As many of you know, I have been a staunch critic of President Trump’s anti-environmental policies from relaxing pollution standards to abandoning climate change efforts. This includes this week methane rollbacks that are so severe and dangerous that even industry is objecting. However, I remain astonished by the scope and depth of these harmful policies. The latest is a move to remove logging restrictions on one of the most pristine and unique national parks: the Tongass National Forest, the largest national forest with some 16.7 million acres. It was always viewed as a park to preserve undisturbed and natural areas from developers, miners and other businesses. Trump is about to change all that and, for those of us who love our national parks, it is an utter disgrace. At a time when our national parks are being crowded from rising demand, Trump is not only not adding any park land but plans to allow existing park areas to be cut down in a giveaway to private interests.
There has been a 20-year-old set of restrictions on logging at Tongass National Forest in Alaska. It was part of a “roadless rule” that stopped the introduction of roads and logging in such areas. The Roadless Area Conservation Rule of 2001 barred road construction, road reconstruction, and timber harvest on 58.5 million acres.
According to the The Washington Post, President Donald Trump directed Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to lift these restrictions at Tongass. It is not clear what interests succeeded in getting the intervention of the President.
It would open up half of the parts to logging.
Having just returned from hiking in Alaska, it is astonishing to me how short-sighted these environmental rollbacks are for the Alaskan delegation (which has extremely poor votings records on protecting parks and natural areas). Logging supports only one percent of the state’s workforce. Conversely, Alaska makes huge amounts from environmental tourism. The delegation however wants to cut down the very forests that are pulling millions of tourists to the state.