Tag Archives: Climate Change

Clearcutting the Tongass National Forest is Dead Wrong

In Paris last December, the world turned a major corner on climate change. Some 195 nations agreed on the urgency of the threat. They also agreed to take steps to combat it, including promoting forest protection and reforestation — steps that are necessary, though not in themselves sufficient, if we are to avoid consequences as extreme for our economies and health as they are for the environment.

President Obama deserves much of the credit for this progress. On his watch, the United States has cut greenhouse gas emissions more than any other country. He has become a powerful voice at home and abroad for doing everything possible to cut emissions. And he is showing global leadership in policy areas that go beyond the Paris agreement; for instance, he has ordered an overhaul of the federal coalleasing program, which produces a tenth of all carbon dioxide emitted by U.S. sources.

In the Tongass rainforest, the Forest Service has clung to the old-school logging of some of the most biologically rich, scenically stunning and carbon-dense forests on Earth. 

So it was a surprise to see the U.S. Forest Service — as if in a time warp — recently working counter to that approach in the vast Tongass National Forest of southeast Alaska. There, the agency plans to continue liquidating carbon-laden old growth for at least another decade and a half.

Forest conservation is only one corner in the race to stem climate disruption that the Paris agreement, though broadly encouraging, did not get us far enough around. But it’s a vital one. As Secretary of State John Kerry said recently, deforestation generates nearly a quarter of all the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.

The science is clear: If we want to keep global warming from threatening the existence of coastal areas and low-lying island nations, the world must preserve its remaining old forests and the massive carbon reserves they’ve accumulated over the centuries. The new wood we use has to come instead from sustainably managed plantations and young stands that quickly regrow and recapture the carbon they lose to logging.

Mostly, our federally managed national forests have made that change over the past 25 years. But in the wilds of Alaska, it’s a different story. In the Tongass rainforest, the Forest Service has clung to the old-school logging of some of the most biologically rich, scenically stunning and carbon-dense forests on Earth.

The 17-million-acre Tongass absorbs about 8 percent of the nation’s carbon dioxide pollution from the atmosphere every year. It also teems with extraordinary wildlife, including bears, eagles, wolves and salmon.

Six years ago, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack decided that enough was enough. He announced a transition away from further logging of Tongass old growth, with the Forest Service “rapidly” implementing this change. This was met with high praise from the public and from scientists like me, but at the agency level, his initiative stalled. The Forest Service went years with no visible progress on the transition, while approving continued clear-cutting of America’s last great rainforest.

This fall, the agency released its final “transition” proposal: 16 more years of old-growth clear-cutting, and maybe more. According to one analysis, the logging proposed under the agency’s plan would release carbon dioxide emissions equivalent to about 4 million additional vehicles annually.

The agency says that neither it, nor the timber industry, can move any faster. In the Pacific Northwest, however, both transitioned to logging young forests almost overnight when courts halted access to old growth. The agency asserts that young Tongass trees growing on old clear-cuts are not yet big enough to log. In fact, though, they are older and larger than the ones that local Native corporation loggers cut and sell abroad, and small local mills say they would be happy to process these trees locally, if they could get them from the agency. 

Keeping global warming below catastrophic levels is not something that can wait until we finally get around to it. We need to be doing everything we can right now. We can’t afford to spend another 16 years or more liquidating Tongass old growth and losing the carbon reserves it stores. And we certainly shouldn’t signal other countries that the vital business of saving their carbon-rich rainforests can wait for decades. 

The Forest Service can and must move much faster and not undermine U.S. progress and leadership on climate change by protecting these biologically rich and most scenically stunning and carbon dense forests on Earth. It is long past the time to take the country’s biggest carbon asset off the chopping block. 

Thomas E. Lovejoy

Thomas Lovejoy is a professor of Environmental Science and Policy at George Mason University and previously a senior environmental advisor to the World Bank and the United Nations Foundation.

Originally published in The High Country News. 

Take action to save the Tongass National Forest. 

Alaska’s Tongass National Forest is nothing short of magical: it contains centuries-old trees and one-of-a-kind wilderness, home to animals like Alexander Archipelago wolves and bald eagles. Your voice is needed to pressure Congress to defund this clearcutting plan and save the Tongass for our children and grandchildren. 

Please sign and share this petition from the Sierra Club. Help protect the Tongass National Forest: Stop the Clearcutting. Thank you.

Feature Image: Alaskan Wolf by Doug Brown. Insert: Tongass National Forest photo by David Beebe 

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The Silencing of Nature: Sixth Extinction

Complex animal life evolved sometime over 500 million years ago. Since that time, life has continually evolved into different groupings of strange and diverse forms. Today, however, is a unique and unprecedented instant during this extraordinarily long history of life. Never before has there been a creature such as us—a being with the ability to rapidly and radically change the world. Only those who are blind to Nature can look around and not see catastrophe as growing thousands of species are pushed into the dawnless night of extinction.
“In the half a billion years of complex life, geology reveals five mass extinctions. All were caused by the smash of big extraterrestrial bodies into Earth or by stupendous geological forces. Biologists and conservationists call today’s extinction the Sixth Great Extinction in light of its magnitude. This extinction stands apart, though, because cosmic or geological forces do not cause it.
It has a biological cause.
One species.
Homo sapiens.
Due to its cause, and heeding our moral compass and sense of justice, perhaps we should not call today’s ecological crisis the “Sixth Mass Extinction.” Rather, we perhaps should call it the First Mass Murder of Life.

Never before has a single species escaped out of the confines of its ecosystems to become a global, geological force and then to spread across Earth to almost every ecosystem, and then remake and in many cases waste those ecosystems. Never before has a single species consumed so much of the rest of life into itself.
Never before has the population of a single species exploded instantaneously across the globe.
We have erupted like the burning cinders and poisonous gases of a giant volcano and now cover Earth” ~ From the Rewilding Institute .

The Silencing of Nature: Sixth Extinction:


 To get involved with helping endangered species, deepen your knowledge of environmental atrocities, and find ways in which you can help protect our planet and co-inhabitants, please see this list of helpful links:


National Resources Defense Council


Climate Network

Rainforest Action Network

IUCN, International Union for Conservation of Nature

Sumatran Elephant, critically endangered. Over two-thirds of Sumatra’s natural lowland forest has been razed, cutting this elephant’s habitat by 70%. Only approximately 2,400 remain.

 The production of meat and other animal products places a heavy burden on the environment – from crops and water required to feed the animals, to the transport and other processes involved from farm to fork. The vast amount of grain feed required for meat production is a significant contributor to deforestation, habitat loss and species extinction.

Take extinction off your plate . By eating less meat and more fruit and vegetables, the world could prevent several million deaths per year by 2050, cut planet-warming emissions substantially, save billions of dollars annually in healthcare costs and climate damage, and spare countless animals from unnecessary suffering.

Consider a  vegan lifestyle.

Connect with Anthropocene: The Sixth Extinction on YoutubeFacebook, and Twitter.

Climate change/Wildfire map

 Copyright © 2016 [COPYRIGHT Intheshadowofthewolf, name and webpage]. All Rights Reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or distributed in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the publisher.

My Name is Rolf

My name is Rolf.

I live on an island.

A few years ago I lived elsewhere, in a forest now lost, with my lifelong mate, my pups, and several other members of my pack. I was the alpha wolf then… back in 2017.

Time passes, yet I remember. I will always remember. In my dreams my pack resides.

We were hunting that winter day, my family and I. My pups were nearly 8 months old, still in the learning stages of mastering the skills needed to take down prey. Quite suddenly we heard a loud whirling sound coming from a creature in the sky which seemed to be chasing us, I felt a sharp sting in my leg and became very tired.

This was the final day spent with my pack in our forest.

I awoke here on this island alone, no mate, no pups, no pack. I searched for them but failed. This was an extremely disconcerting time for me, how would my family carry on without me? Who would lead the hunts? Would they survive? Would the pack dissolve, leaving my mate and pups to fend for themselves, resorting to surviving on “easy prey” like cattle or sheep, getting themselves into trouble with the ones who walk upright?

They say that time heals all wounds. The scars remain as reminders of just how painful our loss has truly been.
The memories inside of my mind,
ache to be manifested into my reality once again. These scars were not necessary for anamnesis, my life long mate lives in my heart until my last breath.

Time passes.

There are others wolves, many, like me, torn from home and family, living on this island. Perhaps we are a population of 25 or 30. I have a new mate now, we have 3 pups. Things seem peaceful here and the food is plentiful, well, was plentiful. We have been surviving on moose which have been a surprisingly easy catch as they were weakened by ticks and unusually hot summers. This past spring their condition worsened, and many died. Indeed, many moose did not even survive last year’s harsh winter.

Time passes.

Winter draws near again, and like other packs here, I have not been able to provide properly for my family for several months now. We are all very hungry. Some of us have been unable to fight off illnesses due to poor nutrition.

Time passes.

It is cold. The snow is deep. The prey are few and far between. This is my 3rd winter here on this paradise.

It is cold, the snow is deep. We are starving. Death for many of us is imminent.

I am old now and grow strangely tired.

I am Rolf. This was my life.


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Feature image: Curtis Snow

Copyright © 2015 [COPYRIGHT Intheshadowofthewolf, name and webpage]. All Rights Reserved. 

No part of this publication may be reproduced or distributed in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the publisher.