The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Yetta Stein, Communications Associate

Western Values Project

(406) 529-1682

Trump's Logging Proposal in the Tongass National Forest Reveals Interior Ties to Timber Industry

Interior’s Deputy Solicitor for Parks and Wildlife Has Ties to Logging Industry; Sued to Log Tongass

Whitefish, MT.

Recent reporting from the Washington Post revealed the Trump administration's new push to expand logging throughout the Tongass National Forest, the largest intact temperate rainforest in North America. Richard Goeken, Interior's Deputy Solicitor for Parks and Wildlife and a Trump political appointee, has previously led efforts to log millions of board feet of centuries-old trees in the Tongass National Forest, revealing yet again the extent to which Interior's leadership team is rife with conflicts of interests and ties to industry.

"This corrupt decision by the Trump administration points directly to the special interests which stand to benefit from a move that could destroy the Tongass National Forest," said Jayson O'Neill, Deputy Director of Western Values Project. "The swampy industry and lobbyist ties within the Trump administration and the Interior Department are once again rearing their ugly head."

In 2015, Richard Goekenrepresented Viking Lumber Co., a timber company that won a federal appeals case, clearing the way to "cut centuries-old trees from the Tongass National Forest." Viking Lumber Co. stood to cut "roughly two-thirds" of the 150 million board feet of lumber in question, "most of it from tree stands that have never been cut."

O'Neill continued, "President Trump's swamp is constantly putting our outdoor heritage on the line. If the Trump administration is willing to sell out the Tongass National Forest, one of the last remaining ecologically intact areas in North America, for narrow special interests, all of America's valued public lands are under threat."

This is not the first time Interior has been caught playing politics with the Tongass National Forest. In September 2017, then-Deputy Director of the US Fish and Wildlife Service Greg Sheehan called in a favor to his old friend, Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife Founder Don Peay. Sheehan had been contacted by a concerned individual who was trying to save privately-owned cabins in a wilderness area in the Tongass National Forest. The land is managed by the United States Forest Service, and the cabins could be saved if Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue intervened and changed the policy. Sheehan said Peay had a "very strong relationship" with the "now Assistant Secretary of agricultural [sic]" and Sheehan wanted to get Peay "engaged" on the issue.

Deep ties to industry have become the standard within Interior. From Interior Secretary Bernhardt's conflicted lobbying past to a number of other Interior political appointees with corrupted connections, Western Values Project created the Department of Influence website to track Interior's abundant culture of corruption.

Western Values Project brings accountability to the national conversation about Western public lands and national parks conservation - a space too often dominated by industry lobbyists and their allies in government.