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

4 injured in car crash Sunday near Fred Meyer

The cars were totalled but the injuries weren’t considered serious.

Police calls for Sunday, July 5, 2020

This report contains public information available to the Empire from law enforcement… Continue reading

This July 2019 photo provided by Peter Westley shows the carcass of a chum salmon along the shore of the Koyukuk River near Huslia, Alaska, July 2019 was the hottest month ever recorded in the state. Global warming looks like it will be a far bigger problem for the world’s fish species than scientists first thought, since a study led by Dr. Flemming Dahlke released on Thursday, July 2, 2020 shows that when fish are spawning or are embryos they are far more vulnerable to hotter water. (Peter Westley | University of Alaska Fairbanks)
Fish more vulnerable to warming water than first thought

Study shows that when fish are spawning or are embryos they are more vulnerable to hotter water.

Police calls for Friday, July 3, 2020

This report contains public information available to the Empire from law enforcement… Continue reading

Police calls for Thursday, July 2, 2020

This report contains public information available to the Empire from law enforcement… Continue reading

Elizabeth Hope holds up the Chilkat Protector Mask at a ceremony. (Courtesy Photo | Sydney Akagi Photography for Lily Hope)
Weaver donates ‘Chilkat Protector Mask’

It will enter Sealaska Heritage Institute’s permanent collection.

Most Read