A Trump administration plan to expand drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) faces resistance in Congress. But the release of the new plan for more timber, mining and mining in the nation’s largest forest is raising a different concern: the extra traffic from the logging.
Environmentalists are already mobilizing to oppose the new policy that would clear the way for logging in the Tongass National Forest. The Tongass covers more than 120,000 square miles in Alaska, making it one of the largest forests in the nation. The open-pit mining plan submitted by Kennecott’s holding company would expand its project to 1,170 acres, out of which it will add nearly 250 mining roads, five surface-mining pits and two vaults, according to a 20-page environmental report released by the Bureau of Land Management.
The Tongass “is one of the crown jewels of our national forests, and yet we are proposing a single mining project within just half a mile of every employee of the United States Forest Service,” said John Passfield, the executive director of the Copper Mining Rights Coalition.
Although Kennecott’s plan calls for mining gravel in shallow layers to support truck traffic, the report said the surface of the hills will not need to be mined. “Surface mining in undisturbed areas is an effective and ecologically safe method of assessing metals,” the report says.
“Most problems in the Tongass are caused by timber companies, not by mining,” Passfield said. The expansion of logging in the Tongass will bring traffic that will not harm the forest, he said.
The Tongass area is also the home of two endangered species: the bull trout and caribou. The Trout is threatened by mining; there have already been “beasts of burden” in the area — one or more big game animals that are common in Canada and Russia, which are not native to the U.S.