Trump administration to open Tongass National Forest to logging

 Photo courtesy US Forest Service
Photo courtesy US Forest Service (KTUU)
Published: Oct. 28, 2020 at 10:46 AM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - On Wednesday, the Trump administration announced it will reverse the 2001 Roadless Rule and open up the Tongass National Forest to logging.

The Department of Agriculture Forest Service decision will be put in the Federal Registry Thursday and will then go into effect.

Approximately 9.3 million acres of land controlled by the federal government will now be open for timber harvest, road construction and reconstruction.

The record of decision notes the change, “does not authorize any ground-disturbing activities, nor does it increase the overall amount of timber harvested from the Tongass National Forest.”

Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s office supported the decision, saying the decision was a “hard-won liberation from inflexible federal mandates.”

“The U.S. Department of Agriculture has again acknowledged that the Tongass should be exempt from one-size-fits-all-national roadless policy,” Dunleavy said in a prepared statement. “This will help build community resilience and support economic recovery in a region that’s been hit hard by the devastating effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on tourism and other industries relying on responsible use of our natural resources and beauty.”

A few groups have already shared their opposition to the announcement. Southeast Alaska Conservation Council Executive Director Meredith Trainor said the decision ignores “the will of the people who actually live here.”

“The decision to rollback the Roadless Rule on the Tongass was made in spite of, not in support of, Southeast Alaskans and our communities,” Trainor said in a statement.

Another group, Trout Unlimited said the decision would put old-growth forests on the chopping block.

“Make no mistake, this decision is all about opening up old-growth forest to clear-cut logging in an effort to prop up an outdated and highly-subsidized logging industry,” said Austin Williams, Alaska Director of Law and Policy for Trout Unlimited. “Renewable energy, community infrastructure, mining, and transportation projects would have proceeded under any of the six alternatives considered.

Autumn Hanna, Taxpayers for Common Sense vice president said the decision was like a “massive subsidy for the timber industry.”

“Today’s action by the Forest Service is nothing more than a blatant giveaway to the timber industry,” Hanna said in a prepared statement. “Timber sales in national forests cost more than they make – they are money losers for taxpayers.”

Executive Director of the Center for Western Priorities Jennifer Rokala said, “This shows that President Trump’s ‘trillion trees’ plan is a sham—planting saplings will do nothing to help the planet while you’re bulldozing roads and chopping down trees in the largest old growth temperate rainforest in the world and one of America’s last great natural places.”

The decision comes days after it was reported the federal government withdrew an appeal of a court ruling stopping one of the largest old-growth timber sales in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest.

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