Saving a National Forest
Nicknamed America’s “Amazon,” the Tongass National Forest is one of the largest intact temperate rainforests in the world. The Southeast Alaskan 17 million acre forest is home to the world’s greatest concentration of black bears, as well as over 400 other species of wildlife. The forest is undoubtedly a habitat that should be protected at all costs, for the wildlife living there, and the overall planet. However, during Trump’s time in office, he risked the well-being of several public lands for the sake of corporate profit. And, unfortunately, the Tongass National Forest was no exception.
In October 2020, Trump announced a rollback of protections of the forest, opening 9.3 million acres of forest up for mining and logging. The move became one of Trump’s biggest public lands rollbacks, and alarmed environmentalists, as well as Alaskan Native tribal nations. Despite 96% of comments made during the environmental review opposing the decision, Trump’s administration barreled ahead.
That’s why we took action to protect the forest that has been referred to as the ‘lungs of North America.’ More than 111,000 Friends of the Earth members demanded that the Forest Service permanently protect our National Forests from corporations that care about nothing but profits.
And our efforts paid off — following a great deal of grassroots pressure, President Biden announced that protections over the delicate rainforest would be restored!
This is a giant deal when it comes to protecting our environment and climate. Forests like Tongass serve as nature’s most powerful combatants to climate change. They absorb as much as 30% of the world’s carbon emissions. And, with trees dating back over 800 years, this preservation is far more valuable than filling the pockets of mining and lodging companies.
Trump’s move to strip protections of parts of the Tongass National Forest not only put the well-being of our atmosphere at risk, but also infringed on the home Native Americans who have inhabited the forest. The forest has been central to the identity of the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian people for over 10,000 years.
Unfortunately, their best interests were not top of mind for the Trump administration. Nor was the protection of the numerous species — including mooses, wild Pacific salmon and trout that inhabit Tongass. The forest is also home to the largest known concentration of bald eagles, the emblem of our nation.
This victory would not have been possible without the tireless efforts of our members who refused to let corporate greed destroy an ancient National Forest. But, with deforestation and conversion of land accounting for nearly a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions, our work to protect forests is far from over.