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Tongass National Forest: The Alaska Roadless Rule is Repealed

Why is it important to protect the Tongass National Forest in Alaska, and how will the newly reinstated Roadless Rule help to preserve the forest’s surrounding wildlife and biodiversity?
Ecology News

With climate change and continuous deforestation, it has become increasingly difficult to care for surrounding forests and green belts, such as the Tongass National Forest in Alaska. Excessive greenhouse gasses and the continuous cutting down of trees for new urbanization and industrialization tactics leave places like the Tongass National Forest vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

How does the new roadless rule being repealed in Alaska help to preserve and protect the Tongass National Forest from future environmental harm?

What is the Tongass National Forest?

The Tongass National Forest is the biggest national forest in the U.S. –  home to 17 million acres of land and around 70,000 residents. The Tongass National Forest consists mostly of islands with trees and heavy amounts of rain, resorting to many referring to the Tongass National Forest as a rainforest.

The largest national forest in the U.S. is also home to pivotal biodiversity, such as various wildlife including bears and eagles, other species of birds, and fish. Seeing as the Tongass National Forest is home to so many animals, most roads within the national park require deer crossing signs – further demonstrating how the Tongass National Forest is a place where nature precedes all other values and requires respect and understanding of visitors. 

However, the most notable asset of the Tongass National Forest is the scenery, with almost 2 million people visiting the national forest between 2006 and 2007.

teal blue lake with reflection of mountains

Those who work at the Tongass National Forest strive to create a balance for those resorting to using resources provided by the forest itself. For instance, many may seek the use of the Tongass National Forest for fish, clean water, trees, and escapism in nature. In other words, the Tongass National Forest  remains a place in Alaska that many wish to commercialize with logging and hotels in order to boost tourism for financial revenue. However, turning the Tongass National Forest into a resort and popular vacation destination would have catastrophic repercussions on the surrounding forest area and biodiversity.

What is the Roadless Rule in Alaska?

The Roadless Rule, initially proposed back in 2001 before being eschewed by the Trump administration in 2020 – was a rule established in the state of Alaska to protect national forests in the state by banning activities such as road construction, timber harvesting, and urbanization development in these areas. The Roadless Rule gets its name from the fact that these areas are essentially, “roadless” – buried deep within the forest and nature, and that these areas make up roughly a third of national forest land in Alaska. 

In July of 2022, the House voted to provide permanent protection to areas such as the Tongass National Forest, building off of the initial 2001 Roadless Rule that had never been passed until now. 

The Roadless Rule has been sitting on Congress’s desk for almost two decades – meaning the official passing of the Roadless Rule marks a victory for places like the Tongass National Forest in dire need of permanent environmental protection. However, this also means that the Roadless Rule remains sensitive to presidential administrations in the future which may not be as dedicated towards fighting against climate change as the Biden administration has shown to be. However, the new vote is still a big leap in protecting forest land such as the Tongass National Forest from future environmental distress.

deer crossing in forest

How will the Roadless Rule help to protect the Tongass National Forest?

The most notable benefit of the Roadless Rule is that it will prevent people from searching for loopholes to build logging or develop forest areas, which has remained a roadblock in the success of legislation aimed at protecting forest areas in the past. 

Specifically, the newly reinstated Roadless Rule will help to protect trees in the Tongass National Forest: such as cedar, hemlock and spruce trees that are more than 800 years old and help provide shelter to the wildlife that dwells in the Tongass National Forest. Therefore, the Roadless Rule will not only provide direct protection to the trees of Tongass National Forest, but also to the wildlife – including eagles and bears, where the Tongass National Forest is home to the world’s densest population of black bears. 

In addition to protecting the biodiversity of the Tongass National Forest, it is important to note that the trees in the Tongass National Forest can help to fight against climate change – as trees help to absorb excessive carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. In fact, there are so many trees in the Tongass National Forest, they account for a tenth of carbon dioxide absorbed by trees in national forests across the United States.

Why is it important to preserve the Tongass National Forest?

The Tongass National Forest is well worth protecting for several reasons. For starters, one of the most important reasons safeguarding the Tongass National Forest is important is because of its ability to help aboard excess carbon dioxide in the air – something the U.S. needs a lot of help with given they’re still the second largest emitting country in the world. 

The problem in the debate to preserve the Tongass National Forest, is that many view the area as an economic opportunity – given the Tongass National forest is often referred to as the Amazon of North America, bearing many rare minerals which have convinced many governmental leaders that the area should be used to create jobs in tourism and mining to help with unemployment rates and Alaska’s economy. 

However, saving the Tongass National Forest goes beyond its property to help combat climate change – and could prove more beneficial than turning it into a vacation destination. For instance, many who view the Tongass National Forest as an economic opportunity are indeed correct – but that can remain the case without cutting down trees and building new logging in the area, such as through the abundant amount of salmon present in the waters of Tongass National Forest. If deforestation and urbanization are to take over, biodiversity in the forest would suffer – and would compromise the copious amount of salmon produced in the rivers and streams of the Tongass forest. Therefore, fighting for the preservation of Tongass National Forest could both aid in the fight against climate change and provide economic benefits to Alaska.

fancy salmon dish

In addition to these economic benefits while preserving the environment, the Tongass National Forest is important to many indigenous communities. In fact, tens of thousands of people still live in the surrounding areas of Tongass National Forest – meaning that without the Roadless Rule, many of the settlements established by those indigenous people would be in danger. 

The Tongass National Forest also provides clean drinking water, meaning if many of those watersheds are to be compromised with industrial intervention for lodgment building or urbanization – then much of southeast Alaska would be left with a depleted resource for safe drinking water. 

Does the Alaskan government understand the benefits of the Roadless Rule for the Tongass National Forest and residents of Alaska?

Does the state of Alaska support the Roadless rule to protect the Tongass National forest? 

The Biden administration is all for the roadless rule, but some Republicans in the state of Alaska have claimed the rule to become a massive obstacle in the state achieving future economic success. In fact, Republican Senator Dan Sullivanhe has conveyed that he is ready to prevent the president’s future nominees in order to express his dismay with the Roadless Rule. This is because senators like Dan Sullivanhe want to use the Tongass National Forest to create jobs for Alaskans, and view the Roadless Rule as a deterrent to accomplishing this. 

However, the Biden administration remains adamant in coming to an agreement with Alaska in order to protect the Tongass National Forest and ensure it remains a part of the collective effort for the Biden Administration and the country as a whole to meet their new, more ambitious climate targets. 

Still, this doesn’t mean that the rest of Alaskan’s are happy with the Roadless Rule. The governor of Alaska is also dissatisfied with the Roadless rule, pontificating his belief that the prevention of construction in the Tongass National Forest impedes the ability for economic development in the area. To much of the Alaskan government, the Roadless Rule is seen as nothing more than a nuisance to achieving economic success, as many in the Alaskan government view the Tongass National Forest as something to utilize for jobs such as those in the tourism sector and a source of renewable energy. 

Alaska has gone to the extent of recruiting the help of attorney Jim Clark, who has assisted state officials in Alaska to keep the Tongass National Forest from falling subject to the requirements of the Roadless Rule. Currently, the Tongass National Forest must adhere to the repealed Roadless Rule as a part of the Biden administration's effort to protect the environment and reduce emissions.

view of snowy mountains and rocks near blue water

How else has the Biden Administration implemented legislation to protect the environment?

The repeal of the Roadless Rule to protect the Tongass National Forest isn’t the only environmental effort made by the Biden administration lately, but rather another success on a long list of recent climate-change measures being passed. The newly imposed Roadless Rule will help prevent the need for reforestation in Tongass National Forest by mitigating the ability to build new logging or roads in the area. 

How else is the Biden administrating demonstrating their climate efforts? 

There are many ways the Biden administration has been putting their best environmental foot forward. For instance, the Biden administration is likely to have to step in and impose reduction measures on the Colorado River – which will help to preserve clean water sources. Better known, the Biden administration passed the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, which allocates a whopping $369 billion dollars towards the transition to clean energy and encouraging Amercians to purchase energy efficient or more eco-friendly products, cars, and household appliances. 

The Roadless Rule to preserve the Tongass National Forest isn’t favored by everyone, but it is very reminiscent of the ideals behind climate smart farming – the rewards each party desires can be achieved, but only if we choose to work with the land instead of against it. If everyone gets on board with conserving the Tongass National Forest, there will be plenty of environmental and economic benefits to go around.

What about Greenly? 

If reading this article on the Tongass National Forest in Alaska and the new Roadless Rule being appealed has made you interested in reducing your carbon emissions to further fight against climate change – Greenly can help you!

If you’re looking for carbon offsetting projects that can help to protect forest areas such as the Tongass National Forest from deforestation or environmental harm, Greenly has an entire marketplace to help you find the perfect carbon offsetting project – to both offset your own emissions and protect forestland. 

Greenly can help you make an environmental change for the better, starting with a carbon footprint assessment to know how much carbon emissions your company produces.

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