ACTION ALERT

Alaska-specific Roadless Rule

Respond ASAP

Overview

In January 2018, the State of Alaska petitioned the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for new rulemaking to completely exempt the Tongass National Forest from the 2001 national Roadless Rule. The USDA began the process in August and is now considering what the Preferred Alternative should be in a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS).

The U.S. Forest Service is now working on an analysis of six alternatives for consideration in the DEIS on an Alaska-specific Roadless Rule for the Tongass. The DEIS is expected to be published in July. 

The State, the timber industry, and the mining industry continue to support a full exemption from the Roadless Rule in the Tongass.  

The intent of the rulemaking process and DEIS is to address the management of roadless areas in the Tongass and evaluate a regulatory exemption for the forest to the Roadless Rule as well as consider other management solutions that address infrastructure, timber, renewable energy, mining, access, and transportation needs to further economic development. 

The Roadless Rule was established in January 2001 as President Bill Clinton was leaving office. It set in place prohibitions on timber harvests and road construction within roadless areas of the national forest system. The federal government and the State of Alaska reached a settlement in 2003 exempting the Tongass from the rule. In 2011, a federal court set aside the exemption and reinstated the rule. The court’s ruling was initially reversed, but the rule was once again reinstated on a procedural matter in a 6-5 decision of the Ninth Circuit in 2015. 

Action Requested

The Secretary of Agriculture is likely to select a Preferred Alternative soon and he needs to hear from Alaskans. The next two to three weeks are crucial in the decision-making timeline for the Secretary of Agriculture and the Forest Service. Please write the Secretary urging him to choose a Preferred Alternative that fully exempts the Tongass from the Roadless Rule. This is an opportunity to revisit a sweeping federal rule that never made sense in Alaska and to help create local sustainable economies.  

Mail & Email:

The Honorable Sonny Perdue               Chief Vicki Christiansen
Secretary of Agriculture                         U.S. Forest Service
U.S. Department of Agriculture             1400 Independence Ave., SW
1400 Independence Avenue, S.W.       Washington D.C. 20250-1111
Washington, D.C. 20250                       Email:[email protected]
[email protected]

Points to Consider:

  • The Forest Service should maintain the policy determination made by the USDA in 2003 by selecting total exemption as the Preferred Alternative in the DEIS.

  • Six Alaskan governors, both Republican and Democrat, have requested a total exemption of the Tongass from the Roadless Rule.
  • Alaska is unique and the Department of Agriculture acknowledged this in 2003 when it exempted Alaska from the 2001 Roadless Rule. 
  • The 2001 Roadless Rule prohibitions are unnecessary in the Tongass which can be adequately protected through the normal national forest land management process as intended by Congress in 1976 when it enacted the National Forest Management Act.

  • The nationwide Roadless Rule usurped much of the land planning process mandated by the National Forest Management Act (NFMA), particularly in Alaska. Exempting the Tongass from the Roadless Rule will not authorize any development activities, but it will enable the NFMA planning process to function as intended. 

  • Congress has already enacted over 6.6 million acres of Wilderness and other restrictive land use categories prior to the promulgation of the Roadless Rule on the Tongass. The remaining areas were passed over so they could support local employment, including year-around timber manufacturing jobs in a region where there are minimal state or private timberlands available to the mills.

  • Application of the 2001 rule has severely impacted the social and economic fabric of Southeast Alaska communities and violates the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act and the Tongass Timber Reform Act. It has devastated the timber industry where sustainable harvests have plummet and employment is now a fraction of what it was prior to enactment of the rule.

  • The current one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t account for Alaska’s uniqueness, needs, and limited surface infrastructure.

  • Finding and producing enough economic timber sales to sustain the forest products industry is not feasible under the current rule and forest plan. An Alaska-specific roadless rule must include an analysis for economic acres to demonstrate that sufficient timber volume is provided to support the timber industry. 

  • Any Alaska-specific rule should allow further road access for not only timber, mineral, tourism, and renewable energy, but access to resources important to residents for subsistence, recreation and other community economic, cultural, and social activities.