At the end of September, we wrote to tell you about our win upholding the Roadless Rule on the Tongass. Today, we were deeply disappointed to hear that Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski is mounting a two-pronged attack on the Tongass: to exempt the Tongass (again) from the Roadless Rule and indefinitely delay implementation of last December’s Tongass Land Management Plan Amendment decision.
The Roadless Rule protects the social and ecological values of inventoried roadless areas by prohibiting new road construction associated with commercial logging on these wild lands. Murkowski’s hostility toward the Roadless Rule is shown in her press release in response to the recent court decision, in which she claims: “The rule has decimated our timber industry and serves mainly to prevent the access needed to construct everything from roads and power lines to energy and mining projects. I recognize the damage this rule is causing, particularly in Southeast, and will pursue every possible legislative and administrative option to exempt us from it.”
The Tongass Land Management Plan Amendment, passed in the final days of the Obama Administration, reflects the recommendations from the Tongass Advisory Committee, a multi-stakeholder group made up of the timber industry, conservationists, Alaska Native organizations, the State of Alaska, and others. The recommendations reflected the will of the majority of Southeast Alaskans, to protect the forest that we still have. Now, Murkowski is asking Congress to disapprove the Tongass Amendment via the Congressional Review Act (CRA) and unravel years of hard work by all Southeast Alaskans.
There are two potential avenues that Murkowski might use to enact these changes. First, she might attach individual riders to the budget bill; the first could take the form of a Tongass exemption to the Roadless Rule, the second a congressional disapproval of the 2016 Tongass amendment. If attached as riders, these changes would be enacted with the passage of the budget. Her second option is to obtain a separate congressional resolution disapproving the 2016 Tongass Land Management Plan Amendment. The CRA allows Congress to pass joint resolutions to undo rules put in place by a previous administration. The GAO recently concluded that the 2016 Tongass Amendment was a rule subject to Congressional review.
We do not yet know which option Senator Murkowski will choose but we know her aim: dismantling protections for the Tongass, branch by branch. If Senator Murkowski wants to create and maintain jobs in Southeast Alaska, we urge her to try a new approach and change Congressional spending habits on the Tongass National Forest. We need her leadership so we can invest in sustainable tourism, recreation, commercial fishing, and environmental restoration.
We will be keeping a sharp eye on Murkowski and what is happening in DC and let you know what you can do as soon as possible to keep the Tongass wild and our economy strong. Look for another alert soon with more information and specific actions that you can take.
Want to take action now? You can call Senator Murkowski's office and tell her why the Tongass is important to you and ask her to keep both the Roadless Rule and the 2016 Tongass Amendment in place. You can call her at one (or more) of her offices:
We are going to need your support in the weeks ahead. Donate today to keep our Tongass Forest program strong.