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U.S. approves logging of 381 acres of primary rainforest in Alaska

The Obama administration moved this week to allow clear-cutting of 381 acres (154 ha) of primary temperate rainforest in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest, reports the Environmental News Service (ENS).

Pacific Log and Lumber of Ketchikan will produce some 3.8 million board feet of wood from forest on Revillagigedo Island near Ketchikan, Alaska, in the first timber sale awarded by the U.S. Forest Service under a new forestry approvals policy announced by Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. In May Vilsack said he would personally “review and approve timber sales in roadless areas,” according to ENS.

Eight miles of roads will be built or re-constructed to harvest the timber. Road-building costs may exceed the revenues generated for the Forest Service by the logging, according to Tom Waldo of Earthjustice.

Forest near Ketchikan

“Just building the road will cost four times as much revenue as the Forest Service is going to get from the timber sale,” Waldo was quoted as saying in the Juneau Empire.

The announcement disappointed environmentalists who hoped Vilsack’s policy would lead to a moratorium on road-building across 58.5 million acres of national roadless areas. Green groups are now bracing for more logging deals.

The U.S. has the world’s seventh highest rate of primary forest loss in the world. Between 2000 and 2005, the United States lost an average of 831 square miles (215,200 hectares) of “primary forest” — defined as forests with no visible signs of past or present human activities. These forests, often termed “old-growth forests,” have the highest number of plant and animal species and are generally considered a top priority for conservation by environmentalists and government agencies. Large expanses of American forests — especially in the South — have been converted for industrial tree plantations used for paper and wood production.

See Jobs Trump Conservation: Timber Sale in Roadless Tongass Approved (ENS) and Ketchikan mill is awarded Orion North timber for further details on the Tongass logging plan.

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