JUNEAU (Tlingit: Aakʼw Ḵwáan Lands) — The United States Department of Agriculture announced today that the long-awaited 60-day public process restoring the national Roadless Rule to the Tongass will open on Tuesday, November 23. During the 60-day comment period, the public can submit official comments on the Biden administration’s decision to move to repeal the Trump-era, so-called “Alaska-specific” Roadless Rule, which removed 2001 national Roadless Rule protections from the Tongass National Forest in Southeast Alaska. The public will be able to submit comments for the record signaling their support for the protection of the national Roadless Rule through January 24, 2022.
Southeast Alaskans widely mobilized during the National Environmental Policy (NEPA) process in 2019, when the Trump administration moved to repeal the National Roadless Rule from the Tongass. During that public process, of the approximately 250,0000 comments, 96% spoke in favor of keeping the national Roadless Rule in place on the Tongass.
This past summer the Biden administration announced it would seek to reinstate the national Roadless Rule, restoring essential protections to the forest. At the time, the USDA also declared an end to industrial old-growth logging on the Tongass, other than in micro sales and for traditional Indigenous uses.
What’s more, during the July announcement, the USDA announced it would set up a team to consult with Tribal governments and Alaska Native corporations, working with regional rightsholders and stakeholders to determine where to allocate up to $25 million of funding, and highlighting examples of integrated sustainable economic development already underway in the region. This larger effort is referred to as the Southeast Alaska Sustainability Strategy (SASS).
The Biden administration’s announcement today marks a critical inflection point in the long history of the fight to protect the Tongass National Forest,” says Meredith Trainor, Executive Director of Southeast Alaska Conservation Council — who was recently featured on ABC News discussing the importance of the nation’s largest National Forest. “Beginning Tuesday, we need both Alaskans and Americans across the country to show up once more to speak out on behalf of our forest, and to once again submit comments supporting the restoration of the national Roadless Rule to the Tongass, so we can spend the next three years of the Biden administration doing the legwork to make these decisions real and lasting.”
Once the public process begins on Tuesday, supporters and members of the public can submit comments to the Forest Service through seacc.org/roadless-rule.
People can also submit their comments to the Forest Service electronically using the Federal eRulemaking Portal at regulations.gov or email [email protected]. They may also mail to Alaska Roadless Rule, USDA Forest Service, P.O. Box 21628, Juneau, Alaska 99802-1628. They may also hand-deliver or courier to Alaska Roadless Rule, USDA Forest Service, 709 W. 9th Street, Juneau, Alaska 99802.
For more information, please contact Chiara D’Angelo, SEACC’s Tongass Forest Program Manager, at [email protected] or 206-707-3614.