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James Hooley: China’s raid on the Tongass National Forest chops American jobs and profits

Tongass National Forest
World economies have been severely crippled by the coronavirus pandemic that originated in Wuhan, China. As each week passes, more and more countries have proposed and passed multi-billion dollar and trillion-dollar stimulus packages meant to bolster floundering economies.

The United States has taken the brunt of the damage with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin stating yesterday morning that the Trump administration will "seriously look" at sending another round of direct cash payments to some Americans in the fourth coronavirus relief package, in order to buoy the drowning economy. The prosperity of our nation has been brought to its knees, as a result of China’s deception surrounding the origins of the coronavirus, and their botched containment of the deadly disease.

Amidst all of the confusion and hardship, trade tensions between the U.S. and China are at an all-time high. President Trump and his administration have vocalized their disapproval of China’s response to the coronavirus and have vowed for retaliation. Director of the United States National Economic Council Larry Kudlow warned last week that, “China is making a big mistake” for the future of peaceful trade.

Considering all of these factors at play, it seems nonsensical to even consider a recent proposal put forth by the United States Forest Service and the Alaska government. The proposal intends to lift the 2001 ‘Roadless Rule’ protections against additional logging in the Tongass National Forest of Alaska. It's nonsensical for many reasons, but mainly, because China is deeply involved in Tongass logging.

Unbeknownst to many, China is undoubtedly the largest importer of raw log exports from the Tongass National Forest. The USDA’s 2016 “Tongass National Forest Demand: Projections for 2015 to 2030” found that “the majority of southeast Alaska logs were sent to the Pacific Rim; the share of logs sent there was over 90% in both 2005 and 2011…China is by far the largest single purchaser.”

China demands the wood product to fulfill their needs, and in return, the United States supplies. And as we supply, the American taxpayer suffers.

Government watchdog organization Taxpayers for Common Sense reported in 2019, in accordance with the Government Accountability Office report from 2016, that the U.S. government subsidization of the Tongass logging industry has resulted in the loss of over $600 million taxpayer dollars in the last 20 years, at a rate of $30 million a year.

The overwhelming majority of raw log exports are bought by Chinese markets at the expense of American profit. Moving forward with this proposal would allow for 10 million more acres in the Tongass to be opened for industrial clearcutting, with the resultant logs being bought and shipped to China, costing the United States millions in government provided subsidization.

The other industries within the protected areas of the Tongass are exponentially more profitable than clearcutting and logging. Tourism, fishing, and hunting industries make up 26 percent of the local economy of Southeast Alaska, and the Tongass itself provides for over 10,000 jobs for Alaskans. Salmon harvested from Tongass rivers account for 28 percent of the commercial salmon harvest across Alaska. The Alaskan fishing industry itself yields $986 million annually.

Cutting down the trees of the Tongass to satiate Chinese consumption would simultaneously axe the thousands of jobs the forest provides for Alaskan residents and destroy millions of acres of American land. As of late, haven't we done enough suffering at the hands of China?

Americans are not happy with the spread of the coronavirus that has killed family members, destroyed businesses, and left many struggling to comprehend how they will find work when the country re-opens. Now, more than ever, we need to be focusing on American economic growth and employment. To ensure future American profit, the Roadless Rule protections must be maintained. To keep it great, America must come first and not China.

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