USFS is seeking public comment on the proposed rule and draft environmental impact statement offering alternatives to roadless management and a proposed Alaska Roadless Rule. If adopted, the proposed rule would exempt the Tongass National Forest from the 2001 Roadless Rule. The Secretary of Agriculture is expected to make a final decision by June 2020.
Currently there are over 21.9 million acres of national forest in the State of Alaska, of which approximately 14.7 million acres (67%) are considered inventoried roadless areas as defined by the 2001 Roadless Rule, including both the Tongass and Chugach National Forests. The Tongass National Forest is approximately 16.7 million acres of which approximately 9.2 million (55%) acres are designated inventoried roadless areas. This rulemaking focuses on the Tongass National Forest roadless areas, along with a boundary modification and correction provision that would apply to the Chugach National Forest.
USFS is considering this rulemaking pursuant to a petition from Alaska Governor Walker in January 2018. The petition requested consideration of a state-specific rule to exempt the Tongass National Forest from the 2001 Roadless Rule. The rulemaking provides an analysis of six alternatives for roadless management in Alaska. The alternatives range from no action to the removal of the Tongass from the 2001 Roadless Rule. Alternative 6, which is a full exemption, is the preferred alternative.
The preferred alternative would exempt the Tongass National Forest from the 2001 Roadless Rule and is fully responsive to the State of Alaska’s petition. The alternative would remove all 9.2 million acres of inventoried roadless acres. Conservation of roadless values would be achieved through other means, including the Tongass Land Management Plan.
Removing the regulatory designation of roadless areas on the Tongass National Forest would not authorize any ground disturbing activities. Instead, this rulemaking would return decision-making authority to USFS, allowing decisions concerning timber harvest, road construction, and roadless area management on the Tongass National Forest to be made by local officials on a case-by-case basis.
Comments are due December 16, 2019. Comments may be submitted online or by mail to: Alaska Roadless Rule, USDA Forest Service, P.O. Box 21628, Juneau, Alaska 99802-1628.
USFS is scheduling a series of public meetings. A list of those meetings will be available on the Alaska Roadless Rule project website according to USFS.
For further information, please contact Ken Tu, Interdisciplinary Team Leader, at 202-403-8991 or firstname.lastname@example.org.