U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, right, shakes hands with owner Ray Keenan after touring Rollo Bay Holdings, which specializes in potato producing, marketing, shipping and exporting, in Souris, Prince Edward Island, Canada, on Friday, June 15, 2018. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press via AP)

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, right, shakes hands with owner Ray Keenan after touring Rollo Bay Holdings, which specializes in potato producing, marketing, shipping and exporting, in Souris, Prince Edward Island, Canada, on Friday, June 15, 2018. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press via AP)

USDA Sec. Perdue: Logging, other Southeast industries not ‘mutually-exclusive’

2001 roadless rule an impedes industry, Perdue said after touring region’s few remaining timber companies

Correction: This article initially listed an incorrect figure for the number of acres the roadless rule would apply to in the Tongass National Forest. The article has been updated with the correct figure.

After visiting timber industry sites in Southeast Alaska on Thursday, U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said he’d like to alter federal law to allow more logging in the Tongass National Forest.

Perdue, the highest ranking official at the agency overseeing the U.S. Forest Service, toured logging companies and two timber stands on Thursday at the invitation of U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski. He told reporters afterward he hopes to develop an “Alaska-specific” version of the 2001 roadless rule, which bans logging and road building on national forest lands where roads have not been built. The rule applies to 9.6 million acres (57 percent) of the Tongass.

The State of Alaska has tried for years to secure an exemption to the rule in federal courts. The U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia shot down those efforts last year.

Perdue said he’d like to take a different tack: working with the state and the USDA to alter the rule, giving Alaska more control over what lands it logs.

“We believe that the best way to resolve and dissolve the concerns of Southeast Alaska with regard to Tongass, and all the things it affords and the multiple uses there, is to use an exemption for a state-specific, Alaska state roadless rule,” he said.

While logging has waned to a fraction of what it once 20 or 30 years ago, other industries like commercial fishing and tourism have remained steady or expanded. With the shuttering of Southeast’s mills, large USFS timber sales now have a hard time finding buyers.

The Tongass should be a “working forest” for all industries, Perdue said, and timber should have a larger place in Southeast’s forest economy.

“Healthy forests produce health in many ways, for humans, for wildlife, for fishing, for water quality and for beauty. Actually, we see this in many places. This is Senator Murkowski’s desire as well,” he said.

Tour operators are concerned a timber revival could harm those industries. But Perdue said logging and other industries are “not mutually-exclusive.” While his goal is not return the “logging days of old,” Perdue said he wants the USFS to support a “base layer” of logging in the region.

Murkowski, Gov. Bill Walker and Alaska’s congressional delegation have all spoken out against the roadless rule.


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


More in News

(Juneau Empire file photo)
Aurora forecast for the week of April 15

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

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Saturday, April 20, 2024

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

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Friday, April 19, 2024

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

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Thursday, April 18, 2024

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

Delegates offer prayers during the Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska’s 89th Annual Tribal Assembly on Thursday at Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall. (Muriel Reid / Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska)
Tribal Assembly declares crisis with fentanyl and other deadly drugs its highest priority

Delegates at 89th annual event also expand foster program, accept Portland as new tribal community.

Juneau School District administrators and board members review the updated budget for the current fiscal year during a Board of Education meeting Tuesday night at Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
The Juneau School District had a $9.5M projected deficit this year. It’s now a $633,185 surplus. How is that possible?

Resignation of 34 employees since January, health insurance savings among reasons, officials say.

Rep. Sara Hannan (right) offers an overview of this year’s legislative session to date as Rep. Andi Story and Sen. Jesse Kiehl listen during a town hall by Juneau’s delegation on Thursday evening at Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Multitude of education issues, budget, PFD among top areas of focus at legislative town hall

Juneau’s three Democratic lawmakers reassert support of more school funding, ensuring LGBTQ+ rights.

Rosemary Ahtuangaruak, mayor of the Inupiaq village of Nuiqsut, at the area where a road to the Willow project will be built in the North Slope of Alaska, March 23, 2023. The Interior Department said it will not permit construction of a 211-mile road through the park, which a mining company wanted for access to copper deposits. (Erin Schaff/The New York Times)
Biden shields millions of acres of Alaskan wilderness from drilling and mining

The Biden administration expanded federal protections across millions of acres of Alaskan… Continue reading

Most Read