SEACC’s former Executive Director Bart Koehler sings his testimony to oppose the U.S. Forest Service’s lifting of the Roadless Rule as stenographer Lynda Barker records are Northern Light United Church on Dec. 16, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

SEACC’s former Executive Director Bart Koehler sings his testimony to oppose the U.S. Forest Service’s lifting of the Roadless Rule as stenographer Lynda Barker records are Northern Light United Church on Dec. 16, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

SEACC makes one last push for Roadless Rule

Final public meeting before public comment deadline

As the public comment period for the Alaska specific Roadless Rule comes to an end, the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council held one last meeting to rally support for keeping the rule in place in the Tongass National Forest.

“I was standing in the Tongass, what did I see,” sang Bart Koehler, former executive director of SEACC, who played guitar and sang his comment. “A forest full of giants running to the sea…keep those logging roads away.”

SEACC hired a stenographer to record people’s spoken comments to submit them in writing to the U.S. Forest Service. One of the reasons they chose to do this, according to SEACC’s Tongass program manager Dan Cannon, was because comments from the public were not recorded at an earlier Forest Service meeting on the alternatives.

At that Nov. 5 meeting, the Forest Service answered questions and presented information on the proposed alternatives but did not take public comment. Several members of the public at that meeting were upset their spoken comments were not recorded for the record.

Members of the public took turns Monday night, some reading prepared comments, others speaking off the cuff, speaking before a crowd while the stenographer took down their speeches.

“I’ve lived in Juneau for over 50 years,” said Philip Gray, a retired Alaska Department of Fish and Game worker. “I spent a lot of time on the ground in unlogged areas, I’ve also spent a lot of time in areas that have been pretty heavily logged.”

Commercial fisherman in one of those logged areas had called Fish and Game because of the amount of mud that was flowing into streams and the ocean, harming the fishing in those areas.

“It looked like it had been bombed,” Gray said.

On Oct. 15, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the federal executive office responsible for forestry as well as agriculture, announced it would be looking at six alternatives to the rule that prohibits road construction or reconstruction and timber harvest on 58.5 million acres of National Forest System lands.

The preferred alternative listed by the USDA is Alternative 6, which would lift the rule entirely in the Tongass. Proponents of lifting the rule say it’s not just about the timber industry.

Robert Venables, executive director of Southeast Conference, told a Congressional subcommittee that the Roadless Rule shouldn’t be viewed only through the lens of timber. In prohibiting road construction, the rule makes it very difficult for critical infrastructure projects that help many of the rural communities in the Tongass.

”It’s about forest management,” Venebles told the subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands under the House Natural Resources Committee on Nov. 13. “It’s about access to resources that local communities, the state and the nation need.”

But SEACC executive director Meredith Trainor said the people of Southeast Alaska have spoken loud and clear, and they want the Roadless Rule to remain in place on the Tongass.

“The Roadless Rule is specifically about new timber roads,” Trainor said. “We know there have been 57 exceptions made to allow for projects like electrical utilities.”

Trainor said she hopes USDA Secretary Sonny Purdue listens to the people of Southeast Alaska when making his decision.

“Political leadership is about making hard decisions that are important in the long run, and I’d like to think Secretary Purdue is an independent thinker,” she said.

• Contact reporter Peter Segall at 523-2228 or

More in News

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

Forecasts from the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Geophysical Institute for the week of March. 19

The FBI Anchorage Field Office is seeking information about this man in relation to a Wednesday bank robbery in Anchorage, the agency announced Thursday afternoon. Anyone with information regarding the bank robbery can contact the FBI Anchorage Field Office at 907-276-4441 or Tips can be submitted anonymously.  (FBI)
FBI seeks info in Anchorage bank robbery

The robbery took place at 1:24 p.m. on Wednesday.

Kevin Maier
Sustainable Alaska: Climate stories, climate futures

The UAS Sustainability Committee is hosting a series of public events in April…

Reps. Tom McKay, R-Anchorage, and Andi Story, D-Juneau, offering competing amendments to a bill increasing the per-student funding formula for public schools by $1,250 during a House Education Committee meeting Wednesday morning. McKay’s proposal to lower the increase to $150 was defeated. Story’s proposal to implement an increase during the next two years was approved, after her proposed amounts totalling about $1,500 were reduced to $800.
Battle lines for education funding boost get clearer

$800 increase over two years OKd by House committee, Senate proposing $1,348 two-year increase

A call for a joint session of the Alaska State Legislature to cast a vote that would reject recently-approved salary increases for legislators and top executive branch officials is made by State House Speaker Cathy Tilton, R-Wasilla, during a press conference Tuesday. Senate President Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak, rejected the joint session in a letter to Tilton on Wednesday. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
House efforts to nix legislative pay raises hit Senate roadblock

Call for a joint session rejected by upper chamber, bills to overturn pay hikes may lack support

A simulated photo shows the tailings stack and other features of Hecla Greens Creek Mine under the most aggressive of four alternatives for expanding the mine in an environmental impact assessment published Thursday by the U.S Forest Service. The tailings stack is modestly to drastically smaller in the other alternatives. The public comment period for the study is from March 24 to May 8. (U.S. Forest Service)
New study digs into alternatives for Greens Creek Mine expansion

Public comment starts Friday on four options that could extend mine’s life up to 40 years

This image shows the Juneau Lions Club Gold Medal Basketball Tournament's logo. The club is looking for submissions of logos for the historic tournament's 75th anniversary. The winning artist will receive a $250 prize. (Screenshot)
Take your shot at a Gold Medal logo

Upcoming milestone prompts call for art.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Police calls for Thursday, March 23, 2023

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

The Juneau School Board recently announced the three finalists for the district’s superintendent position: Frank Hauser, Carlee Simon and Thom Peck. The district is hosting a public forum from 6 to 7:30 p.m. on Monday, March 27 at Thunder Mountain High School for students, parents and staff to meet the three candidates. Additionally, the trio will be interviewed by the school board on Tuesday, March 28. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire File)
School district announces finalists for superintendent post

Public forum and interviews scheduled for next week.

Most Read