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Protect the Tongass National Forest
WECAN Tongass Hub Develops New Proposal
Calling For Indigenous Rights, Food Sovereignty,
and the Protection of the Tongass!
The Tongass rainforest in Alaska is under attack!
Help us protect over 9 million acres of forest.
Defend climate and communities.
In March 2021, WECAN Tongass Indigenous Representatives, Rebekah Sawers (Yupik) and Wanda Culp (Tlingit) (both pictured left), brought forward a proposal to advocate for Indigenous rights and sovereignty, and the protection of their forest homelands in the Tongass Rainforest of Alaska.
The Tongass Rainforest is the traditional homelands of the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian Peoples. It is the largest national forest in the U.S., and has been called 'America’s climate forest' due to its unsurpassed ability to sequester carbon and mitigate climate impacts. For decades however, industrial scale logging has been destroying this precious ecosystem, and disrupting the traditional lifeways, medicine, and food systems of the regions Indigenous communities.
The WECAN Tongass Indigenous Representatives have been developing alternatives to local and national governance structures that have allowed the massive logging and destruction of their forests. Their proposal builds on these alternatives, and focuses on bringing forward matriarchal values that uplift local food sovereignty, traditional tribal governance structures and protect local forests and water ways. Rebekah and Wanda are continuing to work with local and national governance bodies to push their proposal forward. You can read their proposal here.
Please continue down this page to learn more about WECAN’s Tongass campaign and why the Tongass is so vital for upholding Indigenous sovereignty, protecting global biodiversity, and addressing the global climate crisis.
WECAN Joins Lawsuit to Protect the Tongass and Save the Roadless Rule
The Tongass is the traditional homelands of the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian peoples, and is the foundation of their traditional lifeways and cultures. If the forest is re-opened for further destruction, we will lose one of the nation’s most important carbon stores, violate Indigenous rights and sovereignty, and perpetuate biodiversity loss and the global climate crisis. This fight is far from over!
In October 2020, the Trump Administration exempted the Tongass National Forest, the largest remaining intact temperate rainforest in the world, from the Roadless Rule, opening up over 9 million acres to further roadbuilding, logging, and development, like mining.
WECAN is organizing at the local and national level to reinstate the Roadless Rule, protect the climate, and uphold Indigenous peoples sovereignty. On December 23, 2020, Earthjustice and co-counsel Natural Resources Defense Council filed a lawsuit in federal court on behalf of several Alaska Native Tribes, Southeast Alaska small businesses, and conservation organizations. The lawsuit targets the Trump Administration's recent decision in October to rollback 2001 National Roadless Rule protections in the Tongass, opening up over 9 million acres of previously protected forest lands to logging, roadbuilding, and further development.
The Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN) is joining the lawsuit, following years of advocacy to protect the Tongass. WECAN representatives joining the lawsuit include Indigenous women leaders who live in the Tongass and have been advocating for the protection of their forest homelands for decades, and WECAN’s Executive Director. Please learn more in the full press release here.
Trump Administration’s Finalizes Plans to Open Alaska’s Tongass National Forest To Logging and Further Development
On October 23, 2020, at the behest of the Trump Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and U.S. Forest Service (USFS) finalized plans to open up all 16.7 million acres of Alaska’s Tongass National Forest to logging and other forms of development, stripping protections that had safeguarded one of the world’s largest intact temperate rainforests for nearly two decades. More information in our full press release here.
While we knew the fight for the Tongass wasn’t going to be easy, our hearts are breaking and we are outraged for our dear friends in the Tongass, all Indigenous communities whose livelihoods and traditions are deeply connected to their forest homelands, and for the impact this decision could have on the escalating climate crisis.
The Tongass Rainforest of Alaska is the traditional homelands of the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian Peoples; is the largest national forest in the U.S.; and has been called 'America’s climate forest' due to its unsurpassed ability to sequester carbon and mitigate climate impacts. Beginning in the 1950’s, aggressive, controversial commercial logging clear-cut large areas of the Tongass, negatively impacting the forest and the local Indigenous Peoples who are tightly intertwined with the dynamic ecosystem. Logging in the Tongass destroys sacred sites of the Indigenous Peoples of the region, damages areas of traditional and customary use, and harms watersheds and rivers as well as the global climate. Even with a destructive history of industrial logging, the Tongass still contains the largest remaining tracts of temperate old-growth rainforest in the world and a vital solution to our current climate crisis.
In 2001 the National Roadless Rule, adopted by the United States Forest Service, implemented sweeping environmental protections, protecting 9.2 million acres in the Tongass National Forest and upwards of 58 million acres of national forest lands from further development, virtually preventing old-growth logging; roadbuilding; and coal, gas, oil, and other mineral leasing. The Roadless Rule has allowed the forest to heal, with second-growth coming back into areas of severe devastation. The rule continues to have tremendous public support, with a 2019 poll finding three-fourths of the general public in support of the Roadless Rule. However, the Roadless rule and the Tongass Rainforest are now under attack as the current administration seeks to repeal the Roadless Rule in the Tongass.
As parts of Alaska are warming at roughly twice the rate of the rest of the planet, maintaining an intact Tongass ecosystem is critical to providing climate change solutions for Alaska and international climate efforts. Additionally, keeping the Tongass intact will also protect unique habitat for hundreds of species, like salmon, bears, and deer, all of which, in turn, support local economies based on fishing, hunting, and tourism. Currently, tourism and fishing account for 25 percent of jobs in Southeast Alaska while logging only provides 1 percent.
The WECAN Indigenous Women's Tongass Delegation and allies understand the gravity of the issue and are united in calling for support of the current Roadless Rule and its protection of the Tongass, which is also vital for Indigenous peoples' survival in the region. Currently, we are awaiting the final decision on the Tongass from the US Forest Service.
If the federal government is successful in opening up the Tongass to more catastrophic, industrial-scale logging, they will not only destroy the forest and further harm our global climate, but they will actively contribute to the ongoing genocide of Indigenous Peoples whose identities, cultures, and livelihoods are integral to the forest.
The WECAN Indigenous Women's Tongass Delegation, including WECAN Tongass Coordinator and Tlingit activist, Wanda Culp, advocating for the Roadless Rule in Washington D.C. alongside allies, Holly Harris (right), Earthjustice, and Osprey Orielle Lake (left), WECAN Executive Director and delegation organizer. Photo Credit: Melissa Lyttle
As part of our Women for Forests program, and under the leadership of Wanda "Kashudoha" Loescher Culp, WECAN Tongass Coordinator, WECAN is working with Indigenous women in the Tongass to fight back and protect their ancient forest homelands from further exploitation and devastation.
Explore this page for campaign updates, calls to action, and further information on the importance of the Tongass Rainforest.
Third Indigenous Women’s Delegation Advocates to
Protect Tongass Forest Homelands in Alaska
On August 12, 2020, in the midst of a global health pandemic and climate crisis, a third WECAN Indigenous Women's Tongass Delegation met with congressional staff from Washington D.C. (virtually) to advocate for the Tongass National Forest, Indigenous rights, and our global climate. The repeal of the Roadless Rule would enact cultural genocide on local Indigenous communities, destroy unique forest ecosystems, further the climate crisis, and harm local economies. In anticipation of the Final Environmental Impact Statement, The Delegation met with law-makers to advocate for protections for the Tongass, and to ask legislators to endorse the new Roadless Area Conservation Act.
Currently, The 2001 National Roadless Rule is undergoing a federal process to exempt millions of acres of old-growth forest in Alaska. In 2019, the Trump administration published a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), proposing the repeal of Roadless Rule protections across the Tongass National Forest. Deforestation and industrial scale logging has been linked to zoonotic disease outbreaks, such as the novel coronavirus, and is a
The Indigenous Women’s Tongass Delegation included: Wanda Culp, Tlingit, WECAN Tongass Coordinator; Rebekah Sawers, Yupik, student and WECAN Tongass Representative; Mamie Williams, Tlingit, Cultural Knowledge Keeper; and Kari Ames, Tlingit, Alaska Native Voices Cultural Heritage Guide. The delegation is joined by Osprey Orielle Lake, Executive Director of WECAN.
driver of carbon emissions, propelling the U.S. efforts to address the climate crisis farther away from the 2016 Paris Climate Agreement targets. Learn more about delegation in our full press release.
Release of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement
Wanda Culp, WECAN Tongass Regional Coordinator, and Osprey Orielle Lake, WECAN International Executive Director looking out at the Tongass National Forest- Photo via WECAN International/Katherine Quaid
The aftermath of destructive logging practices in the Tongass National Forest - Photo via WECAN International/Emily Arasim
The Trump administration unveiled a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) that will devastate long-standing protections against logging and road-building in the Tongass National Forest, a vital old-growth temperate rainforest in Southeast Alaska that exists within the traditional territories of the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian peoples.
The Tongass National Forest has been called "America's Climate Forest" as it is the single most important national forest for carbon sequestration and climate change mitigation in the U.S. A collective of Alaska Native activists, Alaska-based and national organizations, including the Women's Earth and Climate Action Network, released a statement of opposition in response to the DEIS, finalized weeks after revelations that President Trump exerted pressure to allow new clear-cuts in the Tongass.
The DEIS was open for public comment last year and thousands joined us in submitting a comment calling for the protection of over 9 million acres of ancient forest, the defense of the climate, and standing with Indigenous land defenders and all forest protectors by submitting a comment demanding the administration keep the federal 2001 Roadless Rule intact and current protections in place for national forests in Alaska.
In response, WECAN organized a second Indigenous Women's Tongass Delegation to Washington D.C. in November 2019.
WECAN Delegates included Kari Ames, Tlingit, Alaska Native Voices Cultural Heritage Guide and keeper of traditional life-ways; Adrien Nichol Lee, Tlingit, President of the Alaska Native Sisterhood Camp 12 and keeper of cultural Tlingit education; Along with Osprey Orielle Lake, Executive Director of the Women's Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN) International. The Delegation met with members of Congress, committee staff, and the Forest Service to address current threats to forest protections. They also rallied and spoke alongside Jane Fonda during #FireDrillFridays, and submitted questions and comments during a Roadless Rule public meeting held by the Forest Service. See this link for full coverage of the delegation’s advocacy in Washington D.C.
WECAN Tongass Delegates, Adrien Lee (center right) and Kari Ames (center left), with Osprey Orielle Lake (second from left) rallying for environmental and climate justice alongside Jane Fonda (right) at #FireDrillFridays On November 15 in Washington D.C. Photo Credit: WECAN International - Katherine Quaid
Please watch WECAN International's videos detailing our ongoing campaign in the Tongass National Forest.
The People Have Spoken: Protect the Tongass Rainforest
Stand with the Tlingit and the Tongass
Defend Forests, Climate, and Communities -
Protect the Tongass!
Tlingit Women Advocate During Historic Delegation To Protect Tongass Rainforest
Call To Action To Protect The Tongass Rainforest
Protecting the forest means respecting Indigenous rights - A new report adds to the growing body of evidence that Indigenous peoples are the best protectors of the forests they call home. [Mongabay]
Preserving and restoring forests is a key climate solution - Halting the loss and degradation of natural systems and promoting their restoration have the potential to contribute over one-third of the total climate change mitigation scientists say is required by 2030. [ICUN]
The Tongass is a global champion in carbon sequestration - According to the Forest Service, the Tongass accounts for approximately 8 percent of the carbon stored in our National Forests. [Dela Salla 2015]
Cutting Forests down adds to carbon pollution - Globally, deforestation (8-15%) and forest degradation (6-13%) contribute more greenhouse gas pollution than the world’s entire transportation network, which is why countries, including the U.S., must commit to reducing emissions and protecting forest sinks. [GEOS Institute]
New budget data reveal that the USFS has continued to lose millions of dollars on Tongass timber sales in recent years. In total, the USFS has lost approximately $600 million over the last twenty years or $30 million per year on average. [Taxpayers for Common Sense]
The 2001 National Roadless Rule is publicly supported - When the Forest Service developed the Rule in 1999, more than 1.6 Million people commented on the rulemaking process, more than any other rule in the nation’s history. [EarthJustice]
The Tongass is home to an abundance of wildlife - More than 400 species of land and marine wildlife inhabit Tongass National Forest, including bald eagles, black and brown bears, wolves, moose, and Sitka black-tailed deer [Pew Trusts]
The Tongass and its neighboring forest, the Chugach, are home to 48 million salmon annually, with a value to commercial fisheries averaging $88 million. [American Fisheries Society]
in Southeast Alaska, the Timber industry accounts for less than 1 percent of the local economy. [Southeast Alaska Conservation Council]
WECAN Tongass Hub
Wanda Kashudoha Loescher Culp, WECAN Tongass Coordinator, WECAN Tongass Representatives and WECAN international staff are working together as the WECAN Tongass Hub to develop long-term strategies to protect the Tongass Rainforest, and Indigenous rights and lifeways in the region. Please meet members of the WECAN Tongass hub down below!
Learn more about WECAN International’s program and campaign
in the Tongass, on our "Women for Forests" page.
Trees standing tall along the edge of Chichagof Island near Hoonah, Alaska in the Tongass National Forest. Photo by WECAN International/Katherine Quaid