235 Scientists tell the Forest Service to put the brakes on Tongass Roadless Area logging and development

tongass roadlessContact: Dr. Dominick DellaSala (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; 541-621-7223)

Ashland, Oregon – over two hundred of the nation’s top conservation and natural resource scientists called on the Forest Service to suspend its efforts to rollback popular roadless area protections on over 9 million-acres of the nation’s most intact temperate rainforest in Alaska.

Considered the crown jewel of the national forest system, the 16.8 million-acre Tongass National Forest in southeast Alaska contains thousands of near shore islands, spectacular glaciated mountains, and towering spruce-hemlock forests. Roadless areas (>5,000-acre areas lacking development) are the ecological foundation to some of the world’s most prolific salmon runs that support fish-eating bears, eagles, and wolves along with a vibrant outdoor and recreation economy that supports far more jobs and generates more money for local communities than the region’s extraction industries. Tongass old-growth forests, which the Forest Service intends to log, store more carbon than any forest in the nation, which is key to Alaska’s ability to prepare for unprecedented climate change already well underway.

According to Dominick A. DellaSala, Chief Scientist, Geos Institute in Ashland, Oregon, and editor/author of Temperate and Boreal Forests of the World: Ecology and Conservation, “Forest Service would best serve the public by shifting timber supply to young forests where a wall-of-wood will soon be ready to support the timber industry, instead of a wall-of-opposition from the public concerned about the fate of rainforests.”

The Roadless Conservation Rule (2001) protects over 50 million acres of the nation’s last intact landscapes. At the time, over 1 million Americans provided comments in support of this landmark conservation achievement, including hundreds of scientists that wanted Tongass roadless areas to have national protections. The Tongass is unique in containing over 9 million roadless acres, which is over half this national forest and ~19% of the national total.

Retired Alaskan wildlife biologist, Matt Kirchhoff, noted “ancient cedars will be cut down and exported to the Far East, and ironically, the US Taxpayer will pay for it. It’s time to stop the madness. Protect the still intact roadless areas in America’s only temperate rainforest.”

Retired Alaskan wildlife ecologist and co-editor/author of North Pacific Temperate Rainforests, John Schoen added “the consensus of scientists, including two former Forest Service Chiefs (Mike Dombeck, Jack Ward Thomas) is the nation’s remaining old growth should be protected from developments. Excluding the Tongass from the national roadless protections will have an irreversible consequence to the vibrant fish and wildlife populations that depend on these areas in America’s largest national forest.”

The Forest Service is taking public comments, which closes October 15, and has a website with details on the Alaska proposal.

Media Coverage

223 international scientists call for urgent action to protect British Columbia’s endangered temperate rainforests

For Immediate Release June 28, 2018

Contacts: Dr. Dominick A. DellaSala, President, Chief Scientist, Geos Institute,  Ashland, Oregon, Cell 541-621-7223 | Dr. Barbara Zimmerman, Director, International Conservation Fund Canada, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. | Dr. Andy MacKinnon, BC Forest Ecologist, Cell 250-889-6453

Ashland, OR —The Government of British Columbia must take urgent and immediate action to protect the globally unique ecological values of BC’s remaining primary and intact coastal and inland temperate rainforest, say 223 prominent scientists from around the world in a letter released today.

The scientists specifically call for action to protect temperate rainforests along BC’s south coast and Vancouver Island, and inland rainforests on the windward side of the Columbia and Rocky Mountains, all of which remain at risk with insufficient conservation.

The letter was organized by Dr. Dominick DellaSala, chief scientist at the Geos Institute in Ashland, Oregon and author of Temperate and Boreal Rainforests of the World: Ecology and Conservation (Island Press). According to DellaSala, “BC’s temperate rainforests are globally rare, they offer habitat for many imperiled species and globally the vast majority of these unique rainforests has already been logged. Protection of remaining intact tracts of these carbon-rich, climate saving forests is a global responsibility and can help Canada to contribute to the 2020 UN biodiversity targets and the Paris Climate Agreement.” Recently, the ninth largest Douglas-fir in Canada was cut down in the Nahmint Valley near Port Alberni. The tree, which was 66 metres tall and three metres in diameter, was in an old-growth cut block auctioned off by the BC government. 

Temperate rainforests are rare, constituting just 2.5 per cent of the earth’s forests. British Columbia is home to one quarter of that total and BC’s inland rainforests are one of only two such areas worldwide.

“It is hard to overstate the cultural significance of these rainforests to the Indigenous peoples who have inhabited this part of the world for millennia,” said Dr. Barbara Zimmerman, Director of the International Conservation Fund Canada. “Their loss would be an enormous blow to all Canadians and all people of the world. Destruction of the last remnants of ancient old-growth forest with their magnificent trees and complex web of life is a rapidly unfolding tragedy and the vast majority of Canadians are unaware that it is even happening.”

According to recent estimates by Sierra Club BC, logging of old-growth temperate rainforest is currently destroying 10,000 hectares per year on Vancouver Island—the equivalent of two soccer fields per hour, 24 hours per day. Productive old-growth rainforests in lower elevations have been reduced to less than 10 per cent of their original extent. Plants and animals that depend on these rainforests are not just losing habitat, but also are suffering climate change impacts such as extended droughts, extreme rainfall and severe storms, threatening to push ecosystems to limits. Similar losses are occurring in the inland rainforest region where logging of old-growth rainforest has been extensive and is contributing to the demise of mountain caribou.

“BC has inspired the world with conservation solutions in Haida Gwaii and the Great Bear Rainforest. The province should take similar action to safeguard what remains of these globally outstanding ancient forests in other parts of the province,” said BC forest ecologist Andy MacKinnon. “The provincial government should follow through on its promise and take action for old-growth conservation using the same model and its multiple benefits for biodiversity, communities and the climate.”

Forests absorb atmospheric carbon through the process of photosynthesis and store it in long-lived plants and soils. In doing so, they help to cool down the planet. Cutting down forests releases most of their stored carbon as a global warming pollutant.

The experts are urging the provincial government to follow through on the promise to use the ecosystem-based management approach implemented in the Great Bear Rainforest to safeguard British Columbia’s endangered old-growth rainforest.

The signatories to the letter live and work in many countries, including Argentina, Australia, Canada, Indonesia, Mexico, Mongolia, Norway, the United States and Scotland.


The letter is available online at: forestlegacies.org/featured-projects/temperate-rainforests

Scientists speak out for Tongass roadless and old growth protections

For Immediate Release January 26, 2018

Contact: Dr. Dominick A. DellaSala, Geos Institute, (541) 482-4459 x 302 or (541) 621-7223 cell, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

ASHLAND, OR - 220 leading scientists, researchers, and university professors spoke out in unison today in support of protecting the Tongass National Forest from rollbacks to roadless area and old-growth forest protections proposed by Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski (attached letter).

Dr. Dominick A. DellaSala, Chief Scientist of the Ashland-based Geos Institute, author of "temperate and boreal rainforests of the world: ecology and conservation," and co-author of the scientist letter, said "The Tongass is the crown jewel of the national forest system and one of the world's last remaining intact temperate rainforests. Alaska is on the front lines of climate impacts from melting glaciers, rapid thawing of permafrost, and rising temperatures. It makes no sense to open up old growth logging wounds when the Forest Service can be transitioning to more climate friendly young forest logging."

DellaSala added, When old-growth rainforests are cut down up to two-thirds of their stored carbon is released to the atmosphere as a global warming pollutant. Old-growth logging on the Tongass is estimated to release the carbon dioxide equivalent of adding over 2 million vehicles per year to Alaska's climate impacts (See: http://www.forestlegacies.org/images/projects/tongass-report-emissions-2016-01.pdf).

The Tongass is the only national forest still clearcutting old-growth forests. Most have moved on to logging smaller less controversial trees.

Click to read the letter


Study: A global map of roadless areas and their conservation status

For Immediate Release December 15, 2016 at 2:00pm EST

Author Contacts: Pierre L. Ibisch (Germany) - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (+49-3334-65 7178) - English, German and Spanish | Nuria Selva (Poland) - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (+48-600135676)- English, Spanish and Polish | Stefan Kreft (Germany) – This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (+49-3334-65 7296) - English, German and Spanish

Further co-authors: Monika Hoffmann (Germany) | Vassiliki Kati (Greece) | Dominick DellaSala (USA) | Mariana M. Vale (Brazil) | Peter R. Hobson (UK) | Lisa Biber-Freudenberger (Germany) | Guy Pe’er (Germany)

A new global map of roadless areas shows that the Earth’s surface is shattered by roads into more than 600,000 fragments. More than half of them are smaller than 1 km2. Roads have made it possible for humans to access almost every region but this comes at a very high cost ecologically to the planet’s natural world. Roads severely reduce the ability of ecosystems to function effectively and to provide us with vital services for our survival. Despite substantial efforts to conserve the world’s natural heritage, large tracts of valuable roadless areas remain unprotected. The study shows that the United Nations’ sustainability agenda fails to recognize the relevance of roadless areas in meetings its goals. 

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Study: Protected Forests on Public Land Burn Less Severely Than Logged Areas

For Immediate Release, October 26, 2016

Contacts: Curtis Bradley, Center for Biological Diversity, (520) 345-5710, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. | Dr. Chad Hanson, John Muir Project of Earth Island Institute, (530) 273-9290, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. | Dr. Dominick A. DellaSala, Geos Institute, (541) 482-4459 x 302 or (541) 621-7223 cell, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

TUCSON, Ariz.— A new study published in the scientific journal Ecosphere finds that public forests that are protected from logging burn less severely than logged forests. The study is the most comprehensive investigation of its kind, spanning more than 23 million acres and examining three decades’ of forest fire data in the West. Among the major findings were that areas undisturbed by logging experienced significantly less intensive fire compared with areas that have been logged.

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