Industrial logging has removed stands of ancient trees, eliminating a priceless resource the benefits local communities and provides a buffer against climate change. Continued logging will harm rural Alaskans and commercial fisher-people who rely upon roadless areas to preserve habitat for salmon, a backbone of the economy. It would also destroy landscapes that are sacred to Indigenous people, who maintain a close connection to the lands and rivers of the Tongass through culture, spirituality and traditional subsistence practices.
The Tongass Rainforest of Alaska exists within the traditional homelands of the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian Peoples. As the largest national forest in the U.S., the Tongass is a vital, biodiverse region which has also been called 'America’s climate forest' due to its unsurpassed ability to sequester carbon and mitigate climate impacts. The Tongass is also the base of sustenance, culture and spirituality for the Original Peoples of the region.
The current Roadless Rule and its protections for Alaska’s Tongass National Forest, Tlingit territory, prohibits logging in these areas of the forest, protecting them for generations to come. The Roadless Rule was a two-decade battle against the industrial clear cutting in the Tongass that occurred in the 1980s-90s, from which the forest has not yet recovered. As the 2001 national interest response against clear cutting was the largest on record, the strength of the Tongass land management plan developed at that time must not be weakened for corporate interests.
Under the past Administration, threats to the Tongass intensified significantly, and WECAN has been involved in various action campaigns, congressional lobby delegations, and petition drives, as well as the filing of public comments and protests of upcoming timber harvest plans. The Tongass Rainforest Protection Project is working specifically to protect 9.2 million acres from old-growth logging and mining.
A major effort is now needed to stop several large timber harvest sales and reverse the effort to roll back the Roadless Rule in Alaska. The 2001 Alaska specific Roadless Rule was established as a land classification system designed to conserve roadless areas in the Tongass National Forest. WECAN is advocating for the Tongass Roadless Rule to be codified into law so that it becomes a permanent mechanism for forest protection.
With Indigenous women leaders on the frontlines, and the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian Peoples who call the Tongass home, the struggle is not only about protecting the ancient forest; it is also about protecting and defending their traditional ways of life.
Top goals of the campaign include:
(1) reversal of the Trump Administration’s elimination of the Roadless Rule in Alaska, followed by the passing in the U.S. Congress of the Roadless Area Conservation Act, which will codify the Roadless Rule into law;
(2) establishing a Food Security/Sovereignty Program in Hoonah, Alaska, led by Indigenous women that will be a model for other communities in Alaska;
(3) permanent forest protection of 'America’s climate forest' due to its unsurpassed ability to sequester carbon and mitigate climate impacts, which benefits the world, the global climate and future generations;
(4) protecting the economic stability of those living in Southeast Alaska whose livelihoods are dependent on the Tongass (fisher people, hunters, tourist industry employees);
(5) creating opportunities to restore the traditional lifeways, medicine, and food systems of the region's Indigenous communities.