Biden Administration Proposes Reinstatement of Ban on Roads in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest

The fight over whether or not to ban roads on the more than 9 million acres of Alaska’s Tongass National Forest has been ongoing on for over 20 years. The Biden administration plans on settling that question once and for all. The restrictions had managed to stay in place for years through a series of court battles; however, the Trump administration reversed those legal decisions.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said he would propose reinstating a Clinton administration-era rule to ban logging and road building in more than half of North America’s largest temperate rainforest, the department confirmed.

In a statement, Vilsack said, “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.” He added that the rule reflects the input of Alaska’s tribal and community leaders “and builds on the region’s economic drivers of tourism and fishing.”

The proposed rule would protect critical habitat and prevent the carbon dioxide trapped in the forest’s ancient trees from escaping into the atmosphere, but Alaska’s governor and congressional delegation say it would hurt the timber industry. Alaska Native leaders, environmentalists, and tour operators argue that protecting the region’s remaining wild landscapes will sustain the state’s economy in the long term.

The rule, which will be published Tuesday, November 23, 2021, will be subject to 60 days of public comment before being finalized.

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Biden officials to propose road ban on much of Alaska’s Tongass National Forest