WASHINGTON – On March 12 and 13, 2019 a Delegation of Indigenous Women from the Tongass Rainforest in Alaska will be in Washington, D.C. to advocate for the continuation of the Roadless Rule—an important measure to protect Alaska’s Tongass National Forest, which falls within the traditional territories of the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian Peoples, and is a vital forest ecosystem.
The Delegation will meet with members of Congress, including the Alaska Delegation, committee staff, USDA, and the Forest Service.
At a public event on March 13th from 6:00 to 8:00 at Busboys and Poets on K Street, the women will share their community stories and calls to action to protect their ancient forest homelands (event details: facebook.com/events/1025911427603214).
The Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN) International, in partnership with Earthjustice, is facilitating this historic Delegation, which is the first time Tlingit women will be traveling to the Capitol to fight to protect their traditional territory, communities and the global climate.
Read full Delegate biographies here:
Watch a video on Indigenous women’s efforts to protect the Tongass here: facebook.com/WECAN.Intl/videos/501677453681932
Background: The Tongass Forest of Southeast Alaska is the largest national forest in the United States and the Earth’s largest remaining temperate rainforest. A richly bio-diverse area, the many islands of the Alexander Archipelago and Coast Mountains rising from the Alaskan coast are home to bears, wolves, and Sitka black-tailed deer, along with a plethora of bald eagles, ravens and migratory birds.
An abundance of orca and humpback whales, sea lions, seals, sea otters, salmon and porpoises thrive in coastal waters and the fjords cut by glaciers, and the natural wildness of the area drives a healthy local-based economy for Tongass communities and visitors.
Beginning in the 1950’s, aggressive, controversial commercial logging clear-cut large areas of the Tongass, negatively impacting the forest and the local Indigenous Peoples who are tightly intertwined with the dynamic ecosystem. Logging in the Tongass destroys sacred sites of the Indigenous Peoples of the region, damages areas of traditional and customary use, and harms watersheds and rivers as well as the global climate.
Even with a destructive history of industrial logging, the Tongass still contains the largest remaining tracts of temperate old-growth rainforest in the world. The Roadless Rule put in place in the early 2000s protects much of the ecosystem, helping make it the U.S.’s single most important national forest for carbon sequestration and climate change mitigation. As parts of Alaska are warming at roughly twice the rate of the rest of the planet, maintaining an intact Tongass ecosystem is critical to providing climate change solutions for Alaska and international climate efforts.
With changing administrations, pressures to lift restrictions and allow exploitation of the commercial value of remaining old growth lumber by timber corporations and commercial interests have gained new momentum. Recent Federal actions are attempting to undermine the Roadless Rule. As a result, the treasured Tongass forest faces one of its greatest and most immediate threats to date.
The WECAN Indigenous Women’s Tongass Delegation and allies understand the gravity of the issue and are united in calling for support of the current Roadless Rule and its protections for the Tongass.
Quotes From Delegates:
“We support the current Roadless Rule and its protections for Alaska’s Tongass National Forest, Tlingit territory. Prohibiting logging in these areas of the forest protects them for generations to come. The Roadless Rule was a two-decade battle against industrial clear cutting in the Tongass. The 2001 national interest response against clear cutting was the largest on record, thus the Tongass land management plan developed at that time and its strength must not be weakened for corporate interests. Our very presence as the WECAN Indigenous Women’s Tongass Delegation in Washington, D. C. is a reminder that the Tongass is inhabited by indigenous wildlife with living cultures infused to the landscape that ties our relationships to the past as well as to the future. The Tongass Forest has not yet recovered from the clear cutting of the 1980-90s. It is the Sealaska ANCSA Corporation that did the most damage to our homeland, and who must be stopped today.” – Wanda “Kashudoha” Loescher Culp, Tlingit, activist, artist and WECAN Coordinator in the Tongass
“Creating a state specific Roadless Rule in Alaska will undermine one of the most important ways we Tlingit can protect the Tongass forest, which is our traditional territory. We have lived off these lands in a sacred and caring way for generations, and we want to continue to live in our traditional ways for our children and our children’s children. Corporate logging cannot come before we the people. We also know the Tongass is important to help stop climate change for everyone around the world.” – Adrien Nichol Lee, Tlingit, President of the Alaska Native Sisterhood Camp 12 and keeper of cultural Tlingit education
“The WECAN Indigenous Womenʼs Tongass Delegation have come to stand together in Washington D.C. We are here in support of the current Roadless Rule to protect the largest national forest in the country, the Alaska Tongass National Forest, which is in Tlingit territory. Our people have been here over 10,000 years, and we are here to protect and preserve the land so we can be here 10,000 years more. Our culture is alive and we want our traditional ways of life that have protected the forest to continue for future generations.” – Kari Ames , Tlingit, Alaska Native Voices Cultural Heritage Guide and keeper of traditional life-ways
“I am part of the WECAN delegation to Washington D.C. to represent my daughter and her father’s people. He is a Raven Coho of the Tlingit people, or Luxnax.adi. It is important that our daughter grows up in the wild Tongass forest such as my husband did. He is an avid hunter and gatherer just like his ancestors were who have lived on this land since time immemorial. It is important that this land stays wild and free. I am here not only on behalf of my daughter, I am fighting for all the other 70,000 brothers, sisters, grandfathers and grandmothers who live in the Tongass. It is the largest national forest, and I’m going to keep it that way.” – Rebekah Sawers, Alaskan Native Yupik and a mother, a daughter and an aunt
“The world’s largest remaining temperate rainforest containing vital old-growth trees is under attack because of efforts to undo the Roadless Rule. The Tongass Rainforest of Alaska—the traditional homelands of the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian Peoples— is the largest national forest in the U.S. and has been called ‘Americas climate forest’ due to its unsurpassed ability to sequester carbon and mitigate climate impacts. For decades, industrial scale logging has been destroying this precious ecosystem, and disrupting the traditional life-ways of the region’s Indigenous communities. As attempts are made to strip down remaining protections and open more of this ancient forest to logging, WECAN stands with Indigenous women leaders and their allies to say no to further devastation, and yes to maintaining the current Roadless Rule. Our natural forests are essential lungs of the Earth.”- Osprey Orielle Lake, Founder/Executive Director, Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN) International
“The Roadless Rule is one of our country’s greatest land conservation measures. It prevents logging and destructive road-building in our treasured national forests, and bolsters sustainable economic development in tourism, fishing, and other industries. Earthjustice has gone to court in the past to defend the Roadless Rule as a tool for keeping irreplaceable wilderness areas intact, and we will continue to do everything in our power to preserve these culturally significant and uniquely bio-diverse forestlands for future generations. We stand with the indigenous women who will travel from Southeast Alaska to meet with D.C. lawmakers next week to voice their concerns about the fate of the Tongass.” – Holly Harris, Staff Attorney in Earthjustice Alaska Office