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Biden reinstates logging ban in America’s largest national forest

The Biden administration on Wednesday followed through on its pledge to ban commercial logging and other development on more than 9 million acres of Alaska’s Tongass National Forest, the nation’s largest national forest.

The move reverses a Trump administration rule that gutted safeguards for the world’s largest intact temperate rainforest.

In a statement announcing the new rule, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Tongass “is key to conserving biodiversity and addressing the climate crisis”.

“Restoring roadless protections listens to the voices of the tribal nations and people of Southeast Alaska while recognizing the importance of fishing and tourism to the region’s economy.”

This announcement is the latest in a decades-long tussle over the region’s future.

President Theodore Roosevelt established Tongass as a protected national forest in 1907 and later expanded it to its current footprint of 16.7 million acres. In 2001, President Bill Clinton signed into law the “No Road Rule”, which banned road building and timber harvesting on 58.5 million acres of national forest land, including more than 9 million acres of Tongass .

The Trump administration exempted Tongass from the no-road rule in 2020, lifting Clinton-era logging restrictions on 9.3 million acres and reclassifying 188,000 acres, including 168,000 acres of old growth timber, as immediately usable for harvesting.

Often referred to as “the American Amazon,” the Tongass sequesters about 8% of the total carbon sequestered in forests in the lower 48 states, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and an astonishing 44% of all carbon stored in national forests. across the United States. And there is growing recognition that saving the forest will be essential in the fight against global climate change and species loss.

Environmental groups cheered Wednesday’s announcement while Republicans and lumber interests accused the Biden administration of withholding state resources.

Andy Moderow of the Alaska Wilderness League said the decision “recognizes that the future of Southeast Alaska is rooted in sustainable forest use” and “puts public lands and people first” .

Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy (right) called it a “huge loss for Alaskans”.

“Alaskans deserve access to the resources Tongass provides — jobs, renewable energy resources and tourism, not a government plan that treats humans in a working forest like an invasive species,” Dunleavy said. in a press release.

The Huffington Gt

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