TN NEWS

How Trump May Bulldoze ‘America’s Amazon’

Holding up the phone in one hand and swatting at late-season hornets with the other, Sen. Dan Sullivan nods and grins as Trump promises to fulfill a Republican wish list that environmentalists have been fighting for generations. He mentions drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge way up north and building a road through the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge in the south. "King Cove Road! Yessir!" says Sullivan as Mississippi Senator Roger Wicker nods with vigor.Enter Gov. Mike Dunleavy, who has been bonding with Trump during Air Force One refueling stops, often bringing a list of rules and restrictions he wants overturned. With oil prices down, Alaska's budget is deep in the red and Dunleavy is looking for other industry to help."He's a great guy," Trump says of Dunleavy over the speaker. "And he's doing something with your logging and all your other things. We're working on that together and that's moving along."While nature lovers and earth scientists have been fighting Alaskan politicians over ANWR and King Cove Road for decades, Trump's mention of "logging" reopens a different front in an old war because everyone knows he's talking about Tongass, the crown jewel of the National Forest system. Spread across the islands and fjords of the Alaskan panhandle, Tongass is roughly the size of West Virginia, full of towering old growth spruce, cedar and hemlock, some trees twice as old as America itself. It traps and hold so much carbon, it's known as "America's Amazon."The pristine wilderness holds a bounty of salmon, bears, wolves, eagles and whales living alongside around 70,000 people.And in the little town of Tenakee Springs, the reaction is "one of shock and dismay.""After all the work that we put in to keep this area roadless and keep this as pristine as we possibly can," fishing captain Tuck Harry says as he shakes his head."And would you characterize yourself as sort of a tree-hugging liberal?" I ask him.He laughs. "No, not at all. Not a tree-hugging liberal at all," he says, looking across a mirror-flat Tenakee Inlet at hillsides once scarred by clear-cuts. He's been here since 1960, back when the Forestry Service treated Alaska more as America's lumberyard than sanctuary. In an effort to create jobs in the "Last Frontier," thousand-year-old forests were pulped into paper.But after years of legal battles and negotiations, a Clinton-era "roadless rule" seemed to settle the issue, protecting Tongass from any new logging or mining interests.But Trump's fundraiser call last month confirmed reports that he would encourage Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to exempt Tongassfrom the roadless rule, opening almost 10 million acres to development. "As Governor, I've raised this issue with the Trump administration on numerous occasions -- each time underscoring the need to restore the Tongass' multiple use mandate to allow for activities such as tourism, timber, mining, hydropower and more," reads a statement to CNN from Dunleavy.But the former mayor of Tenakee Springs, Art Bloom, says it is impossible to have all of those industries in Tongass at the same time. Alaska has to choose. "People on cruise ships don ...Read more

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