Think the USA and you don’t instinctively think ‘rainforest‘, but Alaska’s Tongass National Forest is actually the world’s biggest intact temperate rainforest. It’s a place of extraordinary grandeur, rarity, richness and beauty, but loggers and other self-interest groups don’t care about that. It looks like several of them are determined to fell the forest’s old-growth trees for profit, and it’s terrible news for the US and the wider world.
17 million acres of magical ancient rainforest under threat
The Tongass National Forest covers a whopping 17 million acres. It contains the largest remnants of intact old-growth forest habitat in the whole of North America, a stunning place of ice-capped mountains, fjords, ancient forests, hundreds of islands, bays, glaciers, lakes, rivers and more than 5000 streams. In short it’s a cool northerly paradise, yet another invaluable chunk of forest that the planet really can’t afford to lose.
The wildlife at Tongass is truly remarkable. While decades of industrial logging have already stripped vast areas of it bare, the old-growth forest habitat that remains is home to brown and black bears, wolves, bald eagles, marten and mountain goats, rare Queen Charlotte goshawks and northern flying squirrels as well as five different types of Pacific wild salmon. Around 70,000 people also live there.
Industrial-scale felling of precious old-growth trees
Sadly, the magical Tongass is the last forest in the entire US where loggers are still allowed to cut down old growth on an industrial scale. The so-called ‘clearcutting’ they do there is horribly outdated, widely abandoned elsewhere thanks to its scandalous destructive impact and total unsustainability. It harms wildlife and fish, and damages ecologically sound recreation and ecotourism, things than earn Alaska around $2 billion a year, a sum that’s absolutely essential for local people.
Can we fix it? Probably not…
During 2016, pre-Trump, the US Forest Service completed plans to move away from old-school clearcutting. Now they’re proposing the biggest sell-off of old-growth forest that America has seen for decades. Will Trump put his foot down? It’s highly doubtful, given his uncaring attitude to conservation and his scepticism about climate change