Press Release: March 12, 2020
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: SEACC demands suspension of Roadless Rule process until federal investigation is complete
The Southeast Alaska Conservation Council is demanding that the U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue immediately suspend the Alaska Roadless Rulemaking process until the Office of Inspector General (OIG) investigation into questionable use of federal grant money is complete.
SEACC submitted the request to Secretary Perdue Thursday, in a letter that was also sent to Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy, Alaska Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Corri Feige, Alaska’s U.S. Congressional Delegation, the Alaska Forest Association (AFA), and Tribal Cooperating Agencies and called for full cooperation from state officials.
The Inspector General is investigating the possible misuse of a U.S. Forest Service grant after a news report from Alaska Public Media revealed the redirection of $2 million in taxpayer funds originally designated for fire fighting efforts, to the State of Alaska. Of that amount, roughly $150,000 went to the timber industry trade group the Alaska Forest Association to fund their work to provide input on the Alaska-specific Roadless Rule-making process. U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan) and Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Arizona) requested the investigation.
“The Tongass is America’s largest national forest, and protecting it is a critical part of addressing the climate crisis,” Sen. Stabenow said in a statement this week. “This impartial review will help us discover whether taxpayer dollars were misused to threaten one of our most important natural resources.”
While AFA was awarded substantial funding, the six Alaska Native Tribal governments that are also cooperating agencies received zero dollars in either state or federal funding to support their participation in the Roadless Rulemaking process. Those six tribal governments are: Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska, Organized Village of Kake, Organized Village of Kasaan, Angoon Community Association, Hoonah Indian Association and Hydaburg Cooperative Association.
QUOTEABLE: “SEACC is calling on the USDA to suspend the Alaska Roadless Rulemaking process until this investigation is complete,” said Dan Cannon, Tongass Forest Program Manager at SEACC. “We urge Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Alaska’s Congressional delegation to protect the interests of taxpayers and provide equity across all cooperating agencies in the rulemaking process by ensuring the OIG’s investigation is completed. In addition, we call for the full cooperation of the Alaska Governor’s Office, Alaska Department of Natural Resources, and the Alaska Forest Association in the Inspector General’s investigation.”
NOTE TO LOCAL MEDIA: AFA is gathering in Juneau Thursday and Friday this week for its spring meeting at the Baranof Hotel. We urge you to attend and cover the meetings to find out more about how this money is being used and if AFA is cooperating with the investigation.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Contact Dan Cannon at 907.586.6942 or [email protected].