Save the Tongass National Forest

Dear Friend,

I've had a personal relationship with our national forests since long before I wrote "Snow Falling on Cedars." As a college student, I worked summers for the U.S. Forest Service burning slash in clearcuts, piling brush, and fighting wildfires. I've seen the wilderness at its most fearsome -- and at its most fragile. Today, it's political cronyism between logging interests and the Bush administration which poses the greatest threat to the survival of the wild. From the Channel Islands in California to the Great North Woods in Maine, this dangerous combination of greed and political favoritism puts some of the most pristine and untamed places in our country at risk. The Tongass National Forest is one of these vulnerable places. The heart of the largest temperate rainforest left on the planet, the Tongass is among the national forest wildlands now slated for logging and development.

Alaska's Tongass is home to the world's largest concentration of grizzly bears and bald eagles. This inspiring landscape of misty isles and towering groves of ancient trees supports populations of the Alexander Archipelago wolf, sustains the black bear, and is crisscrossed by streams teeming with salmon. But the Tongass is also coveted by the logging industry. That's why so many have spoken up in support of protecting the Tongass and other national forest wildlands.

The Clinton administration heard your comments and, in January 2001, issued a landmark ban on roadbuilding and industrial logging in undeveloped roadless areas of our national forests. But the Roadless Rule, years in the making, has been waylaid by President Bush. His administration delayed implementing the rule, then refused to defend it in court. Now, despite more than 600 public hearings on the issue and a record-breaking 1.6 million public comments -- over 95 percent of which were in strong support of wilderness protection -- Bush has started a new 60-day public comment period, hoping that the same public support won't materialize a second time. Prove him wrong at www.SaveBioGems.org.

Never mind that one half of our national forest system has already been developed by commercial interests.

Never mind that there are already 378,000 miles of access roads carved into our national forests, more than eight times the length of the U.S. Interstate system.

Never mind that Attorney General Ashcroft assured the Senate before his confirmation that he'd defend the Roadless Rule. Since he's been confirmed, he's done nothing to oppose lawsuits brought by industry and others hostile to this historic decision.

Never mind that Americans have resolutely voiced their support for protecting the Tongass in overwhelming numbers. We don't want to see the timber industry destroy our natural wonders. And we sure don't want to be dragged back to square one on this issue. But here we are.

Bush has decided to ignore these facts -- and your comments. With this 60-day window for additional "public" comment, Bush has waged a bet. He's betting you won't find out that the Tongass is once again on the chopping block. He's counting on running out these 60 days without letting you know that the clock is ticking. But you can bet your national forests that insider logging interests know when and where to put in their two cents.

I urge you to join me in this fight for the Tongass National Forest. It only takes a minute or so to make your voice heard. Visit www.SaveBioGems.org and, with a click of the mouse, you can send an email directly to the Forest Service, or alert a friend to this environmental and ethical crisis. While you're there, you can take action to protect other wild places like Greater Yellowstone, the Everglades, and Utah's Redrock Wilderness now threatened by the Bush administration.

Right, you might be saying to yourself, "Logging companies greased political coffers with enough money to convince the White House to attack our Roadless Rule. What's one email going to do?"

A lot. Activism on the Web has emerged as one of the most potent grassroots tools we have to speak truth to power. NRDC web activists helped persuade President Clinton to create the Giant Sequoia National Monument. In Belize, your e-activism helped compel Duke Energy to drop out of a planned dam that would flood the Macal River Valley. In Chile, it was the power of a mouse that helped block Boise-Cascade's plans to build the largest wood-chip mill in Latin America. Click.

I hope you'll take a minute to visit www.SaveBioGems.org. The comment period ends September 10th. Tell our leaders in Washington that the Tongass National Forest -- and your vote -- is worth more than any campaign contribution.

Truly yours,

David Guterson

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