse coalition
of Alaska Native, tourism industry, and environmental organizations
took action today to protect some of  the last pristine old-growth
areas in the Tongass National Forest. These areas are important to
Southeast Alaskans
for hunting, fishing, customary and traditional subsistence uses,
tourism, and recreation. They are also important to the world for their
storage of carbon, which combats global warming.

 
The lawsuit filed today - Organized Village of Kake v U.S.
Department of Agriculture - seeks to end the 2003, Bush-era decision to
“temporarily” exempt the Tongass from the national Roadless Rule. The
lawsuit asserts that this exemption was illegally adopted.
 
“We must not lose more roadless areas here,” said Mike Jackson
with the Organized Village of Kake. “For Tribal members, these lands
are essential sources of food, medicine, clothing, and traditional
items for artistic and spiritual use,” he continued.
“Our deer hunting and other customary uses of the forest have suffered
too much already from past logging,” he added. Two large timber sales
are slated for roadless areas near Kake, on North Kuiu Island and
Central Kupreanof Island.
 
“The natural values of these watersheds are essential for the
survival of small businesses around Southeast,” explained Hanna
Waterstrat, executive director of the Alaska Wilderness Recreation
& Tourism Association. “Very few folks will pay to go see clearcuts
and decaying logging roads.”
 
“Over our 30 years in operation, it has started to get harder to
find pristine watersheds to take our clients,” Hunter McIntosh of The
Boat Company reported. “Now,” he said, “dropping anchor in a bay free
of logging damage often means doubling or tripling
up with other tour boats. For the future of our company and our
industry, it’s crucial to protect the Tongass wildlands we have left.”
 
“Intact areas of the Tongass National Forest are the foundation of
our unparalleled Southeast Alaska quality of life and of the fish and
wildlife that make this forest a global treasure,” explained Mark Gnadt
of the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council.
“This so-called temporary exemption has become an excuse to delay
coming up with a truly sustainable plan for America’s rainforest.”
 
“After six years of waiting for the Forest Service to come up with
a defensible plan for the Tongass, communities, businesses and wildlife
of the Tongass can’t wait any longer for the protections they deserve,”
said Tom Waldo of Earthjustice, who is co-counsel
in the lawsuit along with Natural Resources Defense Council.
 
Said Mark Rorick of the Sierra Club’s Juneau Group, “It’s time to
get rid of this cloud over the future of America’s rainforest. The Bush
administration had no business opening up Tongass roadless areas to
destructive industrial logging. We need to be
sure that loophole is closed for good.
 
His concerns were echoed by Carol Cairnes of the Tongass
Conservation Society, “The Tongass is an icon, the last fully
functioning national forest ecosystem left, and the only one where
wildlife and fish exist in something like the abundance they enjoyed
in days gone by. It's outrageous that some of the wildest places left
in America's most intact national forest have not received roadless
protection yet.”
 
“The roadless areas on the Tongass National Forest are critical
for providing habitat for wildlife species found only in America's
rainforest,” said Natalie Dawson of the Center for Biological
Diversity. “Without protection, the U.S. Forest Service and
private industry will continue to chip away at the some of the last
remaining, intact stands of old-growth temperate rainforest in the
world.”
 
As USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack told the UN Climate Conference last
week, Tongass roadless areas also have international significance as
they are, “critical in conserving and storing carbon.” The Tongass
stores nearly 8 percent of carbon contained in U.S.
forests according to Vilsack.
 
The plaintiffs, represented by Earthjustice and the Natural
Resources Defense Council, include the Organized Village of Kake,
Alaska Wilderness Recreation & Tourism Association, The Boat
Company, Sierra Club, Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, Tongass
Conservation Society, Greenpeace, Wrangell Resource Council, Center for
Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, and Cascadia Wildlands in
the case.
 
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Read the complaint filed today here:

 

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