Writing a letter to the editor (LTE) to your local or regional newspaper is an effective and easy way to reach a large audience with your message. LTEs are published on the editorial page, which is one of the most read sections in the paper. Congressional staffers also tell us that members of Congress keep a close eye on media coverage, including LTEs in their local papers, so they can keep a 'pulse' on issues of importance to their constituents.
ACT NOW: Write an LTE about why the Roadless Rule cannot be removed from the Tongass National Forest
Message Guidance: Tongass National Forest
At 17 million acres, the Tongass National Forest is America’s largest national forest, encompassing most of the Southeast Alaska panhandle. Rising from the deep, rich waters of Alaska’s Inside Passage, the Tongass is where people come to see Alaska. Each year more than 1 million people come to experience glaciers flowing from the mountains into the sea and iconic wildlife that thrives in one of the largest remaining temperate rainforests in the world. It is home to five species of Pacific salmon, humpback and orca whales, otters, beavers, region-specific Alexander Archipelago wolves, Sitka black-tailed deer, plus some of the largest concentrations of brown bears and bald eagles found anywhere in the world.
The Trump administration is seeking to open 9.3 million acres of protected Tongass land to road-building and clear-cut logging by exempting this forest from the Roadless Area Conservation Rule.
Talking points for your letter:
- The administration’s ongoing efforts to repeal roadless protection in Alaska’s national forests simply makes no sense. Timber sales in southeast Alaska are simply not economically viable without large public subsidization, and further depleting Tongass old-growth forest threatens billion-dollar (and sustainable) industries like tourism and commercial fishing, which provide thousands of jobs.
- The Roadless Area Conservation Act introduced in both the House and Senate would codify the Roadless Rule into law, preserving roadless areas across the country for hunting and fishing — activities that support a subsistence lifestyle and define a way of life for many people living in rural forested areas, and over 9 million old growth forest acres in the Tongass National Forest.
- Southeast Alaska’s economy has largely transitioned away from timber and towards diverse and sustainable industries where wildlife and wild salmon in a scenic and healthy forest employ thousands of Alaskans in recreation, tourism and commercial fishing.
- A Tongass exemption would also endanger the region’s commercial fishing industry that employees 4,300 people (9% of regional employment) and relies on the Tongass National Forest for 80% of its salmon harvest. By contrast, timber accounts for only 1% of the region’s jobs.
- It would help fight climate change impacts — the Tongass alone absorbs approximately 8 percent of the nation’s annual global warming pollution — while protecting imperiled species that rely upon Roadless areas for survival and preserving special places that Native American and Alaska Native communities consider sacred.
- Even though Alaska's political leaders are pushing hard to strip protections in the Tongass, the people are opposed. Ninety-six percent of public comments support roadless protections in the Tongass.
- I oppose any weakening of the Roadless Rule in the Tongass and will challenge the lifting of restrictions against logging at every turn. This forest is America’s largest national forest and one of the last coastal temperate rainforests left on our changing planet, an unmatched treasure that supports a unique way of life. With smart action now, we can manage it for future generations.
Follow these tips:
- Respond to an article in the paper. The best letters are those that are in response to an article that ran in the paper, and many papers require that you reference the specific article. Begin your letter by citing the original story by name, date and author. Some papers do occasionally print LTEs noting a lack of coverage on a specific issue — If this is the case, begin your LTE by stating your concern that the paper hasn't focused on this important issue.
- Follow the paper’s directions. Information on how and to whom to submit a letter-to-the-editor is usually found right on the letters page in your paper. Follow these guidelines to increase the likelihood that your letter will be printed.
- Share your expertise. If you have relevant qualifications to the topic you're addressing be sure to include that in your letter.
- Refer to the legislator or corporation you are trying to influence by name. If your letter includes a legislator’s name, in almost all cases staff will give him or her the letter to read personally.
- Write the letter in your own words. Editors want letters in their papers to be original. Feel free to use our messaging tips, but also take the time to write the letter in your own words.
- Keep your letter short, focused and interesting. In general, letters should be under 200 words — often 150 or less is best. Stay focused on one (or, at the most, two) main point(s) and get to the main point in the first two sentences. If possible, include interesting facts, relevant personal experience and any local connections to the issue. If your letter is longer than 200 words, it will likely be edited or not printed.
- Include your contact information. Be sure to include your name, address and a daytime phone number; the paper will contact you before printing your letter.
If you are interested in writing and submitting an LTE or have a question, contact Lois (at) AlaskaWild.org. If you send in an LTE, we'd love to hear about it so that we can keep an eye out for it. Or better yet, let us know when you get published!