GATHERING OF CULTURES – Dorothy Gordon holds year-old Marilyn De La Torre as they perform an entrance song Thursday at the B.J McGillis Gym during the annual Gathering of Cultures. A Tlingit dance group made up of several Sitka Tlingit dance groups opened the gathering. Mt. Edgecumbe High School’s student dance groups representing cultural groups from five regions of Alaska also performed. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

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Daily Sitka Sentinel

Tongass Decision Wins Local, National Praise

By Sentinel Staff

National and state environmental protection organizations applauded the Biden administration’s action in returning the roadless rule to the Tongass National Forest.

In Washington Greenpeace USA Senior Climate Campaigner Amy Moas said, “Today, the U.S. Forest Service rescued the nation’s largest national forest, Alaska’s Tongass, from new and catastrophic surges of clearcut logging. The reinstatement of this popular 2001 conservation measure that conserves old growth is crucial for the protection of some of the last and largest remaining tracts of intact temperate rainforest in the world, as well as the wildlife and carbon it holds. And a thriving Tongass is critical to the lives and subsistence of Alaska Natives, and the local economy.”

A gate at the entrance of the Old Nelson Logging Road is surrounded by Tongass second growth timber, today. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

And in Alaska, the Juneau-based Southeast Alaska Conservation Council was ready with statements to the press from Southeast village officials, commercial fishing organizations, wilderness lodge and expedition operators, as well as nature-related nonprofits and businesses affected by management of the nation’s largest national forest.

Joel Jackson, president of the Organized Village of Kake, said, “The Tongass Roadless Rule is important to everyone. The old-growth timber is a carbon sink, one of the best in the world. It’s important to our way of life — the streams, salmon, deer, and all the forest animals and plants.”

Wanda Culp, Tongass Coordinator, Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network, said, “The Tongass Forest is homeland to countless indigenous family species, intertwined as strong and delicate as a spider’s circular web. The Tongass National Forest in Alaska is a national treasure...”

In Sitka, Linda Behnken, executive director of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association said, “We are thrilled and relieved to know the Tongass’ remaining unroaded areas will remain intact vibrant forests for generations to come. Our fisheries depend on healthy habitat, and with climate change driving ocean warming, protecting habitat is increasingly important to the fish, the fisheries, and the coastal fishing communities. This is welcome news!”

Dan Blanchard, owner of Uncruise Adventures, said, “As an Alaska small business owner, I am ecstatic that the Forest Service is fully reinstating the Roadless Rule in the Tongass National Forest. It is time for us to focus on recreational opportunities for locals and visitors alike...Visitors travel from every corner of the planet to explore the rare environment and wildlife that is the Tongass National Forest. Happy Day!”

Mike and Sally Trotter, owners of Baranof Wilderness Lodge had a message for the president: “GO JOE! Thank you so much for your support, stewardship, and care for this precious and wonderful planet earth! We honor your path.”

Andy Moderow, Alaska Director, Alaska Wilderness League, said, “We applaud today’s announcement, because it recognizes that Southeast Alaska’s future is rooted in sustainable uses of the forest. The Roadless Rule protects Tongass old-growth while also providing flexibility for community access, hydropower projects, utility connectors and other economic development projects when they serve a legitimate public interest. This decision puts public lands and people first, and we are grateful for the action.”

Defenders of Wildlife Alaska policy adviser Patrick Lavan said: “Protecting the Tongass National Forest is an important step in recognizing the role of our forests in fighting the biodiversity and climate crises. Today’s action helps restore responsible stewardship in the Tongass, as demanded by an overwhelming majority of people during the public process. We look forward to working with the Biden administration to similarly protect older forests and wildlands across the nation.”

Kate Glover, Senior Attorney, Earthjustice said: “We applaud the Forest Service for making good on its commitment to tribes and to the climate by restoring the Roadless Rule across the Tongass. This is great news for the forest, the salmon, the wildlife, and the people who depend on intact ecosystems to support their ways of life and livelihoods.”

Hallie Templeton, Legal Director, Friends of the Earth: “We are proud to stand in victory alongside our Alaskan neighbors and other partners. Today marks yet another reversal of Trump-era attempts to gut conservation policies in the name of profits. Our message is loud and clear: we won’t allow such lawless behavior. We will keep watching and fighting in the name of conservation and environmental justice.”

Chris Hill, Senior Director, Our Wild America campaign, Sierra Club: “The Tongass is often referred to as ‘our nation’s climate forest’ for its ability to store carbon and protect us from the worst impacts of climate change. Thanks to today’s reinstatement of the Roadless Rule in Alaska, millions of acres of this valuable ecosystem will once again be protected – as will its supply of clean water, critical wildlife habitat, and carbon stores. We are proud to stand with Indigenous leaders and local Alaskans who have been championing the effort to restore these critical protections for the Tongass.”

SEACC executive director Meredith Trainor said, “This long-awaited decision by the Biden administration will protect over 9 million acres of Tongass National Forest land for years to come. Hundreds of thousands of Alaskans and Americans wrote, lobbied, rallied, and petitioned for the National Roadless Rule to stay in place on the Tongass, and thanks to the Biden administration and leadership from Southeast Alaska’s Tribal communities, we have finally succeeded. Today’s win is the work of hundreds and thousands of hands and voices, all lifted up to protect this most precious place that we love — the Tongass National Forest.”

Nationally prominent environmental organizations issuing statements celebrating the roadless rule announcement included Wild Heritage, The Wilderness Society, Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN), the Center for Biological Diversity, and the National Wildlife Federation, SEACC said.

Background

In October 2020, the Trump administration canceled application of the nationwide Roadless Rule to the 9 million acres of Southeast Alaska’s 17-million-acre Tongass National Forest it previously protected. The public submitted nearly half a million comments during the federally required public process The Forest Service analyzed a subset of the comments, finding 96% supporting keeping the Roadless Rule in force on the Tongass, and only 1% supporting the exemption ultimately selected by the Trump administration.

Originally adopted in 2001 and applicable nationwide, it prohibits industrial logging and most road-building in intact areas of the national forest system, with a few exceptions.

Alaska’s Tongass National Forest was protected under the national rule in 2001, but was exempted first under the Bush administration and later under the Trump Administration. Today’s decision puts the Roadless Rule back in place across the Tongass, protecting its nine million acres of roadless areas from logging and road-building.

On June 11, 2021, the Biden administration announced it would “repeal or replace” the so-called Alaska-specific Roadless Rule, the substitute measure that in effect would have eliminated many of the protections of the Roadless Rules provides to other national forests in the United States.

 

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AK COVID-19

At a Glance

(updated 9-12-2023)

By Sentinel Staff

The state Department of Health and Social Services has posted the following update on the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Alaska as of 8:57 a.m. Tuesday, September 12.

New cases as of Tuesday: 278

Total cases (cumulative) statewide – 301,513

Total (cumulative) deaths – 1,485

Case Rate per 100,000 – 38.14

To visit the Alaska DHSS Corona Response dashboard website click here.

COVID in Sitka

The Sitka community level is now "Low.'' Case statistics are as of Tuesday.

Case Rate/100,000 – 152.50

Cases in last 7 days – 13

Cumulative Sitka cases – 3,575

Deceased (cumulative) – 10

The local case data are from Alaska DHSS.

 

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20 YEARS AGO

March 2004

Photo caption: Fire engines and ambulances shine in the sun outside the new fire hall Saturday during an open house. Hundreds turned out to look over the $4 million facility, which is twice the size of the building it replaced. It features a state-of-the-art exhaust system and much larger offices and a large training room.


50 YEARS AGO

March 1974

The Sheldon Jackson Museum will have a special showing of replicas of ancient Tlingit hunting weapons. The replicas were made by A. P. Johnson, a Tlingit  culture instructor and metal arts teacher at SJC.

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