The Tongass National Forest is the largest temperate rainforest in the world and America's oldest designated National Forest. A bill, known as SB [Senate Bill] 881, will hand over some 80,000 acres of prime Tongass forest- 55 percent of which is old growth- to Sealaska, an indigenously-owned corporation with a record of clearcutting forests.
The acreage in question is a part of a promise made by the federal government to Sealaska. In 1971 the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act promised to give indigenous groups in Alaska 44 million acres, 375,000 acres of which were to be located in Southeast Alaska. To date Sealaska has received 290,000 acres, leaving 85,000 acres left under the 1970s agreement. However, critics contend that Sealaska has unsustainably managed the past acreage they were given - clearcutting approximately 80 percent of the land - and that the bill amounts to corporate welfare. Sealaska has been also criticized in the past for ignoring local mills and instead exporting logs directly to Asia for processing in order to make more profit.
According to a recent study the US has the highest percent forest cover loss of the world's major forest countries from 2000-2005. Beating out Brazil, Indonesia, and Canada. The study, however, did not incorporate regenerating forest, but focused solely on forest loss.
Critics say the bill threatens some of the most ecologically unique areas of the Tongass forest, namely karst limestone habitat, as well as two subspecies: the Queen Charlotte goshawk (Accipiter gentilis laingi) and the Alexander Archipelago wolf (Canis lupus ligoni).