Biden will restore protections to America's largest national forest.
Here is a new example illustrating the desire of the Biden administration to take the opposite direction from the policies led by Donald Trump. Last Thursday, US President Joe Biden decided to reverse the former president's decision to open significant areas of the largest national forest in the United States, the Tongass National Forest in Alaska, to logging. forestry and road development. The United States Department of Agriculture has also said it intends to end large-scale sales of antique wood in the region.
The forest was originally protected by the 2001 “No Road” Law, which prohibits logging and road development in parts of the country. But in the final months of his tenure, Trump exempted the forest from the rule. In a Thursday notice, the White House said the administration would seek to “repeal or replace” this exemption. A spokesperson for the US Department of Agriculture, which oversees the Forest Service, told the Washington Post in an email that "the Trump administration's decision on the 'Alaska No Roads' law was controversial and did not match the overwhelming majority of public opinion across the country and among the Alaskans ”.
Alaska officials, such as Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy, opposed the move, saying that by denying rights to the forest, the federal government is withholding Alaskan jobs. "The Forest Service has already conducted a thorough analysis and determined that an Alaska-specific exemption from a rule without a single road is fully justified," Dunleavy said in a statement, saying the decision is part of a effort to "permanently put Alaskan workers out of work and wipe out small businesses."
But conservationists are happy, noting that Tongass Forest is home to wolves, bears and salmon, as well as many ancient trees. “Communities in Southeast Alaska can breathe a little easier today knowing that the Tongass National Forest, and the livelihoods, local economies and wildlife that depend on it, will remain protected. President Biden's action to restore and strengthen safeguards for the Tongass is a victory for these communities and for our climate, ” said Sierra Club Alaska Chapter Director Andrea Feniger.
Although the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has said it plans to end large-scale sales of old wood from the forest, it will still allow small sales for community consumption and cultural items such as totem poles, canoes and tribal craft use. The USDA said in a statement it looks forward to "meaningful consultation with Alaska's tribal governments and indigenous societies, and engagement with local communities, partners and the state to prioritize management and investments in the region which reflect a holistic approach to the various values present in the region ”.
This is not the first time that the Biden administration has decided to restore environmental protections removed under Mr. Trump. Last month, Biden suspended Trump-era oil and gas drilling leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, reversing one of former President Donald Trump's end-of-term environmental decisions. The refuge is home to hundreds of thousands of polar bears, waterfowl and migrating caribou, and it is warming faster than any other region on Earth due to climate change.
By restoring protections to the Tongass Forest, the USDA wrote that the federal government "is restoring stability and certainty in the conservation of 9.3 million acres of the world's largest ancient temperate rainforest."