SEACC Tongass Forest Program Manager
President, Organized Village of Kake
Sept. 15, 2020
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: FOIA shows Secretary Perdue, Dunleavy prioritize Timber Industry over Tribes and Alaskans on the Alaska Roadless Rule
JUNEAU, ALASKA (Tlingit: A'aakw Kwáan lands) — Southeast Alaska Conservation Council recently received documents through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request that reveals Governor Mike Dunleavy and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue prioritized timber industry voices over Southeast Alaska’s Tribal governments who have struggled to have their views heard during the Alaska Roadless Rulemaking process. Secretary Perdue is expected to release the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the Alaska Roadless Rule sometime this month and his Record of Decision at least 30 days later.
This FOIA shows that in May of 2019 Steve Silver, former chief of staff for the late Senator Ted Stevens and now president of one of Alaska’s oldest law and lobbying firms — Robertson, Monagle & Eastaugh — worked to schedule a meeting between Perdue, Dunleavy, and former Executive Director of the Alaska Forest Association Owen Graham.
“It’s disappointing that lobbyists for the timber industry and Governor Dunleavy were able to receive a meeting with Secretary Perdue, meanwhile sovereign Tribal governments were disrespectfully brushed aside and told to meet with the Undersecretary,” said Joel Jackson, President of the Organized Village of Kake. Additionally, the governor did not participate in any of the meetings between Tribes, Forest Service staff, and the Undersecretary.
OpenSecrets.org shows the Alaska Forest Association paid $58,000 to Robertson, Monagle & Eastaugh in 2019. The USDA Inspector General is currently investigating the misuse of a U.S. Forest Service grant to the State of Alaska and the state’s subgrant to the Alaska Forest Association to work on the Alaska Roadless Rulemaking process. The FOIA request also shows that staff for Alaska’s senior Senator, Lisa Murkowski assisted in attempting to schedule a separate meeting between Secretary Perdue and her father, former Alaska Senator and Governor, Frank Murkowski, to discuss “Tongass Forestry Issues.”
SEACC is disappointed once again by Governor Dunleavy. He made time to advocate alongside a minuscule timber industry, yet he was nowhere to be found during the numerous public meetings and 18 subsistence hearings which showed a “large majority” of Southeast Alaskan subsistence users want to keep Roadless Rule protections. Governor Dunleavy, Alaska’s congressional delegation and the Trump administration want to lift the Roadless Rule protections on the Tongass National Forest, immediately threatening 165,000 acres of old-growth and opening over 9 million acres of the Tongass to potential roadbuilding and clearcut logging, despite 96% of public comments opposing the change.
“This FOIA document shows where Governor Dunleavy's true allegiances lie: with an outdated timber industry, which contributes to less than 1% of the Southeast Alaska economy, instead of with the will of Southeast Alaskans and our bread and butter: our thriving fishing and tourism industries, which make up fully 26% of our regional economy,” SEACC’s Tongass Forest Program Manager Dan Cannon said.
Southeast’s Tribes have consistently spoken out against exempting the Tongass from the Roadless Rule. SEACC supports the eleven Tribes who recently filed an Administrative Procedures Act petition of their own calling for a USDA rulemaking to create a Traditional Homelands Conservation Rule for the long-term management and protection of traditional and customary use areas in the Tongass National Forest — Secretary Perdue has yet to respond to their petition.