Several Southeast Alaskan groups gathered for a rally at the state Capitol to voice their support to retain environmental protection and conservation policies for the Tongass National Forest.

The Southeast Alaska Conservation Council says people are urging U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to select a no-action on an Alaska-specific roadless rule.

The 2001 National Roadless Rule prohibits road construction and timber harvesting on 9.2 million acres of the Tongass. According to a press release from SEACC, the state is looking to set its own provisions which would eliminate ecological and cultural protections provided by the national rule.

Should the state set its own rules, SEACC says protected areas of the Tongass — about half of the forest — would open for old-growth logging.

SEACC says the Tongass is within territories of the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian people and could harm wildlife and indigenous traditions.

"We as tribal leaders support keeping the national roadless rule, which helps protect resources in our area from any more logging roads and logging," Joel Jackson, Tribal President of the Organized Village of Kake, said in a statement. "We depend on our forests and salmon streams to sustain us. Our traditional hunting and fishing practices are critical because they put food on our tables."

According to USDA, the Tongass National Forest is approximately 17 million acres and is the country's largest national forest. The USDA Forest Service plans to release a draft environmental impact statement this summer for an Alaska-specific roadless rule.


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