For Immediate Release
Trump Denies Protection to Ancient Alaskan Cedar Trees Threatened by Climate Crisis, Logging
ANCHORAGE, Alaska - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service denied endangered species protection today to the Alaska yellow cedar, which is threatened by the climate crisis and expanded logging in the Tongass National Forest.
The Trump administration’s decision responds to a 2014 listing petition from the Center for Biological Diversity, Greenpeace, The Boat Company and Greater Southeast Alaska Conservation Community.
“Alaska’s ancient yellow cedars are suffering a double whammy from the climate crisis and logging in the Tongass National Forest,” said Shaye Wolf, climate science director at the Center. “Instead of protecting these majestic trees, Trump’s fueling both threats with his reckless climate denial and pandering to corporate logging interests.”
Climate change has already caused die-offs of yellow cedars over almost a million acres in Alaska and British Columbia. More than 70 percent of these long-lived trees are now dead in many areas of Alaska. Diminishing snowpack due to climate change exposes the yellow cedar’s shallow roots to frigid winter temperatures that cause them to freeze and the trees to die.
If urgent action is not taken to reign in carbon pollution, by 2070 yellow cedars may no longer be able to survive in half the areas that are currently climatically suitable, with 75 percent of yellow cedar forests in Alaska experiencing unsuitable conditions.
Protecting yellow cedar under the Endangered Species Act could limit logging, increasing the species’ resilience to climate change. Logging can remove trees that are naturally more resistant to die-off and opens up the forest canopy, worsening the conditions that lead to root freezing and cedar death.
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"The Trump administration has moved to massively expand logging in the Tongass National Forest, where yellow cedars have historically been particularly abundant," said Larry Edwards of Alaska Rainforest Defenders. "Despite the trees’ decline, Forest Service timber sales selectively target remaining living yellow cedars because of the wood’s high quality and market value."
Earlier this year the Trump administration approved the largest logging project on national forest lands in more than a generation, on Prince of Wales Island in the heart of the Tongass. This project authorizes logging of more than 23,000 acres of old-growth forest, with the potential for removing up to 38 million board feet of old-growth yellow cedar.
Trump has also signaled his intention to remove longstanding protections restricting logging in the Tongass’s remaining wild areas that have not been opened up to logging and roadbuilding under the landmark 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule, further threatening old-growth forests and yellow cedar across millions of acres.
Yellow cedar is a primarily coastal species, found from southeast Alaska to Northern California, and is most common in the Tongass. These trees are a central part of the region’s forests. Traditionally greatly valued by Alaska natives for carving, medicinal and ceremonial purposes, the trees are also an important food source for Sitka deer and brown bears. They store massive amounts of carbon, providing an important defense against the climate crisis.
The Trump administration has now declined protection for more than 70 species and protected only 18—the lowest of any president at this point in his administration.
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At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature - to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law, and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters, and climate that species need to survive.