Roadless Rule on the Tongass National Forest
In 2001, the United States Department of Agriculture and Forest Service created a national Roadless Rule that prohibits commercial logging and new logging roads on 58.5 million acres of inventoried roadless areas in the National Forest System lands. The 2001 rule includes various exemptions to allow roads and timber harvest for forest health and wildfire projects, energy development, transportation roads, community infrastructure, and even mining.
The Tongass has 9.2 million acres of inventoried roadless areas.
In response to a petition from the State of Alaska, in 2018 the Secretary of Agriculture began the process for developing a new Roadless Rule for the Tongass. The first public meetings and comment for the potential new rule took place fall of 2018, with a large majority of Alaskans expressing support for protecting roadless areas and important fish and wildlife habitat. The U.S. Forest Service announced in October 2020 that it is finalizing its plans to reverse roadless protections for more than 9 million acres of the Tongass National Forest in Southeast Alaska, or a little less than 15,000 square miles.
Many of the most important areas on the Tongass, including most of the Tongass 77, are in inventoried roadless areas. These areas are the underpinnings of Southeast Alaska’s robust fishing and tourism industries, important recreation and subsistence lands, and essential to our local way of life. Exempting these areas from roadless protections, as the State of Alaska requested in its petition, would make them available for greatly expanded old-growth logging operations and forever change their wild character.
The name is confusing. It's called the "Roadless Rule" for our national forests, but that's not fully true. The Roadless Rule is flexible and set up to enable communities to advance the projects they need, while conserving natural resources and habitat for fish and wildlife, which is the foundation of southeast's fishing and tourism economies.