Indigenous Women Highlight the Importance of ‘America’s Climate Forest’ Following a Critical Public Comment Period
JUNEAU, ALASKA— On Monday January 24th, Indigenous Women leaders from Southeast Alaska gathered at the U.S. Forest Service building in Juneau, Alaska to deliver letters highlighting the vital role of forest protections following a public comment period to reinstate the 2001 National Roadless Rule for the Tongass National Forest. Existing within the traditional territories of the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian Peoples, the Tongass has been called “America’s Climate Forest,” for its ability to sequester vast amounts of carbon.
In 2021, the Biden Administration announced plans to restore full Roadless Rule protections that were revoked during the previous Trump Administration. At the end of last year, the U.S. Forest Service announced a 60-day comment period for public input on the decision to re-establish the 2001 National Roadless Rule in the Tongass. Hundreds of thousands of public comments have been submitted in support of the Roadless Rule since when the Tongass was under attack by the Trump Administration. The comment period ends January 24, 2022 at 11:59pm ET, people may still submit comments electronically until then.
Indigenous women leaders from the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN) Tongass Hub brought attention to the critical value of the 2001 Roadless Rule during their delivery. Photos from the event are available here.
Please find more information about advocacy to protect the Roadless Rule in the Tongass here: https://www.wecaninternational.org/take-action-tongass
The Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN) Indigenous Women Tongass Representatives and WECAN Executive Director have issued the following statements:
"The Tongass Forest is my home. Home to the ancient Tlingit and Haida Indigenous Peoples. The air we breathe, the water we depend on, the land we live upon, all pristine. It is a life to cherish. It is a way of living worth fighting for. The Biden Administration’s restoration of the Roadless Rule is vital for protecting our forest homelands as Indigenous peoples of the Tongass. We will continue engaging with the Administration to ensure Indigenous women's voices are heard and our expertise consulted moving forward. For our communities and the climate it is time to invest in collaborative management practices that uplift Indigenous rights, food sovereignty, environmental protection and land conservation in Alaska's Tongass Forest. " Kashudoha Wanda Loescher Culp (Tlingit) WECAN Tongass Coordinator
“The process to repeal the Roadless Rule has been mired in corporate interests that do not represent the public but only seek to exploit the land and open the forest to further logging and mining interests. Please stand with us and heed Indigenous women’s call to restore roadless rule protections and end old-growth logging in the Tongass. Protecting the Tongass means supporting the growth of local business, ensuring community access to traditional foods and medicines, allowing the forest to heal from massive logging in the past while mitigating further climate chaos. It is important that this land stays wild and free." Rebekah Sawers (Yupik) WECAN Tongass Representative
"Climate change looks different in Alaska. It's like watching your way of life die from glaciers to salmon to trees— suffering because we as human beings forgot our way of taking care of each other and Mother Earth. Growing up, we learned that we always take care of what we have so we can give that to the next generation, for we are only borrowing this land from our children. What condition are we giving the Tongass back in; can we say we did our best to take care of Mother Earth for our children and grandchildren? When you walk into a forest of old growth, like the Tongass, there’s nothing like it anywhere else in the world. The Tongass is home to countless animals and plants, we call family, and it is necessary to protect this home for our children and grandchildren. The Biden Administration can make that happen by ensuring the restoration of Roadless Rule protections in the Tongass. Our future generations are counting on us." Mamie Williams (Tlingit) WECAN Tongass Representative
“As matriarchs we are on watch for future generations. I have a personal investment in the Roadless Rule being reinstated and the protection of our old-growth forests because I have children and I want to be able to tell them that we will have the support we need to protect our land. We are sovereign. We have never been separate from our ecosystem. Everything that our culture is belongs to this land, we are in coexistence with this land, we are part of this land. This land is very important to us, without key components of this land our future does not exist and that means cultural genocide for our people." Yolanda Fulmer (Tlingit), WECAN Tongass Indigenous Representative
“ I am Tlingit of the Tongass Forest. As People of the Forest, People of the Sea, we must speak out on behalf of our children’s grandchildren to protect this land we call home and the climate. Impacts from industrial logging operations of the last century by all actors, disproportionately and negatively impacted the land and waters we Tlingit have sustained successfully throughout time. Stand with us as we call for further protections for the Tongass and the restoration of the Roadless Rule.” Adrien Nichol Lee (Tlingit), WECAN Tongass Representative
“I am an Indigenous woman of the Tlingit Nation of the L’uknaxh.ádi, the Coho Salmon Clan under the Raven moiety from the Frog House. My people have been here over 10,000 years. We have intimate knowledge passed down generations after generations. In our hands we did not destroy the land-- we existed in harmony and one with the land. The Tongass to me is Food Sovereignty being able to provide for my Elders, family, friend’s and Villages. The hopes & dreams of our children, and their futures are at stake. We need the federal government to redress the grievances of The Tongass and The Tlingit nation, and one step in that direction is ensuring the Roadless Rule remains in effect in the Tongass. We are still Standing. Stand with me in Defense for Haa KusTeeyi (Our way of life) Stand up for our Salmon Forest, The Crown Jewel, The lungs of the North, The Tongass Temperate Rainforest. The Tongass has many names but I call it home.” Kari Ames (Tlingit) keeper of traditional life-ways, WECAN Tongass Representative
“Old-growth forests are vital to climate mitigation and necessary for meeting the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement. We must all take action to support protection for old-growth forests like the Tongass, and particularly listen to the leadership of Indigenous peoples when their homelands and territories are under attack. The people have spoken: we want the Roadless Rule to remain. Our natural forests are essential lungs of the Earth and we look forward to ensuring that Indigenous rights and leadership, food sovereignty, forest conservation, and collaboration are centered more than ever as the Biden Administration moves forward to support communities in the Tongass.” Osprey Orielle Lake, Executive Director, Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN) International
The Women's Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN) International
www.wecaninternational.org - @WECAN_INTL
The Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN) International is a 501(c)3 and solutions-based organization established to engage women worldwide in policy advocacy, on-the-ground projects, trainings, and movement building for global climate justice.