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The Trump administration today announced plans to gut long-standing protections against logging and road-building in the Tongass National Forest, a cherished old-growth temperate rainforest in Southeast Alaska and homelands of the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian people. A coalition that includes Alaska Native people and Alaska-based and national organizations opposes the U.S. Forest Service plan, which comes weeks after revelations that President Trump exerted pressure to allow new clear-cuts in the Tongass.
The agency's Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), expected to be published by the end of this week, would repeal Roadless Rule protections across more than 9 million acres of the Tongass, dangerously weakening this national standard by enabling logging interests to bulldoze roads and clear-cut trees in areas of the Tongass that have been off-limits for decades.
In Alaska, which experienced unprecedented heat waves this summer, the Tongass serves as a buffer against climate change and as a refuge for salmon, birds and other wildlife. Much like the Amazon rainforest, the Tongass' stands of ancient trees are champions at absorbing greenhouse gas emissions, storing approximately 8 percent of the total carbon in all national forests of the lower 48 states.
Logging the Tongass would threaten the health of Alaskan salmon by polluting rivers and streams, and by removing trees that help regulate water temperature. Current Roadless Rule protections also extend to cultural and sacred sites of great importance to Alaska Native people, who rely upon the Tongass for spiritual and subsistence practices.
The landmark 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule protects more than 58 million acres of roadless national forest lands across the country. Weakening this policy in Alaska will harm local and indigenous communities, Southeast Alaska's economy, salmon fisheries, and wildlife. The Tongass, America's largest and wildest national forest, draws outdoor adventurers, boaters, birders, hunters and anglers. An intact Tongass supports a robust Southeast Alaskan economy through tourism, commercial and sport fishing, and small businesses. Its old-growth trees provide irreplaceable wildlife habitat for myriad species including wild Pacific salmon, Alexander Archipelago wolves, and Sitka black-tailed deer.
More than 1.5 million Americans voiced support for the Roadless Rule during the original rulemaking process, which followed decades of clear-cutting that had a destructive and lasting impact on the Tongass.
The rule continues to receive overwhelming support in Alaska and across the nation. Recent polling shows that 61 percent of voters nationwide oppose exempting large parts of the Tongass from the protections of the Roadless Rule. In Southeast Alaska, 60 percent support keeping the Roadless Rule in place, more than twice as many as those who support a Tongass exemption. Two different polls were conducted; by Tulchin Research and Lake Research.
The following statements were released in response to the announcement:
"We must holistically analyze the root causes of habitat destruction in the Tongass National Forest along with its directed social injustices, while quickly seeking solutions to the very real climate crisis today that is hugely impacting all the life on the lands we depend upon, including ours. We are the voices for the protection of the 2001 ROADLESS RULE. It must be coded into law for its own protection from industrial exploitation," said Wanda Culp, Tlingit Activist, Women's Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN) Tongass Regional Coordinator
"The world's largest remaining intact temperate rainforest containing vital old-growth trees is under attack because of efforts to undo the Roadless Rule. The Tongass Rainforest of Alaska--the traditional homelands of the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian Peoples--has been called 'the nation's climate forest' due to its unsurpassed ability to sequester carbon and mitigate climate impacts. For decades, industrial-scale logging has been destroying this precious ecosystem and disrupting the life-ways of the region's Indigenous peoples and local communities. We stand with Indigenous peoples, Southeast Alaskans and allies nationally and internationally to say no to further old-growth logging, and yes to maintaining the current Roadless Rule. Our national forests are essential lungs of the Earth," said Osprey Orielle Lake, Executive Director, Women's Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN)
"Relinquishing over nine million acres of protected national forest to feed the mouths of an industry that exports our old-growth forests overseas and provides free roads for mining development is not the future of Alaska for Alaskans," said Natalie Dawson, executive director for Audubon Alaska. "It disregards decades of hard work by Alaskans to protect our remaining forests and salmon-rich waters for sustainable industries that actually exist and rely on healthy, intact forests, and their supported fish, birds, and other wildlife. This is the diversity that will drive the future of Alaska's economy."
"The push for an Alaska-specific roadless rule has always been just pretext for continuing to subsidize Southeast Alaska's old-growth timber industry, and it will do so at the expense of recreation and fishing, Native communities, and wildlife," said Andy Moderow, Alaska director at Alaska Wilderness League. "Moving forward with an Alaska-specific rule is wrong for the Tongass and wrong for Southeast Alaska. There are better ways to 'meaningfully address local economic and development concerns' than asking taxpayers to foot the bill for another hefty subsidy to Alaska's timber industry, like addressing maintenance backlogs and permitting issues that will benefit the region's booming tourism and recreation sectors, or stream restoration that will boost Southeast's billion-dollar fishing industry and support the region's wildlife."
"The Tongass National Forest stores more carbon removed from the atmosphere than any other national forest in the country. The Roadless Rule has protected the Tongass rainforest for almost two decades," said Josh Hicks, roadless defense campaign manager at The Wilderness Society. "By seeking to weaken the Roadless Rule's protections, the Forest Service is prioritizing one forest use - harmful logging - over mitigating climate change, protecting wildlife habitat, and offering unmatched sight-seeing and recreation opportunities found only in southeast Alaska."
"Efforts to undermine environmental protection for the Tongass National Forest not only put Alaska's last vestiges of old-growth forest at risk, but also clear the way for even bigger attacks on forests nationwide. We cannot allow the Trump administration to log away our future and ignore the risks these rollbacks pose to Alaskan communities, forests and economy," said Kirin Kennedy, Deputy Legislative Director for lands and wildlife at Sierra Club.
"This is another Trump Administration attempt to roll back protections for wildlife and hand over public lands to private interests," said Patrick Lavin, Alaska policy advisor at Defenders of Wildlife. "The public has overwhelmingly opposed this effort and made clear that the Forest Service should keep watersheds and habitats supporting sustainable resources like salmon intact, not auction them off to timber companies at taxpayer expense."
"Hundreds of scientists have supported the inclusion of the Tongass National Forest in the National Roadless Conservation Rule due to its extraordinary subsistence wildlife, fisheries, and climate benefits," said Dominick DellaSala, PhD, president and chief scientist at Geos Institute. "It is Alaska's first line of climate change defense and deserves full protection under the national Roadless Rule while at the same time the Forest Service implements plans to rapidly transition out of old-growth logging."
"The Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) that was released today trades on Southeast Alaskans' vision for our collective future by prolonging and delaying our region's transition away from a remnant timber industry on life support," said Meredith Trainor, Executive Director of the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council. "Nothing about the effort to exempt the Tongass National Forest from the National Roadless Rule makes sense for the future of Southeast Alaska. The proposed alternative contemplated in the DEIS threatens fish habitat and the fisheries they support; undermines tourism by damaging the landscapes our visitors come to see; destroys deep, wild, forested habitat relied upon by species other than our own; and lifts up the crown jewel of the National Forest system, the big old growth trees of the Tongass National Forest, and asserts that they are worth only as much as the lowest bidder is willing to pay."
"President Trump's attack on the Tongass National Forest threatens an irreplaceable national treasure," said Eric Jorgensen, Earthjustice managing attorney in Juneau. "The millions of ancient trees across this temperate rainforest serve as the greatest carbon sanctuary in the U.S. national forest system, helping us all as a counterweight against the climate crisis. This ecologically rich landscape and critical wildlife habitat will be lost forever if industry is allowed to clear-cut our national forest. There is no good reason to roll back protections for the Tongass, and Earthjustice will oppose this attack on the safeguards wisely established by the Roadless Rule."
"As a global climate crisis demands that we take urgent conservation and climate-mitigation measures, the Trump administration wants to do the opposite--and lay waste to some of our country's most unspoiled wildlands that absorb massive amounts of carbon," said Niel Lawrence, Alaska director for the Natural Resources Defense Council. "For nearly two decades, the Roadless Rule has successfully shielded these magnificent natural resources, and we won't allow the Trump Administration to destroy the rule--or that progress--in another taxpayer-subsidized handout to its friends in industry."
"Alaska's elected officials are selling out their constituents and robbing future generations by trying to strip protections from one of the most pristine old-growth forests in the world," said Randi Spivak, public lands director at the Center for Biological Diversity. "Alaska is already reeling from the effects of climate change. Clearcutting remaining old-growth trees in the Tongass National Forest would release significant amounts of carbon into the atmosphere and make things worse. This disastrous plan would smother vital wild salmon streams with sediment and irreparably harm subsistence hunters. It's wrong to put private profits ahead of the health and future of Alaskans."
Andy Moderow, Alaska Wilderness League, 907-360-3622, email@example.com
Rebecca Sentner, Audubon Alaska, 907-276-7034, firstname.lastname@example.org
Meredith Trainor, Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, 907-957-8347, Meredith@seacc.org
Gabby Brown, Sierra Club, 914-261-4626, email@example.com
Jake Bleich, Defenders of Wildlife, 202-772-3208, firstname.lastname@example.org
Rebecca Bowe, Earthjustice, 415-217-2093, email@example.com
Katherine Quaid, WECAN International, 541-325-1058, firstname.lastname@example.org
Anne Hawke, Natural Resources Defense Council, 646-823-4518, email@example.com
Randi Spivak, Center for Biological Diversity, 310-779-4894, firstname.lastname@example.org
Earthjustice is a non-profit public interest law firm dedicated to protecting the magnificent places, natural resources, and wildlife of this earth, and to defending the right of all people to a healthy environment. We bring about far-reaching change by enforcing and strengthening environmental laws on behalf of hundreds of organizations, coalitions and communities.800-584-6460
"What is the common vision to guide the Global South out of this crisis?" asked the Progressive International. "What is the plan to win it?"
Delegates to the Havana Congress on the New International Economic Order—a gathering organized by the Progressive International and attended by more than 50 scholars and policymakers from 26 countries across all six inhabited continents—agreed over the weekend on a declaration that outlines a "common vision" for building an egalitarian and sustainable society out of the wreckage of five decades of neoliberal capitalism.
"The crisis of the existing world system can either entrench inequalities," the declaration asserts, or it can "embolden" popular movements throughout the Global South to "reclaim" their role as protagonists "in the construction of a new world order based on justice, equity, and peace."
Delegates resolved to focus their initial efforts on strengthening the development and dissemination of lifesaving technologies in low-income nations.
"Delegates agreed that a key priority must be to secure science and technology sovereignty."
This decision comes one year after Cuban officials announced, at a press conference convened by the Progressive International (PI), their plan to deliver 200 million homegrown Covid-19 vaccine doses to impoverished countries abandoned by their wealthy counterparts and Big Pharma—along with tools to enable domestic production and expert support to improve distribution.
It also comes as Cuba assumes the presidency of the Group of 77 (G77), a bloc of 134 developing countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America where "the combined crises of food, energy, and environment" are escalating, PI noted.
"What is the common vision to guide the Global South out of this crisis?" the coalition asked. "What is the plan to win it? What is the New International Economic Order for the 21st century?"
"After two days of detailed discussions about how to transform our shared world, delegates agreed that a key priority must be to secure science and technology sovereignty," PI general coordinator David Adler said Sunday at the conclusion of the Havana Congress. "From pharmaceuticals to green tech, from digital currencies to microchips, too much of humanity is locked out of both benefiting from scientific advances and contributing to new ones. We will, as today's declaration calls for, work to build 'a planetary bloc led by the South and reinforced by the solidarities of the North' to liberate knowledge and peoples."
Speaking at the January 12 ceremony during which Cuba ascended to the G77 presidency, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla emphasized the need for coordinated action across the Global South on science and tech, arguing that "scientific-technical development is today monopolized by a club of countries that monopolize most of the patents, technologies, research centers, and promote the drain of talent from our countries."
The G77 Summit on Science, Technology, and Innovation, scheduled for September in Havana, seeks to "unite, complement each other, integrate our national capacities so as not to be relegated to future pandemics," said Parrilla.
During his speech on the first day of the Havana Congress, meanwhile, former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis called for a new non-aligned movement to "end the legalized robbery of people and Earth fueling climate catastrophe."
\u201cAt the Havana Congress on the New International Economic Order, @yanisvaroufakis calls for a New Non-Aligned Movement to "end the legalised robbery of people and Earth fuelling climate catastrophe."\n\nRead his full speech here: https://t.co/P8zdht8FD9\u201d— Progressive International (@Progressive International) 1674836693
Read the full Havana Declaration on the New International Economic Order:
The Havana Congress,
Recalling the role of the Cuban Revolution in the struggle to unite the Southern nations of the world, and the spirit of the 1966 Havana Tricontinental Conference that convened peoples from Asia, Africa, and Latin America to chart a path to collective liberation in the face of severe global crises and sustained imperial subjugation;
Hearing the echoes of that history today, as crises of hunger, disease, and war once again overwhelm the world, compounded by a rapidly changing climate and the droughts, floods, and hurricanes that not only threaten to inflame conflicts between peoples, but also risk the extinction of humanity at large;
Celebrating the legacy of the anti-colonial struggle, and the victories won by combining a program of sovereign development at home, solidarity for national liberation abroad, and a strong Southern bloc to force concessions to its interests, culminating in the adoption of the U.N. Declaration on the Establishment of a New International Economic Order (NIEO);
Acknowledging that the project of decolonization remains incomplete, disrupted by concerted attacks on the unity of the South in the form of wars, coups, sanctions, structural adjustment, and the false promise that sovereign development might be won through integration into a hierarchical world system;
Emphasizing that the result has been the sustained divergence between North and South, characterized by the same dynamics that defined the international economic order five decades prior: the extraction of natural resources, the enclosure of 'intellectual property,' the plunder of structural adjustment, and the exclusion of the multilateral system;
Recognizing that despite these setbacks, the flame of Southern resistance did not die; that the pursuit of sovereign development has yielded unprecedented achievements—from mass literacy and universal healthcare to poverty alleviation and medical innovation—that enable a renewed campaign of Southern cooperation today;
Stressing that this potential for Southern unity is perceived as a threat to Northern powers, which seek once again to preserve their position in the hierarchy of the world system through mechanisms of economic exclusion, political coercion, and military aggression;
Seizing the opportunity of the present historical juncture, when the crisis of the existing world system can either entrench inequalities or embolden the call to reclaim Southern protagonism in the construction of a new world order based on justice, equity, and peace;
The Havana Congress calls to:
"It is imperative that we demand an independent investigation into the police murder of Manuel 'Tortuguita' Paez Terán," said one group. "We join calls for the termination of the lease and for Mayor Dickens' resignation."
A coalition of more than 1,300 climate and racial justice groups from across the United States on Monday joined a call for an independent investigation into the police killing of forest defender Manuel Paez Terán earlier this month, and demanded the resignation of Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens.
Nearly two weeks after the fatal shooting of the 26-year-old activist and medic—known as Tortuguita—Dickens "has still failed to condemn the killing," said the groups, and has instead opted "to condemn protestors and parrot the rhetoric of extreme right-wing governor Brian Kemp."
Tortuguita was shot and killed on January 18 when a joint task force including Atlanta police officers raided an encampment at Weelaunee forest. The forest is the site of a proposed $90 million police training facility known as Cop City.
"His championing of Cop City occurs against the backdrop of a continued investment in the gentrification of Atlanta and a continued disinvestment of affordable housing for a city identified as having the country's highest level of wealth inequality."
Over the weekend Dickens, a Democrat, condemned people who have protested Tortuguita's killing in Atlanta, accusing protesters of traveling to the city to "wreak havoc" at demonstrations that were overwhelmingly peaceful.
"Within a few hours of the shooting, Dickens tweeted support for [an] injured state trooper and completely ignored the death at the hands of a task force which included Atlanta police officers on his watch," wrote the groups, which include People vs. Fossil Fuels, Jewish Voice for Peace, Climate Justice Alliance, and Oil Change International. "As a growing number of Atlanta residents, national and global news outlets, and human rights and environmental organizations worldwide call for an investigation of the police narrative of Tortuguita's death, Dickens has dismissed their concerns. He has refused to bring any scrutiny to the one-sided and unsubstantiated recounting of events. Dickens has yet to offer condolences to the slain protestor's family."
The groups noted that Dickens and the Atlanta City Council have the authority to terminate the land lease for Cop City in the forest and called for the mayor to do so immediately, denouncing his strong support for the Atlanta Police Foundation's proposal.
"His championing of Cop City occurs against the backdrop of a continued investment in the gentrification of Atlanta and a continued disinvestment of affordable housing for a city identified as having the country's highest level of wealth inequality," said the groups. "Mayor Dickens can somehow find $90 million dollars for Cop City, one third of which will come from taxpayer money. Still, he can't find money to keep our already overwhelmed hospitals open or to finance much-needed affordable housing."
Ikiya Collective, a signatory of the letter, noted that the training slated to take place at Cop City "will impact organizing across the country" as police are trained to respond to popular uprisings.
"This is a national issue," said the collective. "Climate justice and police brutality are interconnected, which is why we are joining the Stop Cop City calls to action with the frontline communities in Atlanta."
"It is imperative that we demand an independent investigation into the police murder of Manuel 'Tortuguita' Paez Terán," said Ikiya Collective. "We join calls for the termination of the lease and for Mayor Dickens' resignation."
Brazil's far-right ex-president has applied for a visa to remain in the U.S. amid worsening legal troubles in his home country, where he is facing multiple investigations.
Brazil's far-right ex-president Jair Bolsonaro has applied for a six-month visitor visa to remain in the United States amid worsening legal troubles in his home country.
U.S. authorities received Bolsonaro's application on Friday, The Financial Timesreported Monday, citing "his lawyer, Felipe Alexandre, who has advised the former president not to leave the country while it is being processed—a period that could last several months."
Bolsonaro is facing multiple investigations in Brazil. That includes longstanding probes into alleged wrongdoing committed during his four-year presidential term as well as the Brazilian Supreme Court's recently launched inquiry aimed at determining whether his incessant lies about electoral fraud are to blame for the coup attempt that his supporters launched in Brasília on January 8.
The close ally of former U.S. President Donald Trump—whose unceasing lies about his loss in the 2020 presidential election sparked a deadly right-wing insurrection in Washington two years ago—retreated to Florida on December 30, two days before the January 1 inauguration of his leftist successor, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, commonly known as Lula.
"He has been staying at the Kissimmee home of a former mixed martial arts fighter, José Aldo, where he is often thronged by adoring members of Florida's right-leaning Brazilian expat community," the Times noted. "Bolsonaro had been traveling on an A-1 visa reserved for diplomats and heads of state. It expired the day he left office, with a 30-day grace period."
Earlier this month, several members of U.S. Congress urged the Biden administration to rescind Bolsonaro's visa.
"We must not allow Mr. Bolsonaro or any other former Brazilian officials to take refuge in the United States to escape justice for any crimes they may have committed when in office," stated a letter to the White House signed by 41 Democratic lawmakers.
Alexandre claimed that there is no evidence that Bolsonaro committed any crimes related to the anti-democratic assault in Brasília, when his election-denying supporters ransacked Brazil's presidential palace, Congress, and Supreme Court.
Bolsonaro has tried to distance himself from the rioters, saying that they "crossed the line." In December, however, Bolsonaro broke his post-election silence to tell his backers—many of whom spent weeks after the October 30 runoff calling for a military coup to prevent Lula from taking office—that his political fate rested in their hands.
"Who decides where I go are you," Bolsonaro told a crowd outside the gates of the presidential residence on December 9. "Who decides which way the armed forces go are you."
Days later, hundreds of Bolsonaristas set fire to cars and buses and tried to breach federal police headquarters in Brasília in a preview of the larger January 8 insurrection.
A bigger right-wing mob invaded Brazil's main government buildings earlier this month under the false pretense that Lula's victory in October's election was the result of widespread fraud—a mistaken belief fueled by years of Bolsonaro and his allies' baseless attacks on the integrity of the country's election infrastructure, disinformation that spread rapidly on social media.
The day after the attack, thousands of democracy defenders took to the streets of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo to demand jail time for those who carried out the violence as well as those who aided and abetted it.
Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's Western Hemisphere panel, said earlier this month that the U.S. should comply if Lula's administration requests Bolsonaro's extradition.
Alexandre, meanwhile, told the Times that Bolsonaro "might eventually decide to petition for a more permanent U.S. visa than the six-month extension he is seeking."