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Scientists urge stop to logging in the Tongass Rainforest
Seven of the nation's top scientific societies have joined over 200 distinguished climate and natural resource scientists to urge the Obama Administration to speed up its transition out of old-growth logging in the Tongass National Forest in southeast Alaska.
USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack announced in July 2013 that a transition out of old-growth logging and into logging second growth (forests originally logged in the 1950s that have since reforested) would commence over time. The Forest Service is amending the Tongass National Forest Land Management Plan, with a draft due this August. Unfortunately, the agency continues to support controversial old-growth sales at levels not seen since the early 1990s, despite independent analyses showing second growth will soon be available to replace old growth timber.
The scientific societies calling for an end to old-growth logging on the Tongass National Forest (the only national forest still clearcutting old growth) include the American Fisheries Society, American Ornithologists Union, American Society of Mammalogists, Ecological Society of America, Pacific Seabird Group, Society for Conservation Biology, and The Wildlife Society.
According to Dominick A. DellaSala, chief Scientist of Geos Institute, "Unprecedented scientific support for Tongass Rainforest protections is a signal to President Obama that there is no time to waste in ending old growth logging, which would be a defining moment for his climate and environmental legacies."
"Protecting old-growth forests on the Tongass is key to maintaining the productivity and resilience of the extraordinary fish and wildlife that have otherwise declined throughout their southern ranges in North America," said Grant Hilderbrand, president of the Alaska Chapter of the Wildlife Society.
The Tongass is a national repository for atmospheric carbon. Its large trees, productive soils, and dense foliage store at least ten times more carbon than any other national forest. When rainforests are logged, most of the stored carbon is released as carbon dioxide pollution, contributing to global warming in Alaska and worldwide. Alaska has been hit the hard by climate changes, including sharp reductions in snow-cover, shorter river- and lake-ice seasons, melting glaciers, sea-ice and permafrost retreat, increased depth of summer thaw, die-back of Alaska yellow cedar, and displacement of native Alaskan villages.
President Obama has made climate change remediation his signature environmental agenda. However, his administration has yet to link forest protections with climate security.
"We are calling on President Obama to keep carbon in the trees, much like we need to keep coal in the ground. Both are essential to slowing runaway climate change in Alaska and throughout the world for future generations," said Doug Parsons, North America Policy Director for the Society for Conservation Biology.
"Quickly transitioning the Tongass rainforest out of clearcutting old-growth forests would bring certainty to the timber industry and legacy rainforest benefits to the American people," added DellaSala.