In December 2009, AWRTA and a coalition of Native, tourism industry, and environmental organizations sued the Department of Agriculture over its Bush-era decision to exempt the Tongass National Forest from the 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule. The Tongass roadless areas are needed to maintain healthy populations of wolves, bears, goshawks, deer, marten, and five species of Pacific salmon, among other species, and to support jobs in the tourism and fishing industries.
A federal judge found on Friday, March 4th, that the exemption was illegally adopted and reinstated the Roadless Rule in the Tongass. The decision protects backcountry areas all over America’s great temperate rainforest and is a victory for tourism businesses, commercial fishermen, sportsmen, subsistence users, and anyone else who benefits from the healthy, old-growth ecosystems of southeast Alaska.
“The natural values of these watersheds are essential for the survival of small businesses around Southeast,” explained Kent John of the Alaska Wilderness Recreation & Tourism Association. “Very few of these folks will pay to go see clearcuts and decaying logging roads. This is a great decision for the local economy.”
AWRTA’s co-plaintiffs were the Organized Village of Kake, The Boat Company, Sierra Club, Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, Tongass Conservation Society, Greenpeace, Wrangell Resource Council, Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, and Cascadia Wildlands. They were represented by Earthjustice and Natural Resources Defense Council.