The Trump administration on Wednesday moved to open Alaska’s Tongass National Forest — the world’s largest intact temperate rainforest — to logging and other development, obliterating protections for a national forest that President Theodore Roosevelt established more than a century ago.
The move highlights the absurdity of the administration’s repeated claims that its own conservation record somehow stacks up to that of Roosevelt, America’s conservation president who established America’s system of national parks, refuges and forests in the early 1900s.
At the very top of the Interior Department’s list of priorities is to “create a conservation stewardship legacy second only to Teddy Roosevelt.” And President Donald Trump and his team have repeatedlyinvoked the late president in an effort to greenwash their clear record of prioritizing energy development over species and habitat conservation.
“He has done more for the American Outdoorsmen than any President since Roosevelt,” the president’s son Donald Trump Jr. wrote in a recent Twitter post.
The latest rollback, detailed in a notice posted Wednesday, targets part of Roosevelt’s legacy. Roosevelt established Tongass as a protected national forest in 1907, and later expanded it to its current 16.7 million acre footprint. In 2001, President Bill Clinton signed into law the so-called “roadless rule,” which prohibited building roads and harvesting timber on 58.5 million acres of national forest lands, including more than 9 million acres of Tongass.
The U.S Forest Service’s decision Wednesday exempts Tongass from the roadless rule, lifting those Clinton-era logging restrictions across 9.3 million acres and reclassifying 188,000 acres as immediately suitable for timber harvest. In its final rule, the government states that the change will result in a “modest difference in potential environmental consequences.”
Often referred to as “America’s Amazon,” Tongass is...