Month 3, Day 13: Saturday POTUS — No Logging In The Tongass!

As usual, it’s Friday night and I’m hunting around for something on which to hang a letter to the President. And lo and behold, my old benefactor RL Miller provides the second piece in as many days: a bill enabling logging in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest. It’s an interesting toss-up between Native American welfare issues and environmental issues — one that needs a new underlying conceptual structure for resolution.

Dear President Obama,

As the long-awaited climate bill makes its way through the Senate, I’m gratified to observe your administration’s support for many initiatives which will reduce our nation’s carbon emissions and lessen our grotesquely disproportionate contribution to anthropogenic global warming.

This letter is to register my distress at legislation currently under consideration in both the House and the Senate. S. 881 and H.R. 2099 both address usage considerations with regard to land that is currently part of the Tongass National Forest, the largest such forest in the country. The Tongass, according to a recent study by the Wilderness Society, is one of the country’s top “carbon banks” (carbon-storing forests). The bill will permit Sealaska, an Alaskan Native corporation, to log 80,000 acres of the Tongass National Forest.

If S.881 and H.R. 2099 are passed in Congress, the bill will arrive at your desk for signature. Before you take out your pen, please consider this: the thick, wet forests of the Pacific Northwest, including the Tongass, store as much carbon as this country burns in a year and a half. Allowing 80,000 acres of such a carbon bank to be logged off would be an act of profound environmental irresponsibility. If America is ready to pay Indonesia and Brazil not to cut down their rainforests, why can’t we do something similar in Alaska?

It is time for us to set a good example for future generations, by maintaining and expanding our national forests. Not only are they crucial carbon banks (and therefore one of our first lines of defense against CO2 emissions), they possess inherent value as places of beauty, peace and respect for the natural world. When our country learns to stop thinking of forests as commodities worth so much per board foot, we will have, perhaps, grown up a little.

Please veto any bill that provides for logging in the Tongass.

Thank you,

Warren Senders

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