Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Corporate gatekeepers and big tech monopolists are making it more difficult than ever for independent media to survive. Please chip in today.

tongass_forest-1

A truck carrying old-growth trees that were recently cut drives on N Island Rd in the Tongass National Forest on Prince of Wales Island, Alaska, Friday, July 2, 2021. (Photo: Salwan Georges/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

America's Climate Forest Must be Protected Now and for Future Generations

If the Biden Administration expects to be the climate leader it promised, the nation's forests must remain protected from further extraction and destruction.

The snow builds up at this time of year in the far northern forests of the Tongass in Alaska, blanketing this often lush green landscape. The bears that travel across the ravines during summer are now resting, hibernating until spring. The buzzing that comes from a forest teeming with life is now a peaceful hush, save for the calls of a raven or the soft dampened steps of the elk and deer. Every season we see the Tongass in a new light, offering points of wisdom and ways of being that stretch back farther than humanity.  However, as we recognize the beauty of the season, we are also alarmed at how unpredictable the weather has become throughout the year as communities in Alaska are challenged with climate-related extreme weather events—from record breaking snowfall to wind and ice storms to unusually high temperatures.

As communities worldwide feel the ever-worsening impacts of climate change, global forests, like the Tongass, are crucial in collective efforts to combat negative climate impacts due to their ability to sequester vast amounts of carbon.

The Tongass is one of the largest intact temperate rainforests remaining on Earth, spanning across 500 miles of Southeast Alaska, the forest provides habitat and refuge to over 400 wildlife species, including some of the highest concentrations of wolves, bears, and eagles. Approximately the size of West Virginia, the forest is also the foundation of traditional Tlingit lifeways—from cultural and spiritual practices to the food and medicines they depend upon—a tether to the ancestors who have lived in reciprocity and respect with this land since time immemorial.

As communities worldwide feel the ever-worsening impacts of climate change, global forests, like the Tongass, are crucial in collective efforts to combat negative climate impacts due to their ability to sequester vast amounts of carbon. Living forests create and maintain the cycles of air, water and soil that sustain the Earth and our communities. In this context, the Tongass has been heralded as "America's Climate Forest," a global champion in carbon sequestration. According to a 2021 study by Wild Heritage, the Tongass is responsible for holding more than 40% of all carbon stored by U.S. national forests.

Yet, this precious ancient forest has been under attack for decades.

Most recently, in October 2020, the Trump Administration, against the will of the public and tribal leadership, ruled that the Tongass be exempt from the hard-won 2001 National Roadless Rule. Providing environmental protections across nearly 50  million acres of national forest lands, the Roadless Rule is a safeguard for U.S. forests. This policy rollback would have opened up over 9 million acres of previously protected Tongass forest lands to logging, mining, roadbuilding, and further development. 

In January 2021, following ceaseless advocacy efforts by tribal leadership, and local and national groups, including the Women's Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN), there was a key victory—the Biden Administration started the important process to restore Roadless Rule protections in the Tongass. How we respond to this critical moment rests on our collective shoulders; our voices and action can make a significant difference. Right now, advocacy for the Tongass involves public participation through submitting a comment to the United States Forest Service by January 24th. Please join us to secure the fate of the Tongass. Learn more and submit a comment here.

There is no denying the deadly climate extremes that communities are facing globally. If the Biden Administration expects to be the climate leader it promised, the nation's forests must remain protected from further extraction and destruction. We can all take action today to stand with the old-growth trees of the Tongass and forests of the world. Thank you for joining us in protecting the Tongass.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
culp

Wanda Kashudoha Loescher Culp

Wanda Kashudoha Loescher Culp (Tlingit) is the Tongass Coordinator for the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN) and Co-producer of award-winning Tongass Forest documentary "Walking in Two Worlds."   

Osprey Orielle Lake

Osprey Orielle Lake

Osprey Orielle Lake is the Founder and Executive Director of the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN) International and serves as Co-Chair of International Advocacy for the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature. Follow on Twitter: @WECAN_INTL 

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

War, Disasters Drive 'All-Time High' of Nearly 60 Million Displaced in Home Nations

The head of the Norwegian Refugee Council noted the situation "is phenomenally worse than even our record figure suggests" because it does not include those forced to flee Russia's assault on Ukraine.

Jessica Corbett ·


Global Climate Movement Warn Nations Have Just 6 Months to End Fossil Fuel Finance

"The pandemic has shown that governments can rapidly mobilize massive sums of public money," says one campaigner. "This is the moment to do it, and accelerate the transition."

Brett Wilkins ·


Analysis: 26 US Billionaires Paid Average Tax Rate of Just 4.8% in Recent Years

"When you include their untaxed wealth growth in the calculation, many billionaires pay almost nothing," said Frank Clemente of Americans for Tax Fairness.

Jake Johnson ·


'We Were Expecting This,' Says Family After Israel Says No Criminal Probe Into Killing of Shireen Abu Akleh

The development came as leading international artists called for "meaningful measures to ensure accountability for the killing of Shireen Abu Akleh and all other Palestinian civilians."

Andrea Germanos ·


'I Simply Cannot Stand By': Jayapal Endorses Cisneros Against Anti-Abortion Incumbent Cuellar

"At a time when our reproductive freedoms are under attack by an extremist Supreme Court, we must elect pro-choice candidates that will fight to make sure abortion remains the law of the land."

Jake Johnson ·

Common Dreams Logo