Biden administration aims to reverse Trump-era policy on Alaska’s Tongass National Forest: report
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The Biden administration on Friday is expected to propose a rule that aims to reinstate the ban on roads in about half of Alaska’s Tongass National Forest that some state leaders say will hurt economic growth, according to a report.
The Washington Post, citing two individuals with knowledge of the Agriculture Department’s U.S. Forest Service’s proposal, said the move-- if approved-- would reinstate the restrictions wiped out by the Trump administration.
About 9.4 million of Tongass’ 16.7 million acres are considered roadless areas. The majority of Tongass is in a natural condition, and the forest is one of the largest, relatively intact temperate rainforests in the world.
Many of the roadless areas are wildlife habitats, ecosystems and natural areas like old-growth temperate rainforests, ice fields and glaciers, and islands facing the open Pacific Ocean "that exist nowhere else in the National Forest system," according to the Forest Service.
ER 08: Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack speaks on rising food prices at a press briefing at the White House on September 08, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)
Last summer, the Biden team said it aimed to repeal a rule that allowed roads at the park that the Trump administration ended, the Post reported.
In June, Sens. Senators Lisa Murkowski, Dan Sullivan, and Rep. Don Young, Republicans, released a statement critical of Biden's move and said a one-size-fits-all Roadless Rule "has restricted access needed for tourism, recreation, timber, mining, transportation, and the development of renewable energy."
"Any action to repeal the final rule and reimpose the roadless rule will cost jobs, diminish income, keep energy prices high, and cripple the ability of the communities in the region to develop a sustainable, year-round economy," they said.
Murkowski's office and the Forest Service did not immediately respond to an after-hours email from Fox News.
Gov. Mike Dunleavy, the Republican from the state, told the Post that the Trump administration had been lobbied by a congressional delegation from the state to exempt Alaska from the rule.
View of the north arm of Tracy Arm, a fjord in Alaska near Juneau, Tongass National Forest, Alaska, USA. (Photo by Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images)
"Our state’s Southeast communities need fundamental access, like roads, and the economic and resource development opportunities roads provide. Every Alaskan deserves the chance to work. We have the resources. We just need the opportunity," Dunleavy said.
The paper reported that President George W. Bush also attempted to reverse the Clinton-era policy that put more than half of the park off-limits to logging.
Tom Vilsack, Biden's agriculture secretary, told the paper, "Restoring the Tongass’ roadless protections supports the advancement of economic, ecologic and cultural sustainability in Southeast Alaska in a manner that is guided by local voices and builds on the region’s economic drivers of tourism and fishing."
The Associated Press contributed to this report