2003 Scorecard Vote
At 17 million acres, the Tongass National Forest of southeast Alaska is the nation's largest national forest and the world's largest remaining intact coastal temperate rainforest. With an abundance of grizzly bears, bald eagles, and wild salmon, the area is also a prime venue for recreation and subsistence fishing.
Since the 1950's, industrial timber operations have carved out more than 5,000 miles of logging roads in the Tongass and clear cut over 1 million acres of pristine forest--more than 70 percent of the region's biggest and best old-growth forest. Conservationists warn that continued logging will further imperil the bears, wolves, and other wildlife that require large expanses of old-growth forest to survive.
Nevertheless, despite widespread support for protecting the last great stands of trees in the Tongass, the Forest Service continues to push ahead with massive timber sales. To halt these sales, many local residents and conservationists have filed legal challenges. However, during consideration of H.R. 2691, the Interior appropriations bill, Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK) included a provision that would undermine the ability of citizens to file these legal challenges. The language gives citizens just 30 days to file challenges against approximately 40 timber sales, including those in roadless areas. The language also interferes with the independence of the federal judiciary by forcing the Alaska federal district court to review lawsuits against these sales within 180 days. This rider drew criticism from a wide array of communities, including local businesses, conservationists, and leading legal scholars.
On September 23, 2003, Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) offered an amendment to remove the Stevens rider from the bill. Stevens then introduced an amendment to table (kill) the Boxer amendment. The motion passed by a 52-44 vote (Senate roll call vote 359). NO is the pro-environment vote. The Stevens rider was in the final conference report for the 2004 Interior appropriations bill that was passed by both House and Senate and signed by the president.