As I write this, I am looking from my window out to Shenandoah National Park and the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. In a time of social distancing and sheltering in place, it is a great comfort to call upon the peace and sustenance the natural world can provide. It is an enduring good.
American presidents of both parties—from Teddy Roosevelt to my old boss, Ronald Reagan, to Barack Obama—have embraced this enduring good and sought to protect our country’s natural heritage.
American transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau once stated that there “are moments when all anxiety and stated toil are becalmed in the infinite leisure and repose of nature.”
This is why, now, more than ever, we must protect the federal lands so designated by generations of American leaders. We must conserve this heritage, our birthright as Americans, so that these lands will remain untouched, a sanctuary in trying times.
The largest federally protected forest in the country, the Tongass National Forest in Alaska, is facing a threat from Big Industry, especially logging, that would enable large-scale clearcutting throughout, destroying almost 10 million acres of temperate rainforest and the wildlife within.
Too often, private logging companies operating in national forests think public lands are for their own private enterprise. Somehow the ideals of freedom and free enterprise have gotten mixed up in this argument.
The Tongass has glaciers, fjords, islands and 11,000 miles of shoreline. It is a natural and national jewel.
It is home to an abundance of indigenous wildlife, including bears, wolves, Sitka black-tailed deer, northern goshawks, marbled murrelets and the largest known concentration of bald eagles. In the glistening waters surrounding the forests of the Tongass, humpback and orca whales, otters, sea lions, porpoises and all five species of Pacific salmon can be found.
Migratory birds in the hundreds of thousands—snow geese, sandhill cranes, sandpipers, plovers and other species—make their way to the Tongass.
And so do the tourists. Millions from around the world travel every year to Alaska to experience the wonders of the Tongass, yielding a multi-million-dollar tourism industry. The tourists see the value of the Tongass and of reconnecting to something so natural, so should our government.
The proposal to lift the protections of the Roadless Rule is an effort by the Trump Administration to open up logging for the timber industry. It would irreversibly devastate millions of acres of land and damage nearby water sources, destroying the interwoven habitats of animals, birds and fish.
This beacon of the natural world would be destroyed by government approval, unrestrained corporate greed and big logging. What is more, each year government subsidies from the taxpayer’s wallet result in millions of dollars of economic losses, as the logging industry is propped up only to yield a 1 percent return of profit. It is not worth it.
Needless to say, America needs economic growth, but America also needs sacred lands. And, as any economist will tell you, America’s national economic future is not in clearcutting pristine national forests.
There are some things more important than irresponsible corporate profits. Our refuge, our heritage, our lands.
Landon Parvin was a speechwriter for Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush, and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.