With Amazon in Flames, US Moves to Open Alaskan Rainforest to Corporate Exploitation

The largest tropical rainforest in the world is being wrecked by raging fires, mostly due to farmers, land-grabbers, and loggers who torch trees and clear land for crops or grazing. Brazil’s National Institute of Space Research reported that the number of fires detected by satellite in the Amazon region this month is the highest since 2010.

Yet, while the entire world is devastated by the thousands of fires ripping through the Amazon rainforest and threatening the area known as “the lungs of the world”, President Donald Trump has reportedly ordered the U.S.

Department of Agriculture to open Alaska’s 16.7 million-acre Tongass National Forest—the planet’s largest intact temperate rainforest—to logging and other corporate development projects.

Citing anonymous officials briefed on the president’s instructions, The Washington Post reported that this policy change would lift 20-year-old logging restrictions that “barred the construction of roads in 58.5 million acres of undeveloped national forest across the country.”

This move is said to impact over half of the Tongass National Forest, “opening it up to potential logging, energy, and mining projects.”

The fate of the Tongass has been discussed for years. President Bill Clinton put more than half of it off-limits to logging in 2001 when he barred the construction of roads in 58.5 million acres of undeveloped national forest across the country.

Also, President George W. Bush aimed at reversing that policy, holding a handful of timber sales before a federal judge reinstated the Clinton rule.

The newspaper added that this decision revives the battle that the previous administration wanted to settle.

In 2016, the agency completed a plan to decline old-growth logging in the Tongass within a decade. Congress has designated over 5.7 million acres of the forest as wilderness, which must remain undeveloped under any circumstances.

Therefore, in case Trump’s plan succeeds, it could affect 9.5 million acres, and Alaskan leaders have found a powerful ally in him.

Yet, John Schoen, a retired wildlife ecologist who worked in the Tongass for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, co-authored a 2013 research paper that discovered that about half of the forest’s large old-growth trees had been logged last century.

He explained that the remaining big trees provide critical habitat for species like the black bear, Sitka black-tailed deer, and a bird of prey called the Northern Goshawk.

Many Alaskans don’t appreciate government intervention in their state and see it as a barrier to business and a threat to southeast Alaska’s economy. Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy and the state’s entire congressional delegation insist on reversing the roadless rule.

Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski said that the timber industry has reduced precipitously, so it is astonishing that the few remaining mills in their largest national forest have to constantly worry about running out of supply.

Not all of Alaska’s business owners are interested in exploiting resources. Namely, the adventure tourism sector relies on intact forests.

Dan Blanchard, owner, and CEO of UnCruise Adventures attracts 7,000 guests on small-ship Alaskan wilderness cruises every year, and he maintains that there have been major improvements in the forest since the 1980s. Therefore, their view is not to put at risk one of the rare places in the world that are wild.

The reported move outraged environmentalists, who compared it with his Brazilian counterpart Jair Bolsonaro, who has greatly contributed to the deforestation in the Amazon.

Volcanologist Jess Phoenix wrote that if our planet could talk, it would be screaming in agony or weeping in despair. Or both.