I think that Jeremy Elton Jacquot put it best, when he opened his article on TreeHugger the other day; “Any (admittedly dim) hopes that President Bush might choose to salvage his tattered – some might say non-existent – environmental credentials were dashed when his administration announced plans to open more than 3 million acres of Alaskan forests to logging, mining and road building.”
This article made its way before me yesterday from Digg, always a worrisome development. Naturally, as many environmental articles are finding on Digg of late, it received an “inaccuracy” warning. Normally these are placed there for, well, the obvious; for inaccurate stories. But now Diggers are finding that they can bury a story using the authors tone or commentary, if different from their own, as an “inaccuracy.” (For more on what I and others think of the anti-environmentalism on Digg, click here.)
According to an article over at The Guardian, a British site, the US government has announced that it will open up more than 3 million acres, or 5,000 square miles, of Alaskan forest to logging, mining and road building. One wonders why it took a British site to make this story so well known.
The forest in question is the Tongass National Forest, the largest national forest in the United States, measuring in at 17 million acres. Bush has subsequently and somewhat effectively just killed a fifth of that forest in one fell swoop.
The deal was approved by Denny Bschor, who serves as the Alaskan regional forester. He noted that it would sustain the diversity and health of the forest (!?) and provide livelihoods and subsistence for Alaskan residents. Even better, it is going to provide a source of recreation and solitude for forest visitors; WONDERFUL!
“What is significant in the amended plan is our commitment to the state of Alaska to provide an economic timber sale programme which will allow the current industry to stabilise, and for an integrated timber industry to become established,” he said.
Environmentalists are naturally upset at this, especially considering that the Tongass National Forest was originally on Bill Clinton’s “Roadless Rule.”
Robert Vandermark, manager of the Pew environment group’s heritage forests campaign, said: “In its final months, the Bush administration is attempting to give logging and mining industries the keys to the Tongass National Forest, the world’s largest intact temperate rainforest. Wild areas like the Tongass contain watersheds that provide clean drinking water, wildlife habitat and outstanding outdoor recreation opportunities that should be kept safe for generations to come.”
This decision is shown to be even more despicable by the knowledge that logging makes up only 1% of the region’s economy. This is worsened by the fact that, industries such as commercial fishing and tourism – both of which take more of the economy pie than timber does – will be hurt by this decision. Stabilizing the economy; I do not think so!
But there will always be those who decide that they are more important than those that will come after them. By which I mean, the Alaska Forest Association who believe that the deal has fallen short of its own needs; apparently needs to destroy more forest.
Owen Graham, the group’s executive director, said: “It is critical that the final plan allows our industry to survive. Survival means returning to a realistic timber supply level in south-east Alaska, not a continuation of the starvation level we have been struggling with for the last few years.”
Thankfully – for whom I don’t know – both sides will be able to take this to court if necessary and, given American’s penchant for a good courtroom drama – and especially a bad one – this is more than likely.
Never let me be accused of not giving the whole story though. The new plan does allow some protection; it puts aside 90,000 acres of old-growth reserve as off-limits to loggers, and protects another 47,000 acres of vulnerable limestone formations called karst lands.
Now, I’m not good with numbers, I’d be the first to say that if my friends didn’t all get in before me. So I turned to our money man, Ryan, who calculated the percentages for me. The total 137,000 acres totals only 3.4% of the acreage to be destroyed, and totals only .806% of the entirety of the forest. Yes, the government definitely deserves a round of applause for this decision.
Photo Courtesy of markcbrennan via Flickr