Moss covers old growth trees along Auke Lake on Thursday, Nov. 29, 2018. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

Moss covers old growth trees along Auke Lake on Thursday, Nov. 29, 2018. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

Support for Roadless Rule extends through state, country

Majority of Alaska testifiers want rule to stay same, Forest Service survey says

Members of the public near and far have expressed their support for the 2001 Roadless Rule in recent months, both to the U.S. Forest Service and to a national survey organization.

The USFS is currently considering making an Alaska-specific version of the Roadless rule, a federal law that prevents timber harvest and the building of roads on National Forest Service areas throughout the country, including 7.4 million acres of roadless lands in Southeast Alaska. The Alaska-specific Roadless Rule has yet to be written, and is scheduled to be released in June 2020, according to the latest Roadless Rule bulletin from the USFS.

That bulletin also said the majority of comments received during the recent public comment period were opposed to making changes to the rule. Between Aug. 20, 2018 and Oct. 15, 2018, the Forest Service heard 144,000 comments, including more than 32,000 letters and more than 110,000 signatures on petitions.

[Opinion: Lift the Roadless Rule for the Tongass]

For Southeast specifically, responses “generally opposed” increasing timber harvesting in the region, according to the Forest Service’s public comment summary. The main reasons given for this, according the summary, were: the need for federal government and taxpayer subsidies; the timber industry being a minor contributor to Southeast’s economy; and that exporting timber to overseas markets doesn’t create local employment.

Those in Southeast who testified in support of changing the rule pointed to the fact that the decline of the timber industry since the rule went into effect in 2001 hurt the region’s economy.

In February, Pew Charitable Trusts commissioned a survey through opinion and market research company SSRS that found that 75 percent of people polled were in favor of the Roadless Rule. The poll was done via phone and polled a representative sample of 607 people nationwide, according to Pew Charitable Trusts.

Environmental spokespeople in Alaska said they weren’t surprised at the broad support for the measure. Patrick Lavin, senior Alaska representative for the Defenders of Wildlife, said the Roadless Rule has protected forests and wildlife from road building and industrial logging, and has been particularly effective in Alaska.

“The rule has been especially important in Alaska, where it has been critical to protecting the largest temperate rainforest on earth, the Tongass National Forest, which is a haven for fish and wildlife,” Lavin said via email. “The public’s overwhelming support should force the Forest Service to rethink its misplaced plans to allow roadbuilding and old-growth logging in these priceless roadless habitats.”

[Opinion: Roadless Rule and the Tongass should remain intact]

About 45 percent of the 17-million-acre Tongass National Forest isn’t open to timber harvest or the construction or reconstruction of roads under the Roadless Rule. About 20 percent of that total is Congress-designated wilderness blocked from development even under a modified roadless rule.

Dan Cannon, the Tongass Forest program manager for the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council (SEACC), said keeping these areas from being developed is vital to the long-term future of the Tongass.

“Keeping the Tongass healthy and intact by preventing logging roads and clearcut logging will help maintain the region’s resiliency in the face of climate change,” Cannon said via email. “Many of these roadless areas protect watersheds that are critical for our fishing and tourism industries, the economic heart of Southeast. The 2001 National Roadless Rule also supports the many Southeast Alaskans who rely on subsistence hunting and fishing to fill their freezers each year.”

From March to June, the Forest Service will sent out monthly updates about its progress on examining the Roadless Rule and will consult with Alaska Native corporations, according to the most recent bulletin. In July or August, the Draft Environmental Impact study should be completed, and there will be public meetings and a 60-day open period for written comments.


• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at amccarthy@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.


More in News

This photo shows the National Archives in the Sand Point neighborhood of Seattle that has about a million boxes of generally unique, original source documents and public records. In an announcement made Thursday, April 8, 2021, the Biden administration has halted the sale of the federal archives building in Seattle, following months of opposition from people across the Pacific Northwest and a lawsuit by the Washington Attorney General's Office. Among the records at the center are tribal, military, land, court, tax and census documents. (Alan Berner / The Seattle Times)
Biden halts sale of National Archives center in Seattle

Tribes and members of Congress pushed for the halt.

This photo shows Unangax̂ Gravesite at Funter Bay, the site where Aleut villagers forcibly relocated to the area during World War II are buried. A bill recently passed by the Alaska House of Representatives would make the area part of a neighboring state park. (Courtesy photo / Niko Sanguinetti, Juneau-Douglas City Museum) 
DO NOT REUSE THIS PHOTO WITHOUT PERMISSION FROM JUNEAU DOUGLAS CITY MUSEUM. -BEN HOHENSTATT
Bill to preserve Unangax̂ Gravesite passes House

Bill now heads to the state Senate.

After over 30 years at 3100 Channel Drive, the Juneau Empire offices are on the move. (Ben Hohenstatt /Juneau Empire File)
The Juneau Empire is on the move

Advertising and editorial staff are moving to Jordan Creek Center.

The state announced this week that studded tires will be allowed for longer than usual. In Southeast Alaska, studded tires will be allowed until May 1 instead of April 15. (Dana Zigmund / Juneau Empire)
State extends studded tire deadline

Prolonged wintry weather triggers the change.

COVID at a glance for Monday, April 12

The most recent state and local numbers.

Has it always been a police car. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire)
Police calls for Sunday, April 11, 2021

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

Gavel (Courtesy photo)
Court sides with Dunleavy in appointments dispute

The court, in a brief order, reversed a ruling by a superior court judge.

The Juneau Police Department are seeking Brenda Jay Gallant, 40, after she was indicted recently for her alleged role in a 2021 vehicle arson. (Courtesy photo / JPD)
Police seeking woman indicted for arson

The indictment for the August fire came this March.

Most Read