Cora Dow, a senior at Sitka High School, gave an incredible testimony at the U.S. Forest Service Roadless Rule Subsistence hearing in Sitka on November 12, 2019. She’s shared it with us, so we all can draw inspiration from her words in writing our own comments.
Read Cora’s full testimony below:
My name is Cora Dow, I am a senior at Sitka High School, and my family relies on a subsistence lifestyle that would be greatly affected by Alternative 6.
The justification used by the Department of Agriculture is that logging will provide economic benefits and that roads for the logging will connect communities. However, both of these are completely inaccurate.
First of all, the Tongass economy is not dependent on logging. It’s dependent on fishing. According to the SeaBank annual report, seven out of the top 100 fishing ports by value in the entire country are Southeast Alaskan communities. Sitka’s seafood port alone makes a net value of $75,400,000 and is ranked as number 10 in the country. A huge amount of this value depends on intact watersheds. Also, subsistence fishermen rely on fish for a huge portion of their food. My family depends on subsistence hunting and fishing every year, as do most families who live in the Tongass rainforest. Why would we trade people feeding their families for access to old growth timber for out-of-state logging companies?
In addition to being dependent on fishing, tourism makes up a large portion of Southeast Alaska’s economy. Southeast Alaska hosts two-thirds of all state visitors, making it the most visited region in the state. The southeast conference’s 2017 annual economic report identified the tourism industry as Southeast Alaska’s top private sector industry in terms of both jobs and wages. Pristine and remote locations are the basis of this entire industry. No one wants to come to Southeast Alaska to drive down a logging road, boat past giant clear cuts, or wade through polluted waters. Our economy is dependent on the protection of our intact wilderness.
Lastly, I would like to dispel a point that the USDA keeps using. Removing the roadless rule will not provide more opportunity to harvest energy or connect communities. There are exemptions under the current roadless rule for clean energy, connecting communities, hatcheries, utilities, and even mining. 57 projects under these exemptions have been proposed, and none have been rejected. Additionally, the draft environmental impact statement itself states that logging roads will be decommissioned after use, so even those roads won’t be of any use to the public for subsistence hunting.
The only possible justifications for passing the full exemption are extremely short sighted. We need to take into account our unique economy and subsistence needs, and protect it to the fullest extent possible.
Feel free to draw inspiration from Cora’s words!