Giving away the Tongass: A very bad idea

By: Alaska Program Staff

Anyone who understands the value of public lands to hunters, anglers and other outdoor recreationists, and the fundamental role public lands play in many of our lives has cause for concern. Today we’re writing to highlight just one of the threats to our public lands. ​

Introducing the State National Forest Management Act of 2017 (H.R. 232):

This ill-conceived proposal would allow individual states to receive up to 2 million acres of federal land. In Alaska, this means that 2 million acres of the most productive and important areas of the Tongass would transfer to the State of Alaska for intense timber and mining development. With this change in ownership, fish and wildlife would take a backseat so the state could exploit the land free from important federal fish and wildlife protections or sell it off to private owners. The conservation measures and protections we have worked on together for fish and wildlife habitat—such as the requirement for 100-foot stream buffers, environmental review and public notice—would no longer apply, and future public access would not be guaranteed.

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Photo by Earl Harper

The lands open for transfer under the proposal could come from congressionally-designated wild lands, Roadless Areas, or nearly any other area outside of Wilderness, National Monuments, or National Park System lands. As if this weren’t egregious enough, under the bill there would be no opportunity for comprehensive environmental review, and the public would NOT be allowed to participate or have a say in the selection and transfer process.

To address this and other such attacks, we are collecting signatures from anyone who values conservation of, and continued access to, our valuable public lands in the Tongass National Forest. We delivered the first batch of signatures to our Alaska Senators and Congressman in February, and will continue to do so throughout the spring and summer. If you’d like to review our list or add your name, you may do so here. ​

If you think HR 232 sounds like a very, very bad idea please click here to add your name to our sign-on letter.

Among the areas targeted for transfer are some of the most productive and important salmon and steelhead streams in Southeast Alaska—including the Situk River and large chunks of Prince of Wales Island. These areas would be handed over to the state to be logged or further sold off to private interests with no guarantee for future public access or important federal protections for fish and wildlife. (See map below)

Please add your name to our Public Lands Sign-On Letter in support of conserving our public lands and the fish and wildlife resources they support.

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Efforts underway in Congress to transfer or privatize our federal public lands are an all-out attack on our fish and wildlife heritage and hit especially hard on our nation’s largest and greatest national forest, the Tongass. Southeast Alaska’s Tongass National Forest is one of the last remaining temperate rainforests in the world where ancient Sitka spruce and cedar forests are home to abundant runs of all five species of North American Pacific salmon, steelhead, cutthroat trout, Dolly Varden, and wildlife like grizzly and black bears, Sitka black-tailed deer, wolves, and bald eagles – just to name a few!

If passed, this bill would carve off large swaths of the Tongass for special interests, block off public access and promote destructive and unsustainable logging that will cause untold harm to the region’s important fish and wildlife resources. Fishing and tourism, which are Southeast Alaska’s largest sources of private-sector employment and account for roughly 25% of regional employment, would be cast aside in favor of outdated logging practices that provide minimal employment while costing taxpayers many millions of dollars annually.

Today, more than ever, is the time to speak up and make sure your elected officials hear your voice. Add your name today.

By Jenny Weis.