If President Trump's decision to strip protections in Alaska's Tongass National Forest was little more than a troll — well, he got us. For environmentalists and climate science believers, the announcement Wednesday was received with about the same disbelief, horror, and revulsion as watching someone kick a kitten; the "lungs of the country," "America's Amazon," the "crown jewel" of the National Forest Service, now available for more than nine million acres of timber harvest, much of it old growth.
While Trump has touted his environmental record in his re-election campaign — by signing the Great American Outdoors Act and mispronouncing "Yosemite," among other things — his four years in office have been distinguished by what seems to be a personal vendetta against former President Barack Obama, including unsuccessfully trying to overturn his predecessor's offshore drilling ban in the Arctic and reducing the size of Bears Ears National Monument. But the Tongass decision in particular stands out as tragic foolishness, not only because it is one of the most extraordinary and precious swaths of land in the nation, but because there's no other even plausibly defensible rationale for the move.
Home to ancient and threatened Alaska yellow cedars, the fascinating Alexander Archipelago wolves, all five species of salmon, some 10,000 bald eagles, and the eerily beautiful spirit bear, the Tongass is the largest temperate rainforest in the world, a carbon sink that stores "the equivalent of about 8 percent of the carbon stored in all the forests of the lower 48 states combined," The New York Times reports. The Trump administration has been attempting to open the forest up to logging for years now, to much outcry — including my own — while ostensibly helping local politicians who say the timber would help the state's economy.
But timber accounts for just 1 percent of the regional employment, The Washington Post reports. Keeping the Tongass wild and untapped might actually help the economy more, with fishing and tourism accounting for 26 percent of the jobs in the area. In fact, 96 percent of comments during the U.S. Forest Service's review of the plan opposed opening the forest up; likewise, all five Alaska Native tribal nations withdrew from cooperating earlier this month, citing a refusal to "endow legitimacy upon a process that has disregarded our input at every turn." And as Ken Rait, the project director of the nonprofit Pew Charitable Trusts, told The Guardian, "between taxpayer expenses and the fact that the majority of logs cut on the Tongass will be exported to China and other Pacific Rim nations, [Wednesday's] decision isn't going to have robust economic benefits to anyone in this country."
Short of any material justification, the Tongass decision is, in effect, destroying the planet to own the libs. Good luck with that.