Alaska’s Tongass National Forest logging restrictions reinstated : NPR
Hall Anderson/Ketchikan Daily News via AP, File
JUNEAU, Alaska – A federal agency said Wednesday it is reinstating restrictions on road building and logging on the country’s largest national forest in Southeast Alaska, the latest move in a long struggle over the Tongass National Forest.
The United States Department of Agriculture announced in late 2021 that it was beginning the process to reverse a Trump administration-era decision that exempted the Tongass – a rainforest that is also home to coastal islands rugged and glaciers – from the so-called roadless rule. The agency on Wednesday said it has finalized that plan.
The new rule will take effect once it is published in the Federal Register, which is expected to happen Friday, agency spokesman Larry Moore said.
The Tongass is roughly the size of West Virginia and provides habitat for wildlife, including bears, wolves, bald eagles and salmon.
Roadless areas account for about one-third of all lands in the US national forest system. But Alaska’s political leaders have long sought an exemption to the no-passage rule for the Tongass, seeing the restrictions as burdensome and limiting economic opportunities. They supported efforts under former President Donald Trump to lift the roadless designation for about 9.4 million acres on the Tongass.
Republican Governor Mike Dunleavy said on social media Wednesday that people in Alaska “deserve access to the resources that the Tongass provides – jobs, renewable energy resources and tourism, not a government plan that treats humans within a functioning forest like an invasive species.”
The dispute goes back more than two decades.
The United States Department of Agriculture, in reviewing the matter, cited a directive from President Joe Biden early in his term to review and address rules enacted under Trump that may conflict with environmental goals and climate established by Biden.
US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack in a statement called the Tongass “a key to conserving biodiversity and addressing the climate crisis. Restoring protections without roads listens to the voices of the Tribal Nations and the people of Southeast Alaska while recognizing the importance of fishing and tourism to the region’s economy.”
Conservation groups welcomed the decision.