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[1THING] Blog: Archive for the ‘Wilderness Society’ Category

[ America’s Great Outdoors Congressional Champions ]

Several members of Congress and Senators were honored as America’s Great Outdoors Congressional Champions during Great Outdoors America Week or GO America Week (June 26-June 28, 2012 in Washington DC).

In the heart of Great Outdoors Month, GO America Week brought outdoor enthusiasts from all walks of life — high school students and adults, active members of the military and veterans, conservationists and business leaders, hunters and anglers, bikers and boaters — together to celebrate America’s great outdoors, and ask their elected officials to protect our natural heritage. 

Great Outdoors America Week offered an opportunity for advocates to take direct action on a number of conservation issues, ranging from wilderness and national monument protection to reconnecting inner-city kids to the great outdoors. Great Outdoors America Week serves as another example of the long-standing, bipartisan tradition of conservation in the United States.

America’s Great Outdoors Congressional Champions

Senate

CA
• Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA)
• Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)

CO
• Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) 
• Senator Mark Udall (D-CO)

CT
• Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-CT)

ME
• Senator Susan Collins (R-ME)
• Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME)

MT
• Senator Max Baucus (D-MT)
• Senator Jon Tester (D-MT)

NC
• Senator Richard Burr (R-NC)

NH
• Senator Jean Shaheen (D-NH)

NM
• Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM)

NV
• Senator Harry Reid (D-NV)

OR
• Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR)

RI
• Senator Jack Reed (D-RI)

TN
• Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN)

WA
• Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA)
• Senator Patty Murray (D-WA)

WV
• Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV)

House

AZ
• Representative Raul Grijalva (D-7th/AZ)

CA
• Representative Judy Chu (D-32nd/CA) 
• Representative Sam Farr (D-17th/CA)
• Representative John Garamendi (D-10th/CA)
• Representative Mike Thompson (D-1st/CA)

CO
• Representative Jared Polis (D-2nd/CO)

CT
• Representative Chris Murphy (D-5th/CT)

IL
• Representative Robert Dold (R-10th/IL)

MA
• Representative Edward Markey (D-7th/MA)
• Representative John Olver (D-1st/MA)

MD
• Representative John Sarbanes (D-3rd/MD)

ME
• Representative Mike Michaud (D-2nd/ME)

MI
• Representative Dale Kildee (D-5th/ MI)

MN
• Representative Betty McCollum (D-4th/MN)

NH
• Representative Charles Bass (R-2nd/NH)

NJ
• Representative Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-11th/NJ)
• Representative Frank LoBiondo (R-2nd/NJ)

NM
• Representative Martin Heinrich (D-1st/NM)
• Representative Ben Ray Lujan (D-3rd/NM)

NY
• Representative Nan Hayworth (R-19th/NY)
• Representative Maurice Hinchey (D-22nd/NY)

OH
• Representative Steve LaTourette (R-14th/OH)

OR
• Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-3rd/OR)

PA
• Representative Charlie Dent (R-15th/PA)
• Representative Mike Fitzpatrick (R-8th/PA)

VA
• Representative Jim Moran (D-8th/VA)
• Representative Rob Wittman (R-1st/VA) 

WA
• Representative Norm Dicks (D-6th/WA)
• Representative Rick Larsen (D-2nd/WA)
• Representative Dave Reichert (R-8th/WA)

WI
• Representative Ron Kind (D-3rd/WI)
• Representative Tom Petri (R-6th/WI)

WV
• Representative Nick Rahall (D-3rd/WV)
 

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[ Great Outdoors America Week 2012 ]

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More than 200 people are pounding the pavement in Washington DC during Great Outdoors America Week or GO America Week.  As National Great Outdoors Month comes to a close, people from all walks of life – veterans, kids, business leaders, sportsmen – are in letting their lawmakers know how important it is to protect and reconnect people to the great outdoors.

The people coming to our nation’s capital are as diverse as the places they are trying to protect. It ranges from business leaders like Chris Miller from outdoor footwear company Vasque, whose company is part of the $650 billion outdoor recreation economy; to armed forces veterans group Vet Voice Foundation, which is bringing in veterans to support conservation efforts.

They will be joining many more people in urging Congress to act on more than two dozen bills that would protect open spaces that belong to all Americans.

This year’s annual Great Outdoors America Week runs from June 25-27 in Washington D.C., but that doesn’t mean that you can’t help be a champion for America’s wild places.

You can follow along our efforts to protect our America’s wild places and green spaces on our Flickr page – check out some of pictures, and share some of your own that show what your favorite part of America’s great outdoors is.  We’ll also be honoring lawmakers and agency officials that have stood up for America’s Great Outdoors and pushed to keep our wild places protected and open to all Americans.

Make sure to follow along on Twitter with the hashtag #GOAmericaWeek and check in our Facebook page for updates of what you can do to help protect America’s great outdoors!

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[ America’s Great Outdoors Agency Champions ]

A diverse group of people from across the country came together to honor and celebrate America’s Great Outdoors Champions during Great Outdoors America Week (GO America Week).  These Agency champions were honored for their on-going work to protect America’s wild places and green spaces, and reconnect Americans to the great outdoors. 

Department of the Interior – Will Shafroth 

Will Shafroth, a land conservationist executive and founding director of the Colorado Conservation Trust and Great Outdoors Colorado Trust Fund is currently serving as Councilor to the Secretary for America’s Great Outdoors.

America’s Great Outdoors Accomplishments

  • DOI worked with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to designate 41 National Recreation Trails stretching across 17 states, adding 650 miles to the national trails system.
  • DOI and USACE worked together to designate three new National Water Trails including the Lake Michigan National Water Trail in Illinois and Indiana, the Quinebaug River Water Trail in Connecticut, and the Susquehanna River Water Trail in Pennsylvania.
  • Led by EPA, USDA, DOI and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, 11 agencies came together to form the Federal Urban Waters Partnership, leveraging Federal funds to revitalize urban waters and surrounding communities through pilot projects in seven initial cities.
  • Released a 50-state progress report outlining 100 locally-supported outdoor initiatives aimed at reconnecting people to the great outdoors. 
     

Department of Agriculture (U.S. Forest Service) – Robert Bonnie

Robert Bonnie is a Senior Advisor to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack for environment and climate change.  At USDA, Bonnie works closely with the Farm Service Agency, Forest Service, and Natural Resources Conservation Service on a variety of natural resource and climate related issues.

America’s Great Outdoors Accomplishments

  • USDA announced $100 million in landowner agreements with farmers and ranchers to restore wetlands and permanently conserve nearly 24,000 acres of agricultural land in the Northern Everglades.
  • USDA improved access for hunting by enrolling eight additional states and one tribe in the “Open Fields” Voluntary Public Access Program, which works with states to provide landowners with incentives to expand lands available for hunting.
  • Led by EPA, USDA, DOI and the Department of Housing and Urban Developmen, 11 agencies came together to form the Federal Urban Waters Partnership, leveraging Federal funds to revitalize urban waters and surrounding communities through pilot projects in seven initial cities.
  • USDA worked with other Federal agencies to launch new landscape-scale projects in Saginaw Bay, Michigan; Monterey Bay, California; and the Lake Champlain area in New York and Vermont, investing $3.5 million to underwrite conservation activities on working lands based on extensive stakeholder input.
     

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers – Terrence “Rock” Salt

Terrence “Rock” Salt is the principal deputy assistant secretary of the Army. Salt was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota and graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army in June 1966. He is a graduate of the Army’s Airborne and Ranger Schools, the Army Command and General Staff College, and the National War College. 

America’s Great Outdoors Accomplishments

  • DOI worked with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to designate 41 National Recreation Trails stretching across 17 states, adding 650 miles to the national trails system.

Environmental Protection Agency – Bicky Corman

Bicky Corman is currently the Deputy Associate Administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Policy. Corman has handled environmental litigation and policy at the state and federal levels, previously serving in EPA's New York office and in the Department of Justice's Environmental Enforcement Section, and in the District of Columbia's Department of the Environment, where she served as the General Counsel.

America’s Great Outdoors Accomplishments

  • EPA awarded nearly $30 million in Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grants, including funds to groom Chicago’s to 24 beaches on a daily basis and build a protective barrier to make swimming areas cleaner. These actions should result in fewer swimming bans and advisories due to contamination.
  • Led by EPA, USDA, DOI and the Department of Housing and Urban Developmen, 11 agencies came together to form the Federal Urban Waters Partnership, leveraging Federal funds to revitalize urban waters and surrounding communities through pilot projects in seven initial cities.

White House Council on Environmental Quality – Jay Jensen

Jay Jensen is the associate director for Land & Water Ecosystems at White House Council on Environmental Quality.

America’s Great Outdoors Accomplishments

  • Coordinated the efforts of the other agencies to ensure maximum success for Americans nationwide

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[ Land grab masked as a national security measure passes U.S. House of Representatives ]

Anti-wilderness package also allows logging in California roadless areas, clear-cutting of old growth forests in Alaska and virtually rent-free grazing on public lands

Today the U.S. House of Representatives passed a package of anti-wilderness bills (H.R. 2578), including H.R. 1505, the “National Security and Federal Lands Protection Act.” 

H.R. 1505 would hand over “operational control” of federal public lands within 100 miles of the Canadian and Mexican borders to the U.S. border patrol, and could open national parks, wildlife refuges, wilderness and other public lands to development, such as construction and road building. Rep. Raul Grijalva’s (D, AZ-7) amendment to strike H.R. 1505 from the package was unfortunately defeated. This package of bills now awaits movement in the Senate.

Prior to the House vote, a coalition of Hispanic and immigration reform advocates, Native American tribal organizations, sportsmen, businesses and conservation groups, sent a letter to members of Congress voicing their opposition and asking members to vote against the bill.

“H.R. 1505 is an overreach that would adversely affect everyone who enjoys America’s public lands,” said David Moulton, senior legislative director at The Wilderness Society. “The bill would allow road building, construction and development on lands that are loved for hunting, fishing, hiking and other recreational activities. This vote was not in the best interest of the people who enjoy the land for its natural beauty.”

H.R. 1505 is part of an anti-wilderness package that includes, among other destructive bills:

The Sealaska bill would give away tens of thousands of acres of high-value public land from the Tongass National Forest to the Sealaska Corporation. This would allow the corporation to clear-cut valuable forest land and take ownership of the best recreation sites at the heads of bays or mouths of salmon streams. This land giveaway would effectively prevent a long-planned transition out of old growth logging on the national forest, and privatize prime recreation spots that are currently open to the American public for fishing, hunting, and recreation and are relied upon by many small tourism, outfitter and fisheries businesses.

• Title XI, the “Grazing Improvement Act,” is a virtual giveaway of over 247 million acres of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and National Forest rangelands to the approximately 27,000 livestock producers who have grazing privileges on the lands managed by these two agencies. The bill would change the term of federal livestock grazing leases from the current ten years to 20 years.  No other government entity in the U.S. issues 20-year livestock grazing permits.   In addition, Title XI reduces the level of environmental scrutiny of livestock grazing practices on BLM and National Forest lands by allowing these agencies to exempt the issuance of grazing permits from National Environmental Policy Act review.

The Quincy Library Group bill would take an unsuccessful and outmoded forest management pilot program and expand it across much of northern California, while simultaneously authorizing logging in roadless areas, spotted owl habitat, salmon habitat and other areas of critical environmental importance and mandating minimum annual timber cuts. 

Opposed by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), H.R. 1505 could endanger personal freedoms by closing without notice our lands to hunting, fishing, tourism and recreation, all multi-million dollar industries that support small businesses.  DHS Secretary Napolitano testified before Congress in opposition to H.R. 1505, saying it "is unnecessary, and it’s bad policy." DHS benefits from their close collaboration with law enforcement counterparts in the land management agencies. In addition to threatening lands, the bill threatens this collaboration.

H.R. 1505 is an extreme and radical measure that would put at risk 49 million acres of public lands in 17 states, sweeping away 16 bedrock environmental and land management laws in Joshua Tree National Park, Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, Acadia National Park and any other protected land that sits within 100 miles of the border.

The Wilderness Society recently updated the report, “Wilderness Under Siege,” to reflect the movement of these and other bills and what they would mean to America’s lands, waters and natural legacy. Also mentioned in the report is H.R. 4089 — a Trojan horse bill that includes a sneak attack on wilderness. H.R. 4089 recently passed the House, and awaits passage in the Senate. 

The bills profiled in “Wilderness Under Siege” are out of touch with the American people’s conservation values.

To view Wilderness Under Siege, please visit: http://wilderness.org/content/wilderness-under-siege-act-now-stop-attacks-updated-april-2012

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[ Come See Ansel Adams’ Photographs on Display at The Wilderness Society ]

One of the most important landscape photographers of the 20th century, Ansel Adams is renowned for his iconic black and white photographs of the American West.  During the last year of his life, Adams made a gift to The Wilderness Society of 75 of his original prints, which are on permanent display at our Washington, DC headquarters.  We invite you and your friends to join us one evening this summer with photography expert Marie Martin for an intimate look at the images that have served to light the way for wilderness preservation in America.

The Wilderness Society Presents:
WINE, WILDERNESS & ANSEL ADAMS

June 22 – July 26 – August 24

5:00 – 7:30 pm

Remarks at 6:00 pm by Marie Martin

The Wilderness Society Headquarters
1615 M Street, NW, Suite 200, Washington, DC 20036

RSVP (encouraged but not required) to events@tws.org.  For more information, contact Lora Sodini (202) 429-2619.

If you are unable to attend but would still like to support The Wilderness Society's critical mission of protecting wilderness and inspiring Americans to care for our wild places, then please consider making a donation today.

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[ Restoring the Sierra: Seeing the forest for the trees ]

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For the vast Sierra Nevada, it’s more important than ever to see the forest for the trees.

And in one area of the Sierra National Forest that bigger picture includes preserving forest health, safeguarding communities from wildfire, improving wildlife habitat and creating local jobs.

All of those goals are part of a unique forest restoration project underway in the Dinkey area of the Sierra National Forest – a popular recreation destination just east of Fresno. It is hoped that the lessons learned here can serve as a blueprint to improve the health of other forests.

The science-based program, known as the Dinkey Collaborative Restoration Project, is focused on 154,000 acres of forests, meadows, lakes, rivers and chaparral.

The Wilderness Society is one of the project’s many diverse partners, which also includes a lumber mill, a utility company, a regional air pollution agency, California Native American tribes, local fire safe councils, the U.S. Forest Service, nonprofit organizations and several universities.

By working together, these partners are focused on the Dinkey’s dense stands of trees that threaten the health of the forest and its residents – both animal and human.

In a healthier forest ecosystem, a variety of trees co-exist in a landscape where periodic fire helps to naturally thin out the density. Instead, many areas of the Dinkey are currently packed with too many small trees that are elbowing out other species.

“Our goal is to retain and promote large tree and denning/nesting structures needed by the Pacific fisher and the California spotted owl and provide sufficient natural regeneration of shade-intolerant tree species for the creation of future fire-adapted forests” explains Stan Van Velsor, a California Wilderness Society forest expert who has been working on the Dinkey collaborative for two years.

When fire whips through these crowded stands of smaller trees, the fire grows more intense, with flames traveling upwards through the trees – even destroying species like Ponderosa pines which can typically survive smaller fires. The fire then becomes a devastating ‘crown fire’ where flames spread rapidly across the crowns of trees and threatens communities and rare species like the Pacific fisher, a shy, furry mammal that is becoming rare in old growth forests of the Sierra Nevada.

So far, the Dinkey project has hired local crews to help thin trees on nearly 5,000 acres, much of this near communities with high forest fire danger.  This year, several other projects are in the works:  reintroducing fire on approximately 2,000 acres through prescribed burning, thinning another 2,500 acres of forest and undertaking several watershed improvement projects like erosion control.

Re-introducing low and moderate intensity fire, Van Velsor explains, is also an important part of the Dinkey project and eventually controlled burns will be used on approximately 46,000 acres.

The Dinkey project, Van Velsor says, restores forest health and will help campers, boaters and fishermen to continue to enjoy this area. Local forest crews employ community residents. And rare species like the Pacific fisher will have better luck finding the black oak where they make their homes.

If forests grow unchecked with no small fires or thinning, smaller species like white fir and incense cedar will crowd out black oak and other tree species. “A multi-species forest is more resilient, more fire tolerant and healthier in the long term,” Van Velsor says.

 

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[ BLM can balance conservation and development in NPR-A ]

ANCHORAGE, ALASKA (June 15, 2012) – As the Bureau of Land Management closes the public comment period on its draft environmental impact statement for the western Arctic’s National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, The Wilderness Society and its members are urging a management strategy that will protect designated Special Areas within NPR-A.

“The Special Areas of the NPR-A contain globally significant resources, including some of the Arctic’s highest shorebird nesting densities in the world and sensitive habitat for molting geese, two of Alaska’s largest caribou herds, Pacific walrus and other marine mammals, as well as designated critical habitat for America’s polar bears,” said Nicole Whittington-Evans, The Wilderness Society’s regional director for Alaska. “These areas also provide important subsistence resources that Arctic communities have depended on for thousands of years. BLM should take this historic opportunity to choose a balanced plan that ensures protection of these areas while allowing for future oil and gas leasing and development.”

This 23.5 million acre reserve is under pressure from Congress and the oil industry, both of which are eager to drill there despite the U.S. Geological Survey announcing in the fall of 2010 that the amount of oil in the reserve is only one-tenth of what was estimated in 2002, and more abundant oil resources exist in the Prudhoe Bay industrial complex.

The Wilderness Society endorses Alternative B of the BLM Draft Plan because it is the clear choice to effectively and reliably protect key, globally significant habitat areas in the reserve, while also allowing development.

Congress recognized the need to protect important areas of the NPR-A when it transferred these lands from the U.S. Navy to the BLM in 1976 and directed the agency to study and create Special Areas in the NPR-A. BLM has since established four such areas.

“Scientific research at The Wilderness Society has broadened our understanding of the critical importance of the Teshekpuk Lake Special Area, as well as other Special Areas of the NPR-A for caribou, migratory birds and climate change adaptation,” said Whittington-Evans. “We need a balanced management plan for the NPR-A.”
 

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[ Old-growth logging mortgages future of the Tongass National Forest ]

ANCHORAGE, ALASKA – Generations of loggers have seen timber from the Tongass National Forest as a source of income, but a new study indicates that the tradeoffs that come with large-scale harvests of old-growth timber in Southeast Alaska are not worth the short-term gain.  

A new study conducted by Stillwater Sciences for The Wilderness Society examines the effects of timber harvests on coho salmon populations in a heavily logged watershed on Prince of Wales Island, and the results are alarming: Logging and related road construction near Staney Creek likely have caused a 60-percent reduction in annual returns of coho salmon to the Staney Creek watershed. Given that about 70 Tongass watersheds have had at least half their flood-plain forests logged, logging is likely jeopardizing salmon populations throughout Southeast Alaska. Fortunately, there is a solution for maintaining healthy salmon populations in the Tongass — conserving remaining old-growth forests and restoring damaged watersheds.

“Old-growth logging on the Tongass has come with significant cumulative impacts to critical ecosystem services such as fish and wildlife habitat, carbon storage and beautiful vistas,” said Evan Hjerpe, a Wilderness Society economist examining Tongass forest management. “This study highlights the need to shift management funds away from old-growth logging toward the protection of intact watersheds and the restoration of degraded watersheds.”

Such a large loss of potential salmon production is cause for concern in a region heavily dependent on subsistence fishing and where salmon and trout fishing provide 10 percent of annual local jobs. In contrast, timber-industry jobs represent less than one percent of employment. Because it takes centuries for old-growth conditions to develop, logging is mortgaging the future of the Tongass by harming resources that are the real economic drivers of the region.

Trees in unaltered forest stands play a critical role in creating suitable habitat for fish. For example, trees that naturally fall into streams create pools, slow stream flows and provide shade for young fish.  Large, stable trees on nearby slopes reduce erosion from roads and culverts. Shifting Tongass timber dollars to watershed restoration to help restore these and other natural conditions would be an economic and ecological investment in Southeast Alaska.  Investments in watershed restoration have been shown to create more regional jobs per dollar than logging funds and positively impact more sectors of the regional economy. 

“For every dollar the U.S. Forest Service spends on repairing Tongass streams degraded by logging, it spends 20 dollars planning new clearcuts and logging roads,” Hjerpe said.  “This is an unsustainable ratio that comes at the expense of other industries, communities, and the next generation, all of which depend on a healthy Tongass National Forest.”

 

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[ Land grab masked as a national security measure hits House floor next week ]

Bill part of anti-wilderness package would allow logging in California roadless areas, clearcutting of old growth forests in Alaska and virtually rent-free grazing on public lands

The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to consider a slew of bills early next week, including H.R. 1505, the “National Security and Federal Lands Protection Act.”  It would hand over “operational control” of federal public lands within 100 miles of the Canadian and Mexican borders to the U.S. border patrol, and could open national parks, wildlife refuges, wilderness and other public lands to development, such as construction and road building. 

H.R. 1505 is part of an anti-wilderness package expected to hit the House floor next week that includes, among other destructive bills:

The Quincy Library Group bill would take an unsuccessful and outmoded forest management pilot program and expand it across much of northern California, while simultaneously authorizing logging in roadless areas, spotted owl habitat, salmon habitat and other areas of critical environmental importance and mandating minimum annual timber cuts. 

The Sealaska bill would give away tens of thousands of acres of high-value public land from the Tongass National Forest to the Sealaska Corporation, allowing the corporation to clearcut some of the last remaining old growth and take ownership of the best recreation sites at the heads of bays or mouths of salmon streams. This land giveaway would effectively prevent a long-planned transition out of old growth logging on the national forest, and privatize prime recreation spots that are currently open to the American public for fishing, hunting, and recreation and are relied upon by many small tourism, outfitter and fisheries businesses.

• Title XI, the “Grazing Improvement Act” is a virtual giveaway of over 247 million acres of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and National Forest rangelands to the approximately 27,000 livestock producers who have grazing privileges on the lands managed by these two agencies. The bill would change the term of federal livestock grazing leases from current ten years to 20 years.  No other government entity in the U.S. issues 20-year livestock grazing permits.   In addition, Title XI reduces the level of environmental scrutiny of livestock grazing practices on BLM and National Forest lands by allowing these agencies to exempt the issuance of grazing permits from National Environmental Policy Act review.

Opposed by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)
, H.R. 1505 could endanger personal freedoms by closing without notice our lands to hunting, fishing, tourism and recreation, all multi-million dollar industries that support small businesses.

“H.R. 1505 is an overreach that would adversely affect everyone who enjoys America’s public lands,” said David Moulton, senior legislative director at The Wilderness Society. “The bill would allow road building, construction and development on lands that are loved for hunting, fishing, hiking and other recreational activities.”

H.R. 1505 is an extreme and radical measure that would put at risk 49 million acres of public lands in 17 states, sweeping away 36 bedrock environmental and land management laws in Joshua Tree National Park, Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, Acadia National Park and any other protected land that sits within 100 miles of the border.

This bill is an extreme and radical measure, and DHS Secretary Napolitano testified before Congress in opposition to H.R. 1505, saying it "is unnecessary, and it’s bad policy." DHS benefits from their close collaboration with law enforcement counterparts in the land management agencies. In addition to threatening lands, the bill threatens this collaboration.

The Wilderness Society recently updated the report, “Wilderness Under Siege,” to reflect the movement of these and other bills and what they would mean to America’s lands, waters and natural legacy. Also mentioned in the report is H.R. 4089 — a Trojan Horse bill that includes a sneak attack on wilderness. H.R. 4089 recently passed the House, and has been introduced as an amendment to the Farm Bill.

The bills profiled in Wilderness Under Siege and the measures expected to hit the house floor next week are out of touch with the American people’s conservation values.
To view Wilderness Under Siege, please visit: http://wilderness.org/content/wilderness-under-siege-act-now-stop-attacks-updated-april-2012

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[ Alaska’s Tongass National Forest: Where old-growth forests are the key to the future ]

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Alaska’s Tongass National Forest is an amazing landscape of rainforest-covered mountains and islands that provide habitat for salmon, bear, deer, wolves, and the Alaska people who have spent decades seeing the forest as a source of income from logging. But what if they were mortgaging their future all along?

A new report commissioned by The Wilderness Society found that in the Staney Creek watershed on Prince of Wales Island, the environmental degradation caused by the clearcutting of old-growth forests likely has caused a 60 percent decline in the number of adult coho salmon that return there to spawn. Simply put, old-growth trees keep creeks and rivers healthy. Trees provide shade, support banks, prevent erosion and, as they grow old and fall into streams, control the flow of water and provide fish habitat.

Damaging habitat and causing a drop in salmon populations is bad for the economy in a region where salmon fishing provides 10 percent of jobs, and many people depend on salmon to support their subsistence way of life. By contrast, the timber industry provides less than one percent of local jobs.

What has happened to Staney Creek has likely happened to many watersheds in the Tongass National Forest over decades of logging, and is probably still happening to other areas as commercial harvests of old-growth forests continue. Because it takes centuries for old-growth conditions to develop, logging is mortgaging the future of the Tongass by harming the resources that best support local economies.

“Old-growth logging on the Tongass has come with significant cumulative impacts to critical ecosystem services such as fish and wildlife habitat, carbon storage and beautiful vistas,” said Evan Hjerpe, a Wilderness Society economist who studies Tongass forest management. “This study highlights the need to shift management funds away from old-growth logging toward the protection of intact watersheds and the restoration of degraded watersheds.”

In other words, in addition to seeing the forest for the trees, it would be wise to also see the forest for its salmon; especially if you’re an Alaskan who wants your children and grandchildren to have opportunities to work in a prosperous fishing industry, harvest their own food from the forest, or just know that there are places in the world where nature still thrives. 

By producing sound science, The Wilderness Society is working to give the U.S. Forest Service and the residents of Southeast Alaska information they can use to make the best possible decisions about how to manage amazing landscapes like the Tongass and, hopefully give the region a brighter and more sustainable future.

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