The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Katherine Quaid, WECAN International,
Osprey Orielle Lake, WECAN International,

Indigenous Women Call for Protecting Old Growth Forests with the Roadless Area Conservation Act


Tomorrow, on May 11, Representative Gallego will be presenting the Roadless Area Conservation Act of 2021 (RACA), during the subcommittee hearing on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands. Indigenous women from the Tongass Forest in Alaska, which exists within the traditional homelands of the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian peoples, are expressing their support of the Act and congressional efforts to protect the old-growth forests nationally.

This legislation seeks to preserve roadless areas across 60 million acres of national forest lands. It will help mitigate climate change impacts, protect biodiverse areas that wildlife species rely upon, and preserve special places that Indigenous communities consider sacred. Prior to the hearing, Indigenous women sent a letter to the chair of the subcommittee detailing the cultural and ecological importance of protecting roadless areas in perpetuity. The letter also notes that RACA would be critical in protecting the Tongass National Forest, known as "America's Climate Forest," which holds more than 40% of all carbon stored by U.S. national forests.

The introduction of RACA follows the 2021 Biden Administration's decision to restore full Roadless Rule protections, and end large-scale old growth timber sales across the entire 16 million acres of the Tongass National Forest in Alaska. This is the next step to secure codifying the Roadless Rule into law after decades of advocacy to protect the Tongass.

In support of today's hearing, Women's Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN) Indigenous Women Tongass Representatives have issued the following statements:

"The Tongass Forest is my home. Home to the ancient Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian Indigenous Peoples. The air we breathe, the water we depend on, the land we live upon, all pristine. It is a life to cherish. It is a way of living worth fighting for. The Biden Administration's restoration of the Roadless Rule is vital for protecting our forest homelands as Indigenous peoples of the Tongass. Now we must ensure that the Roadless Rule is codified into law to protect the forest from industrial exploitation, and to ensure it remains standing for current and future generations." Kashudoha Wanda Loescher Culp (Tlingit) WECAN Tongass Coordinator

"As matriarchs we are on watch for future generations. I have a personal investment in the Roadless Rule being codified into law because I have children and I want to be able to tell them that we will have the support we need to protect our land and the sacred old-growth forests we call home. We are sovereign. We have never been separate from our ecosystem. Everything that our culture is belongs to this land, we are in coexistence with this land, we are part of this land. This land is very important to us, without key components of this land our future does not exist and that means cultural genocide for our people." Yolanda Fulmer (Tlingit), WECAN Tongass Representative

"Climate change looks different in Alaska. It's like watching your way of life die from glaciers to salmon to trees-- suffering because we as human beings forgot our way of taking care of each other and Mother Earth. Growing up, we learned that we always take care of what we have so we can give that to the next generation, for we are only borrowing this land from our children. What condition are we giving the Tongass back in; can we say we did our best to take care of Mother Earth for our children and grandchildren? When you walk into a forest of old growth, like the Tongass, there's nothing like it anywhere else in the world. The Tongass is home to countless animals and plants, we call family, and it is necessary to protect this home for our children and grandchildren. Congress can make that happen by ensuring the Roadless Rule is codified into law. Our future generations are counting on us." Mamie Williams (Tlingit) WECAN Tongass Representative

"The hopes and dreams of our children, and their futures are at stake. We need the federal government to redress the grievances of The Tongass and The Tlingit nation, and one step in that direction is ensuring the Roadless Rule remains in effect permanently in the Tongass, and for all old-growth forests. Stand with me in Defense for Haa KusTeeyi (Our way of life) Stand up for our Salmon Forest, The Crown Jewel, The lungs of the North, The Tongass Temperate Rainforest. The Tongass has many names but I call it home." Kari Ames (Tlingit) WECAN Tongass Representative

"We support the actions taken by Representative Gallego, and the subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands. The Tongass National Forest and other roadless area forests are keeping America alive by sequestering carbon, feeding America's salmon population, and providing clean air and water for our communities. The Roadless Rule is one of the most supported rules across America, so I ask you, do what the people want: keep our forests wild! Corporate interests do not represent the public, they only wish to further environmental destruction with logging and mining. I represent myself as an individual and a citizen in the USA, in a group as a member of WECAN, and the Indigenous Alaska Native Nation-living in Hoonah, Alaska (a roadless area). Together our voices are stronger, and we are saying, 'SUPPORT RACA because WE CAN!!'" Rebekah Contreras (Yupik) WECAN Tongass Representative

"Old-growth forests are vital to climate mitigation and necessary for meeting the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement. We must all take action to support protection for old-growth forests like the Tongass, and particularly listen to the leadership of Indigenous peoples when their homelands and territories are under attack. The people have spoken: we want the Roadless Rule to be codified into law." Osprey Orielle Lake, Executive Director, Women's Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN)

The Women's Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN) International is a solutions-based organization established to engage women worldwide in policy advocacy, on-the-ground projects, direct action, trainings, and movement building for global climate justice.