Lobbying for Roadless Rainforest in Washington DC

“Our public lands - whether a national park or monument, wildlife refuge, forest or prairie - make each one of us land-rich. It is our inheritance as citizens of a country called America.”

- Terry Tempest Williams

My parents had moved to Prince of Wales in the midst of the logging boom, and as they were working to build a lifestyle of commercial fishing and remote living, the Tongass was falling around them. It became part of the culture of my family to advocate for the Tongass, a place wilder than my parents could’ve ever imagined possible from their childhoods in suburbs of Cleveland and Oakland.

My parents had moved to Prince of Wales in the midst of the logging boom, and as they were working to build a lifestyle of commercial fishing and remote living, the Tongass was falling around them. It became part of the culture of my family to advocate for the Tongass, a place wilder than my parents could’ve ever imagined possible from their childhoods in suburbs of Cleveland and Oakland.

I spent my tenth birthday on an Amtrak train traveling across the country with my family. We were headed to Washington DC to lobby for the inclusion of the Tongass National Forest in the Roadless Rule. It was the first time I had been to the East Coast, and one of the first times I’d ever left Southeast Alaska.

I was a ‘bush’ kid, - meaning that I grew up in the woods, and was more comfortable hauling firewood and cleaning salmon than combing my hair and putting on dress shoes. In DC, I felt a bit like a messenger from an alien planet, carrying word of expansive wild places, clean flowing creeks, rowdy salmon and bears bigger than secret service SUVs. 

Nineteen years later, I returned to Washington DC to once again lobby for the Roadless Rule. I made the journey with a group of Southeast Alaskans to drum up support for legislation recently introduced by Senator Maria Cantrell and Representative Gallego, the legislation would  permanently protect nearly 60 million acres of wild public forests by making the Roadless Rule permanent law.

IMG_20190401_220706_880.jpg

It’s easy for me to advocate for the Tongass, because it’s so simple. A big part of the equation for me is salmon. I’ve fished for salmon every summer of my life. Some of the most foundational summers of my adult life were spent trolling solo in Southeast Alaska, swinging fat silver salmon aboard my little boat and exploring the remote anchorages along the hundreds of miles of rainforest coastline.

Salmon streams are the arteries of the Tongass, and as a fisherman it’s obvious to me that we need watershed scale protections for salmon habitat. This is especially important in an era of climate change, the resilience of wild stocks of salmon is dependent on all of the salmon streams that run through the Tongass islands, and the Roadless Rule is one of the best protections we have for those watersheds. 

Language from Cantwell’s press release:  “The Roadless Area Conservation Act of 2019 would codify the 2001 Roadless Rule, which limits costly roadbuilding and destructive logging on roadless landscapes across the National Forest System in order to protect hunting and fishing opportunities, provide critical habitat for 1,600 threatened or endangered species, lessen wildland fire risk, and supply clean drinking water to millions of Americans in 39 states and more than 350 communities across the United States.” 

Most people in Southeast Alaska are in favor of the Roadless Rule; and we turned out strong during the scoping period for the Trump Administration’s proposed changes to the Roadless Rule. The rule is working well for Southeast Alaskans, and making it law would relieve our communities from having to continually rehash this issue whenever a pro-development administration decides to try to revitalize the long dead Southeast Alaskan timber industry.

In just a couple weeks the Last Stands team will be on Prince of Wales, exploring designated roadless areas on my home island. Unroaded forest on Prince of Wales provides habitat and wildlife corridors on an island that’s ecologically fragile after decades of clearcut logging, the Roadless Rule is a lifeline for Prince of Wales. We’re excited to share this place with you. Please follow along!