REP supports wilderness protection for the Tongass National Forest

By TONY COBB, a REP member in Maryland and member of the Board of Directors

AN HISTORICAL DOCUMENT: Tony gave this statement at a press conference in Washington, D.C. on August 7, 2002.

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Republican conservationists—and I assure the skeptical among you… that term is neither a cruel oxymoron nor an attempt to greenwash policy that is decidedly brown—have much to be proud of. President Theodore Roosevelt, whose legacy we remember and celebrate today, began the building of a vast heritage of national parks, forests like the Tongass, and wildlife refuges. The national forests alone are a priceless heritage that Americans want conserved for generations to come.

Subsequent Republican presidents maintained that heritage and pushed for the laws that protect our air, water, and endangered species. Barry Goldwater, the forefather of the GOP’s conservative movement, was a lifelong conservationist and a member of Republicans for Environmental Protection.

Sadly, we believe this administration has so far missed a signal opportunity to become part of that proud heritage in its decision to protect no new wilderness in the Tongass National Forest.

Therefore, REP joins our colleagues today in deploring the failure to conserve one of the last remaining extensive wilderness areas. For not only is protection the right thing to do, but it is also good business.

Preservation would generate continued subsistence for local communities from commercial fishing, tourism, hunting, and sport fishing dependent on the Tongass. Commercial logging there has already destroyed critical habitat for wildlife on which these enterprises depend, and the 29 additional timber sales planned will accelerate destruction.

Intact forests like the Tongass also provide free ecological services like carbon dioxide absorption needed to chip away at climate change. But the ability to provide these free services depends on halting further invasion and maintaining forests’ ecological integrity and biological richness.

For these reasons Republicans for Environmental Protection joins other patriotic Americans in deploring abandonment of Theodore Roosevelt’s heritage by failing to save wilderness in one of the last major reserves of coastal temperate rainforest in the world. Degradation by unsustainable and uneconomical road building, logging, and other extractive activities will waste the capital of the Tongass, rob the taxpayers, impoverish the nation ecologically, and shortchange future generations.