Environmentalists say allowing road construction – a first step towards logging – could devastate the vast wilderness of snow-capped peaks, tumultuous rivers and ancient virgin forests that are widely considered one of America’s treasures. .
Climate scientists also point out that Tongass provides an important service to the billions of people around the planet who will probably never set foot there: it is one of the largest carbon sinks in the world, storing the equivalent of about 8% of the carbon stored. in all the forests of the 48 lower states combined.
It is not clear whether the Biden administration would restore protections to all of the forest’s 9 million acres, or just part of it. The White House agenda document says the federal government will officially release a notice of proposed rulemaking by August, with environmental scans and a final decision to follow in the years to come.
In a 2019 draft environmental study on possible changes to Tongass protections, the U.S. Forest Service said it would consider six possible rule changes. One option would have maintained restrictions in 80 percent of the area currently protected by the rule; another would have opened about 2.3 million acres for logging and construction.