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01/05/2010

Sierra Club Takes Next Step to Protect Tongass Roadless Areas

Late last December, a diverse coalition of environmental groups, members of the tourism industry, and Alaska Native groups filed a lawsuit to protect roadless areas in Alaska's Tongass National Forest.  The Tongass, America's largest national forest, was temporarily and arbitrarily exempted from protection under the national Roadless Rule in 2003 by the Bush administration.  Unfortunately, the Tongass exemption still exists today and exemplary roadless areas within it still have no protections.

  Tongass2 

Photography copyrighted: John Hyde, Wild Things Photography

The forests of the Tongass provide critical habitat for wildlife, maintain clean freshwater for Alaskan communities, and store enormous amounts of carbon dioxide.  Much of the forest is old-growth, the final stage of forest development and the one with the greatest carbon storage potential.  Additionally, the Tongass is the largest intact temperate rainforest ecosystem on the planet.  Protecting the roadless areas in the Tongass is the single most effective way to keep that ecosystem intact and allow it to adapt to a warming world while helping to combat climate change.

The lawsuit filed in December alleges that the 2003 exemption of the Tongass from the Roadless Rule was illegally adopted.  The Sierra Club, along with a wide variety of other organizations, is represented in the case by Earthjustice and the Natual Resources Defense Council.

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