I appreciated reading that the new Regional Forester Dave Schmid feels prepared to handle the proposed Alaska-specific Roadless Rule process. I would assume Schmid is under tremendous pressure from the state, which has unfortunately fought to exempt the Tongass from the National Roadless Rule since it was enacted in 2001.
I feel it’s important to remind readers that the current 2001 National Roadless Rule allows the Forest Service to authorize road construction in inventoried roadless areas. In the past, roads have been approved for projects dealing with transmission lines, mining and hydropower.
As the Draft Environmental Impact Statement is prepared to be released this coming summer, Southeast Alaskans will have another opportunity to provide input. This comment period is inconveniently timed during the busy fishing and visitor season.
According to the Southeast Conference, the timber industry employed 313 people in 2016, while the visitor and fishing industries employed 11,606. We all know visitors don’t come to Southeast to see clear-cuts, and science tells us healthy forests help contribute to stronger fish stocks.
I would like to urge Schmid and my fellow Southeast Alaskans to consider what truly drives Southeast’s economy. We need to push for no action, which would keep the current 2001 National Roadless Rule on the Tongass. Southeast’s economy has moved on and is thriving. It’s time for the Forest Service and state to champion the fishing and visitor economies — not a graying timber industry.
Tongass Forest Program Manager
• My Turns and Letters to the Editor represent the view of the author, not the view of the Juneau Empire.