Letter to the Editor
Revving buzz saws are music to the ears of Interior Secretary Gale Norton and President Bush's ears. In its first major ruling on wilderness protection, the Bush administration has tentatively decided that a whole bunch of Alaska's Tongass Nation forest is just too valuable to be left alone.
The 17-million-acre Tongass stretches 500 miles along the state's rugged southeast coastline and is one of the largest remaining temperate rainforests on earth.
While 5.7 million acres have been protected by Congress as wilderness, the Clinton administration's 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule effectively saved an additional 9 million acres from being logged, mined, or scarred with roads.
Shortly after Bush was elected, his administration said it would review the roadless rule, and the forest service zeroed in on the Tongass. It took a suit from the Sierra Club and Earthjustice and a court order to make sure this review included the possibility of creating new Tongass wilderness.
When the Forest Service released its results, it submitted eight alternatives containing varying levels of protection but recommended one that called for no new wilderness. The Forest Service then solicited public comments. It got an earful.
The Associated Press reported that the logging town of Sitka, Alaska, 100 people showed up at a public hearing on the Tongass proposals and "not a single person testified in favor of road development or logging."
Strong pro-wilderness turnouts were also reported throughout southeast Alaska and Anchorage. Sierra Club members alone sent in 4,500 letters and postcards calling for permanent protection for 9 million acres of wildlands and old-growth forests.
Industrial-scale logging has already removed nearly 70 percent of magnificent giant hemlock, spruce, and cedar trees. But if the Potlatch Corp., Bush, and Norton get their way, more old growth may soon be coming to a paper-supply store near you.
Here are several reasons to protect our national forests. Recreation, hunting, and fishing produce 88 percent of the $145 billion generated by our national forests. Timber sales provide only 2.7 percent. And because taxpayer money is used to subsidize these sales, the logging program operates at a net loss.
National forests and grasslands contain 133,087 miles of trails; 4,418 miles of wild and scenic rivers; 4,300 campgrounds; 1,496 picnic sites; and 140 swimming areas. More than 2 million people visit them each year—and they don't come to see the clearcuts that will happen if Bush and Norton get their way with cutting down every tree they can get their greedy hands on. This includes the old-growth trees that have been around for hundreds of years.
Don't feel left out. The same thing could be coming to a forest area near and dear to you. How shortsighted and pathetic. And how typical George W. Bush.
Robert O. Blowers
Copyright © 2007 Hoosier Chapter Sierra Club, all rights reserved.[02/27/03]efp