National Forest System Deputy Chief Chris French speaks to a full room During an informational meeting on the U. S. Forest Service’s Roadless Rule at the Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall on Monday, Nov. 4, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

National Forest System Deputy Chief Chris French speaks to a full room During an informational meeting on the U. S. Forest Service’s Roadless Rule at the Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall on Monday, Nov. 4, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Public gets heated over Roadless Rule alternatives

Juneau residents made it clear they want to keep the Roadless Rule

What began as something of a dry, technical meeting turned into a confrontational display of anger at the Forest Service Monday evening.

It was meant to be a public information meeting held by the Forest Service regarding the six alternatives to the Alaska Roadless Rule the U.S. Department of Agriculture has drafted. But by the end of the session at Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall more speeches had been made than questions asked. It seemed most of the audience was already well-informed of the details of the alternatives.

[Empire Live: Here’s what people said at Roadless Rule public hearing]

The Forest Service will be holding a series of public information meetings on the Roadless Rule alternatives across Southeast Alaska (and one in Washington, D.C.). Monday night’s meeting was the first of over a dozen scheduled meetings, and while staff from the Forest Service made it clear they were there to inform, the audience was not especially receptive to their message.

A full house listens during an informational meeting on the U. S. Forest Service’s <strong>Roadless Rule </strong>at the Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall on Monday, Nov. 4, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

A full house listens during an informational meeting on the U. S. Forest Service’s Roadless Rule at the Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall on Monday, Nov. 4, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

The meeting began with Forest Service’s interdisciplinary team leader Ken Tu walking the audience through the six alternatives. He repeated several times throughout his presentation that the main goal in lifting the Roadless Rule was removing some of the regulatory burdens in the way of things like community connectivity and renewable resource development.

“These minor changes that are needed would not have to go through the laborious process we go through now,” Tu said.

Lifting the Roadless Rule would not change the amount of land available for timber harvest, Tu said, only expand areas where it could take place.

“If there’s no change, then why are we here?” one man shouted from the audience. “We’ll get to that,” Tu replied.

When the meeting opened to questions, things started to get a bit more tense. At one point, Meredith Trainor, Executive Director of the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council interrupted the question-and-answer session asking anyone in the audience to stand if they cared about what happens in the Tongass.

Most of the audience stood up.

Trainor then asked for a show of hands how many people preferred the “no-action” alternative. This was met with cheers and clapping from the crowd.

Most of the questions asked were less questions than statements or even accusations. Most of the audience seemed to believe that Alternative 6, which is the Forest Service’s preferred option and would exempt all 9.2 million acres of the Tongass National Forest from the Roadless Rule, was a foregone conclusion.

That was not directly refuted by Forest Service staff.

[Tribal leaders displeased with Roadless Rule process, hope for improvements]

“Rulemaking is an expression of policy preference from the current administration,” said Chris French, deputy chief for National Forest Systems at the U.S. Forest Service. “We take our orders from (Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue), and he ordered us to select Alternative 6.”

Many in the audience were upset the meeting was a public information meeting and not a public comment meeting.

“How can you rationalize not recording any verbal public comment,” one man asked, saying the Forest Service was shirking their responsibility to listen by accepting only written comments.

Forest Service staff maintained they took public opinion to heart and they encouraged people to submit written comments.

Public comment will be accepted until midnight on Dec. 17. Instructions on how to submit public comments can be found at the Forest Service website.

More in News

The Aurora Borealis glows over the Mendenhall Glacier in 2014. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Aurora forecast

Forecasts from the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Geophysical Institute for the week of Dec. 3

Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire 
Teachers and school board members talk during the Juneau Board of Education and Juneau Education Association’s annual meet and greet in mid November. JEA contract negotiation team declared impasse last Friday and are in the process of filing for federal mediation.
Juneau teachers union declares impasse amid drawn-out negotiations

Still, the teachers union and district express optimism about working toward agreement.

This photo shows an Alaska State Trooper patrol vehicle (Juneau Empire File)
Troopers: Man killed raven, consumed its tongue

No arrests or citations made at this time, but investigation is underway.

Gavel (Courtesy photo)
Man sentenced to 30 years in prison after pleading guilty to sex abuse of a minor

DNA and sex offender registration required as part of sentence.

t
Writers’ Weir: A window into the sea

A nonfiction story by Rodger Painter.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Police calls for Thursday, Dec. 8

This report contains information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Kéet and Oscar wait patiently to play on the beach in winter in Wrangell. (Vivian Faith Prescott / For the Capital City Weekly)
Planet Alaska: Winter words

Phrases and words to use to create a Lingít language immersion outing in the winter.

Most Read