At 17 million acres, the Tongass National Forest of southeast Alaska is the world’s largest remaining old-growth temperate rainforest. Centuries-old trees provide critical habitat for wolves, grizzly bears, wild salmon, and bald eagles. Over the last 45 years, however, the timber industry has cleared more than one million acres of old-growth trees from the forest and carved out an estimated 5,000 miles of logging roads. Despite all this activity, the Forest Service has continually lost money on the Tongass logging program, forcing taxpayers to provide millions of dollars in subsidies. In 2005, for example, the Forest Service spent nearly $48.5 million to subsidize logging operations in the Tongass and received a mere $500,000 in payments.
Nevertheless, the Bush administration has worked to open more of the Tongass to logging. During consideration of H.R. 5386, the Interior-Environment Appropriations bill, Representatives Steve Chabot (R-OH) and Rob Andrews (D-NJ) introduced an amendment to end taxpayer subsidies for new commercial logging roads in the Tongass. On May 18, 2006, House Amendment 850 was approved by a 237-181 vote (House roll call vote 168). YES is the pro-environment vote. At press time, the Senate had yet to take action on an Interior-Environment Appropriations bill.