Flyfishing guide Mark Hieronymus speaks during the public comment period for the new Roadless Rule advisory committee at Centennial Hall on Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2018. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Flyfishing guide Mark Hieronymus speaks during the public comment period for the new Roadless Rule advisory committee at Centennial Hall on Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2018. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Roadless rule committee questioned at first meeting

Advisory committee, tasked with balancing forest user groups, met for first time this week

More roads may be built on the Tongass National Forest with the creation of a new Alaska-specific version of the national roadless rule. A committee which met for the first time this week will get to have a say in where, when and who gets to build.

The Alaska Roadless Rule Citizen Advisory Committee convened this week at Centennial Hall for two days. The committee, made up of 12 public representatives and state forester Chris Maisch, will revisit the 2001 rule which prevents new road building on 7.4 million acres of land in Southeast Alaska.

The rulemaking process is moving quickly. Gov. Bill Walker announced the members of the committee last Friday. The group met first on Tuesday, and by Wednesday at Centennial Hall, butcher paper scribbled with ideas lined the wall of a small conference room. Multi-colored maps coded with land use designations filled one corner.

The Committee has a lot of priorities to balance. Representatives from mining, timber, conservation, economic development and Native corporations have to come to a consensus on who will get to build new roads and where.

The idea is to create a new rule which allows more timber access while conserving the characteristics of Southeast roadless areas.

The committee had its first chance to hear from the public on Wednesday afternoon. Many of the more than 20 people who testified were critical of the process.

[Skepticism at first Alaska Roadless Rule meeting]

Juneau fly fishing guide Mark Hieronymus noted the absence of representatives from the tourism and guiding industries on the committee. Brian Holst, executive director of the Juneau Economic Development Council, is the only committee member representing tourism.

Any erosion to protections offered by the national roadless rule, to Hieronymous, would hurt guides.

“Anglers from the Lower 48 encountering lost and irretrievable fishing opportunities in their home states now travel to Southeast Alaska,” Hieronymous said. “Ensuring the management priorities are fish and recreation values is a wise investment opportunity for Alaska.”

Joan McBeen attended a scoping meeting for the new rule recently in her small Southeast town of Tenakee Springs. She’s a retired commercial fisherman and sportfishing lodge owner. Tenakee depends on roadless areas, she said, to support fish habitat.

“All of Tenakee fishes salmon. It’s a wonder we don’t have gills,” she said.

Not everyone who commented was critical of building more roads in Southeast. Local man Jim Clark urged the committee to open more access to timber harvesting in Southeast.

“You ought to come up with a proposal that is in the best interest of Southeast Alaskans, is a good representation of Southeast Alaskans and look to providing access,” Clark said.

The committee will send its report to the State of Alaska. The Forest Service is also gathering public comment online and through a series of scoping meetings around Southeast Alaska. Those two efforts will culminate in a proposal for an Alaska-specific rule which will end up on the desk of U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, who has expressed support for increasing access to timber in Southeast. The process to develop the new rule will take about two years.


• Contact reporter Kevin Gullufsen at 523-2228 and kgullufsen@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @KevinGullufsen.


Brock Tabor speaks during the public comment period for the new Roadless Rule advisory committee at Centennial Hall on Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2018. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Brock Tabor speaks during the public comment period for the new Roadless Rule advisory committee at Centennial Hall on Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2018. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Jim Clark speaks during public comment period for the new Roadless Rule advisory committee at Centennial Hall on Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2018. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Jim Clark speaks during public comment period for the new Roadless Rule advisory committee at Centennial Hall on Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2018. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

More in News

(Juneau Empire file photo)
Aurora forecast for the week of Feb. 19

These forecasts are courtesy of the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Geophysical Institute… Continue reading

U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, addresses a joint session of the Alaska Legislature on Wednesday. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Sullivan touts new ocean cleanup headquarters in Juneau, attacks Biden in annual speech to legislators

Senator calls Trump “the best president ever” for Alaska, has harsh words for Iran and migrants

The Norwegian Bliss arrives in Juneau on April 17, 2023, the first cruise ship of the 2023 season. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire file photo)
Free public downtown Wi-Fi, park upgrades, more buses among proposals for marine passenger fees

Public comments being accepted until March 25 for more than $19 million in recommended projects.

Andy Mills (left), legislative liaison for the state Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, and Commissioner Ryan Anderson testify before the Senate Transportation Committee on Tuesday about an executive order that would give the governor full control of the Alaska Marine Highway System’s operations board. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Governor says he wants control of ferry board so it’s not ‘at odds’ with him; senators express skepticism

Resolution to reject Dunleavy’s executive order among many being considered by legislators.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire)
Police calls for Monday, Feb. 19, 2024

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

Paul Peterson, author of the Harvard study on national charter school performance. (KTOO 360TV screenshot)
Alaska lawmakers grapple with test-score performance gap between charters and other public schools

Charter study does not show how their testing success can be replicated in regular public schools.

An underwater image captured in 2016 shows sockeye salmon swimming up the Brooks River in Alaska’s Katmai National Park to spawn. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is buying about 50 million pounds of Alaska fish — pollock, pink salmon and sockeye salmon — to use in its food and nutrition-assistance programs. (Photo provided by the National Park Service)
Agriculture Department commits to big purchase of Alaska salmon and pollock for food programs

The U.S. Department of Agriculture will purchase about 50 million pounds of… Continue reading

Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé students hold up signs during a rally along Egan Drive on Tuesday afternoon protesting a proposal to consolidate all local students in grades 10-12 at Thunder Mountain High School to help deal with the Juneau School District’s financial crisis. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
JDHS students, teachers rally to keep grades 9-12 at downtown school if consolidation occurs

District’s proposed move to TMHS would result in loss of vocational facilities, ninth-grade students.

Deven Mitchell, executive director of the Alaska Permanent Fund Corp., gives a tour of the corporation’s investment floor to Sen. Jesse Kiehl, D-Juneau, and other attendees of an open house on Friday. (James Brooks/Alaska Beacon)
Alaska Permanent Fund Corp. leaders approve proposal to borrow up to $4 billion for investments

Plan must be OK’d by legislators and Gov. Mike Dunleavy because it requires changes to state law.

Most Read