USDA moving ahead with restoration of conservation safeguards in Southeast Alaska
The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership celebrated the next step in the U.S. Forest Service’s plan to implement a proposed new management approach for 9.2 million acres of public land in the Tongass National Forest. As one of the final moves toward restoring conservation safeguards to undeveloped forest lands and watersheds in Southeast Alaska, the Forest Service is slated to launch a 60-day public comment period on Nov. 23.
Reinstating the Roadless Rule on the Tongass is one component of the Southeast Alaska Sustainability Strategy, unveiled by the U.S. Department of Agriculture earlier this year, which prioritizes the region’s biggest economic engines, local values, and overwhelming public opinion. The restoration of these conservation safeguards was one of TRCP’s top ten priorities for the Biden Administration.
“Hunters and anglers are some of the most outspoken supporters of the Tongass National Forest because they understand the importance of these lands to Southeast Alaska’s economy, culture, and world-renowned fish and wildlife,” said Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “Last year’s rollback of conservation safeguards for these public lands flew in the face of overwhelming public opposition, and we appreciate the USDA’s willingness to reverse that decision while also prioritizing more sustainable forest management practices that will result in healthier habitats, improved recreational opportunities, and more resilient communities.”
Pairing the restoration of conservation safeguards with new, robust investments in the region’s economic development, the USDA’s July 2021 proposal was welcomed by local communities and various stakeholders as a balanced solution that promises a sustainable future for a region widely regarded as some of the richest fish and wildlife habitat in Alaska. Among other things, USDA’s new strategy will reverse of one of last year’s biggest conservation setbacks and ensure that the Tongass National Forest will remain an iconic hunting and fishing destination.
“Right now, hunters and anglers have an opportunity to ensure that public lands in Southeast Alaska are managed according to a durable, balanced, and community-focused framework,” said Jen Leahy, Alaska field representative for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “It is critical that members of the sporting community—as well as every American who understands the value of the Tongass—speak up in support of restoring conservation safeguards to Southeast Alaska’s remaining undeveloped fish and wildlife habitat.”
Click here to learn more about the impact of the Roadless Rule on habitat in the Tongass.
Photo: Ben Matthews