Major Roadless Rule victory for the Tongass!

The National Roadless Rule was rolled back for America’s last great rainforest by the Trump administration, threatening millions of acres of undeveloped national forest lands. The Biden administration has reinstated it. 

JUNEAU, Alaska (Áakʼw Ḵwáan Territory) In a win for Southeast Alaska communities, wildlife, and the climate, today the U.S. Forest Service reinstated Roadless Rule protections across the Tongass National Forest in Southeast Alaska. Tribal leaders, outdoor recreation businesses, commercial fishing operators, conservationists and people like you and me cheer the agency’s restoration of this critical safeguard. The move restores federal protection — from industrial logging and damaging road-building — to just over 9 million acres in America’s largest national forest.

Alaska Wilderness League appreciates its thousands of supporters who voiced their support of the Roadless Rule time and time again to get us to this point. And, we are grateful that the Biden administration listened and made this decision.

You can read more about the decision in the the news here and here.

We applaud today’s announcement, because it recognizes that Southeast Alaska’s future is rooted in sustainable uses of the forest. The Roadless Rule protects Tongass old-growth while also providing flexibility for community access, hydropower projects, utility connectors and other economic development projects when they serve a legitimate public interest. This decision puts public lands and people first, and we are grateful for the action.

The 17 million-acre Tongass National Forest, situated in the southeast corner of Alaska, is a temperate rainforest that draws visitors from around the globe and provides habitat for an abundance of wildlife including grizzly bears, bald eagles, and wolves. It is the ancestral homeland of the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian peoples. The Tongass also serves as the country’s largest forest carbon sink, making its protection critical for U.S. efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions and to set a global example.

Thank you again for everything you’ve done to support wild Alaska.

Below, you can read some other positive reactions to the news:

President Joel Jackson, Organized Village of Kake:
“The Tongass Roadless Rule is important to everyone. The old-growth timber is a carbon sink, one of the best in the world. It’s important to OUR WAY OF LIFE — the streams, salmon, deer, and all the forest animals and plants.”

Naawéiyaa Tagaban, Environmental Justice Strategy Lead, Native Movement:
“The restoration of National Roadless Rule protections for the Tongass National Forest is a great first step in honoring the voices of the many Tribal Governments and Tribal Citizens who spoke out in favor of Roadless Rule protections for the Tongass. We are grateful to the Biden administration for taking this first step toward long-term protections for the Tongass. We hope that going forward true long-term protections will be established that do not rely on a rule which can be changed at the whim of a presidential administration. The administration must look to Tribal Sovereignty and Indigenous stewardship as the true long-term solution for protections in the Tongass. Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian people have lived in and managed the Tongass national forest for generations, true protections will look like the restoration of lands into Indigenous ownership.”

Wanda Culp, Tongass Coordinator, Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network:
“The Tongass Forest is homeland to countless indigenous family species, intertwined as strong and delicate as a spider’s circular web. The Tongass National Forest in Alaska is a national treasure, stored wealth, as is each of America’s Public Forests. They should always be handled as the treasures they are — cherished and saved to enable our future generations to breathe fresh air. To BREATHE FREELY!”

Gloria Burns, Vice President, Ketchikan Indian Community
“The Tongass National Forest has provided for the people of this land since time immemorial and in many ways, the forest is the lungs of the world. The reinstatement of the Roadless Rule is an important step.  I come from a family of weavers and we rely culturally, spiritually, and economically on a thriving and healthy old-growth forest. As a Tribe, we agreed to join litigation around the Roadless Rule because the federal government did not consult with Tribes regarding the issue and we have concerns as we belong to and rely on the land to sustain our families and culture. We will be here in this place until the end of time and our cultures depend on and revolve around our natural world.”

Linda Behnken, commercial fisherman and Executive Director, Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association:
“We are thrilled and relieved to know the Tongass’ remaining unroaded areas will remain intact vibrant forests for generations to come. Our fisheries depend on healthy habitat, and with climate change driving ocean warming, protecting habitat is increasingly important to the fish, the fisheries, and the coastal fishing communities. This is welcome news!”

Captain Dan Blanchard, owner and CEO, Uncruise Adventures:
“As an Alaska small business owner, I am ecstatic that the Forest Service is fully reinstating the Roadless Rule in the Tongass National Forest. It is time for us to focus on recreational opportunities for locals and visitors alike. The visitor industry is huge to the SE Alaska economy. Visitors travel from every corner of the planet to explore the rare environment and wildlife that is the Tongass National Forest. Happy Day!”

Mike and Sally Trotter, owners, Baranof Wilderness Lodge:
“GO JOE! Thank you so much for your support, stewardship, and care for this precious and wonderful planet earth! We honor your path.”

Above & Beyond Alaska:
“As a company that has been operating wilderness trips in the Tongass National Forest for over 20 years, we are overjoyed that the Roadless Rule will be restored to help protect this national treasure and to ensure healthy ecosystems continue to thrive in Southeast Alaska.”

Kevin Murphy, owner, Murphy’s Maritime Services:
“As a business owner in Southeast Alaska, reinstating the Roadless Rule allows me to continue to take visitors from around the world to experience an intact ecosystem filled with salmon, wildlife, and old-growth forests — not clearcuts. It’s no wonder Juneau gets more than a million visitors a year.”

Teague Whalen, owner and operator, Tongass Teague:
“There are two uncompromising realities for the survival of life on this planet: clean air and clean water. My hiking tours into the Tongass begin at the literal end of our road, where the Roadless Rule reinstatement will ensure that the Tongass can continue to be a lasting carbon sink.”

Stephen Van Derhoff, owner, Spirit Walker Expeditions:
“We are elated — literally floating on the news that the Roadless Rule is being reinstated in the Tongass. As we kayak, hike, and camp our way through this incredible ecosystem, we’re thankful for its protection and stewardship — and grateful for the opportunity to share the wilds of Southeast Alaska with guests from around the globe.”