As the Amazon rainforest burns, President Donald Trump is opening a rainforest right here in the United States corporate interests.
This week Trump ordered the U.S. Department of Agriculture to open Alaska’s Tongass National Forest for logging, energy, and mining projects. The Tongass National Forest is the world’s largest intact temperate rainforest.
As reported by the Washington Post, three people familiar with the issue said that the President made his decision after “privately discussing the matter with the state’s governor aboard Air Force One.”
The decision will undo logging restrictions that have been in place for almost two decades and will impact more than half of the national forest. President Bill Clinton put more than half of it off-limits shortly before leaving office in 2001 when he barred construction of roads on 58.7 acres.
Since then the forest has been a topic of debate among politicians. Some, like President Geroge W. Bush, who wanted to reverse Clinton’s policy, attempted to open up the forest for timber sales only to be blocked by federal courts. Alaskan Governor and Senator Lisa Murkowski have pressured Trump to make Alaska exempt from the “roadless rule,” which does not allow road construction except when the Forest service approves it and bars commercial logging.
“It should never have been applied to our state, and it is harming our ability to develop a sustainable, year-round economy for the Southeast region, where less than one percent of the land is privately held,” Murkowski said. “The timber industry has declined precipitously, and it is astonishing that the few remaining mills in our nation’s largest national forest have to constantly worry about running out of supply.”
“Trump’s decision to weigh in, at a time when Forest Service officials had planned much more modest changes to managing the agency’s single largest holding, revives a battle that the previous administration had aimed to settle,” reports the Post.
Environmental groups said that the move creates a danger to local wildlife and the region’s commercial, sport, and subsistence salmon fishing industry.
“They need to keep the trees standing in order to keep the fish in the creeks,” Chris Wood, president of the environmental group Trout Unlimited, said. “Returning salmon bring nutrients that sustain forest growth, while intact stands of trees keep streams cool and trap sediment,” stated the Post.
Cutting down the trees is also a blow to climate change. “The Tongass stores hundreds of millions, if not over a billion, tons of carbon, keeping the heat-trapping element out of the atmosphere,” wrote environmental group Earthjustice.