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Public Statements

Letter to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack - Encourage Responsible Stewardship of Tongass National Forest

Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Congressman Peter DeFazio (D-OR) led 74 Members of Congress today urging Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to support a real transition away from industrial scale old-growth logging towards more sustainable industries in the management of the Tongass National Forest.

"With limited resources and staff, we believe the Forest Service should focus actions that support the current and future economy of Southeast Alaska," the representatives wrote. "We support good paying jobs in the forest and support sustaining the local milling infrastructure by focusing on second and young growth forest stands, thinning, and watershed health that has been deteriorated by past logging practices. There is more than $100 million of work to be done to restore watersheds alone -- something that will take another 50 years to address at current funding levels.

"We also urge the Forest Service to invest limited agency resources in Tongass National Forest projects that support the 17,000 jobs in fishing, tourism, and recreation. These industries are losing business because of underfunded and understaffed agency offices and could be further undermined by the temporary and permanent costs of old growth logging. These jobs and restoration needs should be priorities."

The signers asked Vilsack to reevaluate the planned five year timber sale program and to heed the department's public commitments to break off from the old-growth logging business.

The full letter is as follows:

Dear Secretary Vilsack,

We are writing to encourage the Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Forest Service to refocus its limited resources on a quick transition plan away from logging old growth in the Tongass National Forest to support a more sustainable economy based on long-term sustainable forest management of second-growth forests, watershed restoration, fishing, tourism, and recreation.

The 17 million acre Tongass National Forest in Southeast Alaska is one of the last remaining intact temperate coastal rainforests in the world -- and it belongs to all Americans. The "crown jewel" of our national forest system is teeming with wildlife and contains 800-year-old trees as well as 5,500 salmon-filled rivers and streams. The Tongass also contributes significantly to the surrounding ecosystem and local communities by providing clean water, carbon storage, habitat for endangered and threatened species, intact wildlife corridors, and is visited by over one million tourists each year.

Intensive old growth logging over the past century has resulted in the loss of half or more of the Tongass' large tree old growth stands. Old growth now makes up less than three percent of the Tongass National Forest. The further loss of already scarce old growth will permanently reduce forest diversity, diminish water quality, degrade vital fish and wildlife habitat, reduce carbon storage, as well as restrain the fishing, tourism, and recreation industries.

Given these threats, we supported your 2010 announcement to start "transitioning quickly away from timber harvesting in roadless areas and old growth forests," and appreciate your recent Secretarial Memorandum that affirms those goals. However, we were surprised and disappointed by your subsequent announcement of the five year timber sale program for the Tongass National Forest. The five year plan would log 690 million board feet (MMBF), the equivalent of a 25 year supply of old growth timber at the current rate (18 million board feet). The plan also includes the controversial 150 MMBF Big Thorne old growth timber sale -- the largest timber sale proposal for the entire national forest system in the last decade. Big Thorne would result in the destruction of trees up to 800 years old and 12 feet in diameter. This timber sale is clearly inconsistent with your plan to quickly transition out of old growth logging.

With limited resources and staff, we believe the Forest Service should focus actions that support the current and future economy of Southeast Alaska. We support good paying jobs in the forest and support sustaining the local milling infrastructure by focusing on second and young growth forest stands, thinning, and watershed health that has been deteriorated by past logging practices. There is more than $100 million of work to be done to restore watersheds alone -- something that will take another 50 years to address at current funding levels.

We also urge the Forest Service to invest limited agency resources in Tongass National Forest projects that support the 17,000 jobs in fishing, tourism, and recreation. These industries are losing business because of underfunded and understaffed agency offices and could be further undermined by the temporary and permanent costs of old growth logging. These jobs and restoration needs should be priorities.

We strongly support your transition plan for the Tongass National Forest. We think it is the right plan for the forest, local communities, businesses, and the taxpayer. We hope you will critically reevaluate the planned timber sale program given the department's public commitments to get out of the old growth logging business and to end large old growth timber sales like Big Thorne.

We thank you for your attention to this important issue.

Sincerely,

Rosa DeLauro

Peter DeFazio

Earl Blumenauer

Suzanne Bonamici

Corrine Brown

Lois Capps

Judy Chu

David Cicilline

Wm. Lacy Clay

Gerald Connolly

John Conyers

Joe Courtney

Joe Crowley

Elijah Cummings

Ted Deutch

Lloyd Doggett

Donna Edwards

Anna Eshoo

Elizabeth Esty

Sam Farr

Raul Grijalva

Alcee Hastings

Ruben Hinojosa

Rush Holt

Mike Honda

Jared Huffman

Steve Israel

Hank Johnson

William Keating

Joe Kennedy

Jim Langevin

Barbara Lee

Sander Levin

John Lewis

Daniel Lipinski

Zoe Lofgren

Alan Lowenthal

Nita Lowey

Stephen Lynch

Carolyn Maloney

Doris Matsui

Betty McCollum

Jim McDermott

Jim McGovern

Jerry McNerney

Michael Michaud

George Miller

Jim Moran

Jerrold Nadler

Grace Napolitano

Beto O'Rourke

Frank Pallone

Bill Pascrell

Chellie Pingree

David Price

Mike Quigley

Charles Rangel

Jan Schakowsky

Adam Schiff

Allyson Schwartz

Jose Serrano

Carol Shea-Porter

Brad Sherman

Louise Slaughter

Adam Smith

Jackie Speier

John Tierney

Dina Titus

Paul Tonko

Niki Tsongas

Chris Van Hollen

Maxine Waters

Henry Waxman

Peter Welch


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