By now I’m certain you know the great news — the National Roadless Rule is officially, fully, and finally restored to the Tongass National Forest! We did it!
I want to use this space to stop, celebrate, and reflect on the incredible path we traveled together over the last four-plus years. It’s shocking to think it’s been that long (and just during this most recent Roadless process — never mind the 22 years since the rule was created) and reflect on how we all worked together to get to where we are today.
Now, if you’re reading this while traveling through Southeast Alaska and are wondering what this Roadless Rule business is about, it’s a national rule that prevents new logging roads and additional logging on 9.3 million of the most intact acres of the 17 million-acre Tongass National Forest. The Trump administration — with some malfeasance from Governor Dunleavy — tried to take it away in 2020, and even succeeded for a minute. But Alaskans and Americans across the country rallied, protested, testified, and commented — and we got it back!
While reflecting on the journey this Roadless process has been for me, I found the first email — from August 30, 2018 — that notified me about how a process to create a new Roadless Rule “for the Tongass” had been printed
in Ketchikan Daily News, the local paper of record. Though 2018 feels like a thousand years ago — one Trump administration and a global pandemic ago — I, at the time, had little comprehension of the sheer volume of work that lay ahead. Or of how dazzled and humbled I would be by the devotion and hard work of Southeast Alaskans and our allies who truly love the Tongass. Or how many hours of travel, testifying, lobbying, disrupting, partnership, and advocacy were yet to come.
We all made sacrifices during those years — time with friends and family, money, and a bit of sanity thanks to the redundancy of testifying on the same concerns over and over again, for years. Long flights and late nights at airports, or in the office. Missed time out fishing or hunting so we could sit in conference rooms under fluorescent lights, telling Forest Service staffers from outside Southeast Alaska how we did and did not want to see our forest managed.
Some of my favorite memories of that time are of staff: a communications person connecting with a Craig community member to see if we could send a bunch of information packets and stickers, then dashing to Seaplanes to get our materials into the hands of the first SEACC supporter on that flight we laid eyes on in order for our materials to be handed off on Prince of Wales in the nick of time for the “informational meeting” that night; the scrappy phone bank nights in our old office, with people scattered throughout every room and the happy hum of energy as volunteers called SEACC supporters, many of whom were delighted to be contacted, just waiting to engage. And the adrenaline we got from standing outside Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall handing out materials to entering supporters, many eagerly reaching for the info packets and beautiful stickers designed by friends of our partners at Sitka Conservation Society, which we all wore to signal our support for our home.
And, many months later, sitting in the subsistence hearing in Wrangell, texting with a supporter in town who was impatiently waiting for the temperature on her home pressure cooker full of venison to reach the point where she could briefly leave home and provide her official comment at the hearing. (Only a few Southeast Alaska communities got proper subsistence hearings due to the way this process was set up, and every comment really counted.)
I was humbled to lead SEACC during this process and honored for us to do our work in the company of truly great leaders from Southeast Alaska’s Tribes and Tribal communities. My deep gratitude — Gunalchéesh, Hawa’a, and Nt’oyaxsn — to the leaders who spoke, testified, advocated, danced, and sang for the forest which they have called home for so many millennia. And for leading us all in defending Lingít Aaní.
I also want to thank all SEACC staff, each board member, and every partner, donor, and funder who made a monumental effort and worked for this ultimate win.
That feeling of coming together — of us all leaning our shoulders to the task at once and feeling the boulder that was the Trump administration budge — was heady, powerful stuff. May we together create more of that in the years to come.
Of course, as you’ll hear from Tongass Forest Program Manager Maranda Hamme on Page 5, our work here is not — will never truly be — done, but it’s worth it, and so important, to take a moment to celebrate these big wins when we have them. And this was a big one.