U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan and Congressman Don Young, all from R-Alaska, made the following statements after the U.S. Forest Service announced it would attempt to reimpose near-general restrictions on the construction of roads and other economic activities on millions of acres of Tongass National Forest. The Forest Service will seek to do so by proposing a new rule to reinstate the 2001 roads rule, despite finalizing a different rule to exempt the Tongass from the 2001 rule just a year ago.
“It’s a frustrating decision that will impact not only lumber, but a wide range of industries in Southeast Alaska – tourism, recreation, mining, energy development, and transportation – so we’ll fight it. ” said Senator Murkowski. “It’s unnecessary, given the level of protections that already exist for the Tongass. He misses a real opportunity to work together to establish a sustainable regional economy. And it’s infuriating, given that we’ve just passed a landmark infrastructure bill, that the Biden administration intends to bring the Tongass back into an overly restrictive environment where projects almost always take longer and cost more, if they can continue. Everything from the deployment of broadband to the development of more affordable energy is at risk of a return to failure of the roadless rule. ”
“Like many Alaskans, I am deeply frustrated by the Biden administration’s continued assault on our state. Today’s announcement by Secretary Vilsack shows complete disregard for the interests of working Alaskan families, ” said Senator Sullivan. “Instead of playing puppets for far-left environmental groups who have no interest in promoting economic opportunity in our state, the Biden administration should recognize that Southeast Alaskans, like all Americans, have the right to Right to connect their communities, to support local economies, to build renewable energy projects and to harvest resources responsibly, all of this is being crushed by a return to this overly burdensome and disconnected regulation. “
“Today, USDA Secretary Vilsack – who works in a federal agency office 3,000 miles from our state – doubled that administration’s record for hostility to Alaska. Earlier this year, I implored Secretary Vilsack to come to the South East to visit our communities before making a decision on the Tongass. Obviously he didn’t. Those in the Southeast, including the natives of Alaska, know how to balance environmental protection with development; they’ve been doing it for years. Locking up the Tongass, as Secretary Vilsack does, sends the message that this administration does not trust Alaskans to take care of the very environment in which they live. All of our communities demand the same things that many people in Lower 48 take for granted: transportation, economic opportunity, outdoor recreation, and the ability to stay in touch with one another. It’s really a sad day for Alaska ”, said Congressman Young. “To the countless families whose economic opportunities and chances for a better life are being stifled by the Biden administration, I want you to know that I will continue to fight for you. I won’t stop working until my constituents in the Southeast receive the trust and respect they deserve from the people of Washington who continue to think they know what’s best for them. them.
The Tongass spans nearly 16.7 million acres, covering almost all of Southeast Alaska, and is home to 32 island communities. For decades, successive layers of federal laws and regulations, including the rule of roads, have continually restricted the necessary access to timber, mining, tourism, recreation, and the development of more affordable renewable resources. such as hydroelectricity.
Separated and apart from the no-road rule, the Tongass is already well protected by the law in force. Some 91 percent of the forest is already conserved in Wilderness, National Monument of Wilderness or inventoried road-free areas, meaning that only nine percent of Tongass are available for any kind of development.
In 2018, the Forest Service announced that it would develop a state-specific road ban rule focused on Tongass. The Alaska-specific rule, finalized in October 2020, exempted the Tongass from the Unique No-Roads Rule, which established sweeping bans on building roads, rebuilding roads, and harvesting timber on the roads. roadless areas inventoried on National Forest System lands from in 2001. The 2020 rule came in response to a petition from the state of Alaska asking for a full exemption for the Tongass, and helped restore balanced management and a reasonable economic outlook in Tongass.
Now, the Forest Service has announced that on Tuesday, November 23, it will officially propose a rule to reinstate the 2001 rule on roadless roads through the Tongass. The proposed rule will be open for public comment for 60 days. More information can be found here.