Trump Administration Orders Opening Of National Forest In Alaska To Logging And Corporate Development
As the Amazon rainforest continues to burn uncontrollably, President Donald Trump is aiming to destroy an American forest via chainsaws by opening up the 16.7 million acres of Tongass National Forest in Alaska to logging and corporate development.
The old-growth forest offers vital habitat to several animal species and generates billions of dollars in tourism, as well as hunting and fishing every year. But while logging only makes up a tiny fraction of the economy in the state, Republican lawmakers in Alaska are obsessed with letting loggers cut it down, which would have the effect of destroying the more profitable enterprises as well as the world’s largest temperate rainforest.
After speaking with Trump about it, the president ordered the Agriculture Department to exempt the park from logging restrictions that have been in place for two decades, restrictions that are responsible for preserving the forest and helping it recover from past abuses that took place prior to enactment.
According to the Washington Post:
John Schoen, a retired wildlife ecologist who worked in the Tongass for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, co-authored a 2013 research paper finding that roughly half of the forest’s large old-growth trees had been logged last century. The remaining big trees provide critical habitat for black bear, Sitka black-tailed deer, a bird of prey called the Northern Goshawk and other species, he added.
As a national forest, the Tongass should be untouchable by those who want to exploit its resources, but Trump wants to open it up to loggers, miners and other corporate developments that would have a negative impact on the environment and the state’s healthy environment and tourist focused economy.
For instance, the forest is necessary to protect salmon, 40 percent of which spawn in the Tongass. Salmon require colder water temperatures throughout their life cycle. Cutting trees down would raise water temperatures, resulting in population losses that are unsustainable and would affect the entire food chain. A similar Trump plan to release warmer water from a dam in California to help demanding farmers is also threatening vulnerable salmon populations.
The salmon industry in Alaska generates $986 million annually, far more than logging and mining. That’s why former Forest Service employee Chris Wood, who is now president of the environmental group Trout Unlimited, opposes Trump’s plan to open the Tongass, pointing out that the “golden goose is the salmon, not the trees.”
“They need to keep the trees standing in order to keep the fish in the creeks,” he warned.
Even travel firms stand to lose big if Trump ruins the pristine natural environment the Tongass offers.
UnCruise Adventures CEO Dan Blachard noted that back in the 1980s before the restrictions were put in place, “we had a difficult time avoiding clear cuts in southeast Alaska.”
“The forest has come back,” Blanchard said. “The demand for wilderness and uncut areas have just dramatically increased. Our view here is, there are very few places in the world that are wild. Here we have one, in southeast Alaska, and it’s being put at risk.”
And so are the jobs of his 350 employees.
Not only that but gutting the forest would only add more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere and reduce the production of oxygen all creatures on the planet needs to live. At a time when the Amazon is on fire, the world needs untouched forests now more than ever.
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