Nature and Environments: Writer Katie Byng-Hall Sheds Light On Trumps Controversial Plans For Alaskas Natural Treasure
Photo by Christina
Donald Trump has ordered the US Department of Agriculture to open up a significant portion of the Tongass Rainforest in Alaska to potential logging, mining, and other corporate ventures.
5.7 million acres of the National Forest, which is 16.7 million acres in total, has been designated a protected wilderness since 2016, but Trump’s plans could threaten up to 9.5 million of the remaining acres of trees.
Tongass, the world’s largest temperate rainforest, was first designated a National Forest by Roosevelt in 1902, and now spans 500 miles across Southeast Alaska. The forest is home to 70,000 people, as well as many endangered species including black and brown bears, Sitka black-tailed deer, and Northern Goshawks. The area has been protected by logging restrictions for 20 years, but Trump seems eager to undo this for the sake of yet more commercial ventures.
In 2001, just before leaving office, Bill Clinton instigated the “roadless rule” in Alaska, meaning 58.5 million acres of forest were blocked off from being felled to make way for the construction of roads.
Since a 2016 study found that 962,000 acres of the Tongass’ trees would be suitable for commercial timber, Trump has been intent on reversing Clinton’s legislation.
He has labelled these new plans as his version of “forest management”, although it would be more accurately described by many as ‘forest destruction’.
It’s not just the Tongass which Trump is targeting. As it stands, 80% of public land in Alaska is currently set aside for public use. However, Trump wants to change this, and offer up 28.3m acres of the state’s public land to commercial redevelopment.
These proposals bear a startling similarity to Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s approach to his country’s native Amazon Rainforest. His purely capitalist stance on the rainforest, which has been exposed to the world as a result of the devastating fires earlier this year, means he actively encourages loggers and farmers to clear trees from the Amazon.
Despite collective rage about this from across the world, Trump appears to want to emulate Bolsonaro’s policy. His plans haven’t been confirmed yet. In September, the US District Court for the District of Alaska placed a preliminary injunction on the proposed logging of 42,500 acres in the Tongass as they stated that the operation would cause irreparable damage to the area. The court additionally prohibited the opening of any bids or awarding of any contracts related to logging in Tongass.
However, the United States Forest Service has announced plans to open up sales of 2.2 million acres of the forest in March for logging and road construction, a move which might not be stopped. If this goes ahead, it could spell the beginning of a very slippery slope which sees Trump and big business people get their way, but only at the severe detriment of even more of the Earth’s rainforest.
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