Trump Administration Explores Opening Alaskan Rainforest to Logging

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Trump Administration Explores Opening Alaskan Rainforest to Logging
President Trump is pushing his agriculture secretary to lift Clinton-era restrictions on logging in the Tongass National Forest.
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The Tongass National Forest in Alaska spans nearly 17 million acres, and its wilderness of old-growth cedar, spruce and hemlock trees makes up the world's largest temperate rainforest. 

President Trump is pushing his agriculture secretary to lift logging restrictions in this cool-temperature preserve. His move comes as fires in Brazil's tropical Amazon rainforest stoke global climate concerns.

In 2001, President Clinton banned timber cutting in more than half of the Tongass forest, promising to "protect water quality and biodiversity and ensure that much of America's last, best wildland is preserved for future generations."

The Washington Post reports that President Trump ordered Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to exempt the Tongass from restrictions that ban logging in vast, roadless areas of national forests.

Trump's request came after a personal appeal on Air Force One from Alaska's Republican  governor, Mike Dunleavy.

And in a statement, GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski said the Clinton-era "roadless" restriction on logging harms Alaska's economy and "should never have been applied to our state."

She 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." 

Environmentalists have long fought expanded logging in the Tongass' coastal preserve. The Sierra Club says it's home to "an astonishing breadth of wildlife: brown bears, bald eagles, humpback whale and sea lions."

The organization said: "For years, Alaska elected officials and Big Timber-backed allies have tried to get their paws — and saws —on the Tongass. Now, this threat looms larger than ever."

Previously, President George W. Bush opened up some timber properties there for logging. But environmentalists sued, and a federal appeals court blocked the logging plan in 2005.