Why Conservationists Are Reluctant to Compromise

Aerial view, Tongass National Forest, Alaska - Photo credit KTOO.org

Aerial view, Tongass National Forest, Alaska – Photo credit: KTOO.org

As recently as this week, WC has been criticized because “conservationists won’t compromise.” WC admits he is loath to compromise, because it never seems to end well. An example:

WC is just one of hundreds of other conservationists who have fought to preserve the remaining old growth trees in the Tongass National Forest. For decades, trying to stop the unrelenting  clearcutting was at the top of every Alaska-based conservation organization’s agenda. In WC’s ten years on the board of trustees of Alaska Conservation Foundation, there wasn’t a meeting, not one, where Tongass wasn’t on the meeting agenda. Endless litigation, even more endless meetings.

Finally, in the mid-2000s, the Tongass Advisory Committee, composed of Alaska Native organizations, Alaska Native corporations, national and regional environmental and conservation organizations, timber industry operators, Federal, State, and local governments, permittees, other commercial operators, and the general public, arrived at a proposed compromise, surrendering a small amount of old growth forest to the logging industry in return for perpetual preservation of the Roadless Rule and the Forest Service’s promise that there would be no more sale of old growth forest. The compromise centered on T-LUMP, the Tongass Land Use Management Plan.

The Roadless Rule is the 2001 prohibition on new logging road construction in areas that do not now have roads. Roads in the Tongass are a triple evil: they allow access to loggers; they compromise salmon spawning stream and the increase access by hunters, who hunt the threatened species in the forest.

Not without dissent, Alaska Conservation Foundation signed off on the T-LUMP. It was incorporated into the Draft Environmental Impact Statement as Alternative No. 5. And in 2016, the Record of Decision was issued formally making the T-LUMP compromise the law of Tongass National Forest.

Victory, right? Permanent protection, right?

Less than three years later, the Trump Administration has completely repudiated that agreement and is proposing to allow old growth forest logging and construction of new roads in roadless areas in the Tongass. The Forest Service proposal describes six alternatives, but the agency’s preferred alternative is “Alternative 6,” which would open 9.2 million roadless acres to development “and would convert 165,000 old-growth acres and 20,000 young-growth acres previously identified as unsuitable timber lands to suitable timber lands.”

Nothing has changed that justifies this action. Nothing has changed in the Tongass. All the circumstances that led to the Record of Decision are the same. It’s just the Trump Administration sucking up to the logging industry. “Infuriating” doesn’t begin to describe it.

WC’s apologies to his environmentalist colleagues who warned at the time that you cannot trust the promises of federal government. You were right. WC was wrong.

The Judas Forest Service will open public comment on its proposal soon. WC will let you know when they do.

In the meantime, WC will have to increase his contribution to Alaska Conservation Foundation to help subsidize the court fight that is almost certain to follow.



4 thoughts on “Why Conservationists Are Reluctant to Compromise

  1. WC
    The December 2016 Record of Decision preceded Trump’s January 2017 presidency. There is a change of administration here.
    Paul Eaglin

    • Agree wholeheartedly about that warped time perspective. It does seem so.
      I wondered if this was at least in part another instance of destruction “…because Obama…” Although I know it’s been on the agenda of logging since before Obama.
      paul eaglin

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