For the past 4 years, Alaskans and Americans have been engaging in the Alaska Roadless Rule Process to protect the large, intact ecosystems of the Tongass National Forest. These areas support the ability of our communities to hunt, fish, harvest, recreate, rejoice and replenish our souls, and practice the rich heritage, traditions, and cultures that have been shaped by these lands and waters. We have seen a groundswell of support for these protections from Tribal governments, municipalities, subsistence harvesters, business owners, local community members, and stakeholders across the United States. Throughout this diversity of voices, there is a collective recognition and understanding of the significance of the Tongass as a natural climate solution to locals and stakeholders throughout the US alike.

Today, we are celebrating a victory for democracy, conservation, future generations, and the Alaska way of life. It was officially announced that the national Roadless Rule will restored to the Tongass National Forest by the Biden administration on January 25th.

This victory belongs to so many of YOU. By engaging in the multitude of processes over the past four years, you have shared your understanding of how interconnected we all are to this place with the rest of the world. From standing up to voice your opposition to the original repeal in 2018 to submitting public comments, participating in meetings, and contacting elected officials, you told them time and time again over the years about the many things that this forest is: the current and ancestral homelands of the Língit, Haida, and Tsimshian peoples; the largest carbon sink in North America; a font of renewable energy sources; critical habitat for an abundance of iconic wildlife and flora; a source of economic opportunity for a broad diversity of enterprises; and a landscape that brings us endless joy whether we seek solitude or connection. You also told them what this forest is not; a resource to be pillaged for short-term profits at the expense of our collective wellbeing. Your voices were strong, and when the U.S. Forest analyzed the individual comments, they found that an overwhelming 96% of them supported keeping Roadless protections on the Tongass.

The agency heard you loud and clear – as did the incoming administration. The restoration of Roadless protections is but one part of the USDA’s broader Southeast Alaska Sustainability Strategy, a management approach that finally recognizes that the future of the Tongass is not measured by board feet cut or miles of road built; but rather acres of habitat restored, metric tons of carbon sequestered, amount of salmon produced, and the number of meaningful partnerships pursued with Tribal governments, municipalities, and community organizations. As we endeavor to make the Sustainability Strategy a lasting approach, we are grateful to the lands, waters, cultures, and people that lift our region up. Your voices and collective input help respect and honor the past, present, and future of this incredibly unique place.

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