ACTION ALERT: Call for comments on Repeal of Alaska-specific Roadless Rule
 Comment Deadline is January 24, 2022

RDC Comment Letter


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 Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the Tongass specific Roadless Rule that was published in the Federal Register on September 24, 2020, and the Tongass specific Rule exempting the Tongass from the 2001 Roadless Rule was promulgated on October 29, 2020. Environmental groups filed suit opposing the Exemption on December 23, 2020. 

On November 23, 2021, USDA posted a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to repeal the October 29, 2020, Final Rule Exempting the Tongass from the 2001 Roadless Rule.

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

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. By ANILCA and the Tongass Timber Reform Act of 1990 the Congress set aside 6.6 million acres. The 2001 Roadless Rule covers an additional 9.4 million acres. Together these set asides prevent or make prohibitively expensive development on 90% of the Tongass.

The federal government and the State of Alaska reached a settlement in 2003 exempting the Tongass from the rule. In 2011, a federal district court set aside the exemption and reinstated the rule. The district court’s ruling was initially reversed by a three-judge Ninth Circuit panel, but the rule was once again reinstated on a procedural matter in a 6-5 en banc decision of the Ninth Circuit in 2015. 

Action Requested:

RDC members are encouraged to comment on the repeal of the Roadless Rule exemption before the January 24th deadline.



Alaska Roadless Rule
USDA Forest Service
P.O. Box 21628
Juneau, Alaska
Email: [email protected]


Points to consider in your comments:

  • The Forest Service should maintain the policy determination made by the USDA in 2003 and 2020 by maintaining a total exemption. 

  • 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 plummeted 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. 

  • Road access to mineral claims has been made reliant on the subjective response to a project by Forest Service officials.

  • The 2001 Roadless Rule makes uncertain the ability to access future hydroprojects by road. Access to geothermal projects is not allowed.

  • 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. 


Comment Deadline January 24, 2022