Indigenous Women Respond to the Biden Administration’s Plans to Revoke the Roadless Rule Exemption in the Tongass National Forest in Alaska
SAN FRANCISCO BAY AREA, California (June 4, 2021) – Today, The Biden-Harris Administration released a regulatory agenda announcement calling for the USDA to “revoke or replace” the Roadless Rule Exemption in the Tongass National Forest in Alaska. This is a welcome and much needed first-step to address the environmental rollbacks of the previous administration.
At the end of 2020, The Trump Administration exempted Alaska’s Tongass National Forest, known as ‘America’s Climate Forest’, from the 2001 National Roadless Rule. The 2001 National Roadless Rule established prohibitions on road construction in U.S. national forests, ending decades of extractive logging practices.
Recently released data confirms that the Tongass is responsible for holding more than 40% of all carbon stored by U.S. national forests. As one of the world’s largest remaining intact temperate rainforests, the Tongass is home to over 400 species of land and marine wildlife, and provides economic opportunity to thousands of residents. With Alaska experiencing record breaking weather, maintaining an intact Tongass ecosystem is a critical solution for the U.S. and international climate efforts. Forests are critical for stabilizing the climate, sequestering carbon, providing refuge for unique bio-diverse ecosystems, and meeting the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement.
The Tongass exists within the traditional territories of the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian peoples. Protecting the forest is key for ensuring food sovereignty in Indigenous communities and combating centuries of colonial policies seeking to displace Indigenous peoples from their homelands. If the Tongass is left open to further industrial-scale logging and roadbuilding, it will disrupt the traditional lifeways, medicine, and food systems of the region's Indigenous communities, violating Indigenous sovereignty and endangering cultural survival. Recently, the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians passed a resolution to support Southeast Alaska Tribes in efforts to Reinstate the Roadless Rule.
In response to the regulatory agenda announcement, 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 announcement is a welcome much-needed first step in the right direction to protect our homelands as Indigenous peoples of the Tongass. We will continue calling for this Administration to do the right thing and reinstate the Roadless Rule for our communities and global climate. It is time to raise the legal bar for environmental protection and land conservation in Alaska's Tongass Forest. " Kashudoha Wanda Loescher Culp (Tlingit) WECAN Tongass Coordinator
"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, starting right now with restoring Roadless Rule protections, and ending logging in old-growth forests. Our future generations are counting on us." Mamie Williams (Tlingit) WECAN Tongass Representative
“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. The Biden Administration's announcement is a welcome step forward, and the sooner the Administration gets rid of the Roadless Rule exemption in the Tongass, the better. 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
“Old-growth forests are necessary for meeting the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement, which means we must restore the Roadless Rule protections in the Tongass forest, and listen to Indigenous peoples whose homelands are finally healing after decades of destructive logging. The USDA announcement is a vital step forward in remedying Trump-era environmental rollbacks, and we will continue to urge the Biden-Harris Administration to take seriously the role our forests and Indigenous leaders have to play in helping to mitigate the climate crisis. Our natural forests are essential lungs of the Earth.” - 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.