Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy today sharply criticized federal plans announced to lock up significant parts of the state. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced it is taking steps to repeal the 2020 Alaska Roadless Rule and reinstate restrictions within the Tongass National Forest.
“With today’s news, the federal government in Washington made clear southeast Alaska is going back to the environmental policy of the 1990s,” said Governor Dunleavy. “Trotting out a regulatory relic from the Clinton-era that keeps our southeast communities isolated and economically suppressed is plain wrong. Alaskans deserve access to the resources that the Tongass provides – jobs, renewable energy resources, and tourism, not a government plan that treats human beings within a working forest like an invasive species.”
Covering nearly 17 million acres, the Tongass is the largest forest in the United States, an area larger than the states of New York, Massachusetts, and Connecticut combined. 90 percent of southeast Alaska, with its over 71,000 Alaska residents and the capital city of Juneau, are within the Tongass National Forest.
In 2018, Alaska started a petition that led to the 2020 Tongass Exemption Rule promulgated by the United States Department of Agriculture in October 2020. The rule at the time exempted the Tongass National Forest from the damaging restrictions against road construction and timber harvest in the national Roadless Rule. Recently, in June of 2021, the Biden administration decided to repeal the Trump administration’s plan to exempt Alaska from the Roadless Rule.
“The Supreme Court said it best: ‘Alaska is the exception, not the rule,’” said Corri Feige, the Department of Natural Resources Commissioner. “Alaska’s communities and our regional needs don’t fit in the mold of the rest of the country. The Alaska exemption to the sweeping national Roadless Rule was a thoughtful example of a well-considered policy to allow vital access in a small fraction of the vast Tongass National Forest that would enhance subsistence, energy security, recreation, transportation, resource development, and public safety in a multiple-use forest for the direct benefit of the people of Southeast Alaska. Revoking that common-sense policy ignores years of thoughtful analysis, careful study and measured decision-making for what are clearly political purposes. It is wrong, and it should not stand.”
Governor Dunleavy urges Alaskans to submit their comments in favor of supporting growth in Alaska’s economy during the 60-day comment period beginning on November 23, 2021. Submit electronically using the Federal eRulemaking Portal: www.regulations.gov.