In an effort to reopen the Tongass National Forest to responsible development, Alaska filed a legal complaint in U.S. District Court to challenge the Biden Administration’s repeal of the 2020 Alaska Roadless Rule.
In January, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service issued a final decision that formally reinstated the old 2001 roadless rule in the Tongass National Forest, which effectively prohibits timber harvest and road construction within designated Inventoried Roadless Areas – a region that covers 9.3 million acres.
The state’s complaint aims to protect the economic and socioeconomic development of Southeast Alaska by having the 2020 rule reinstated as soon as possible.
“Alaskans deserve access to the resources that the Tongass provides – jobs, renewable energy resources, and tourism, not a government plan that treats human beings within a working forest like an invasive species,” said Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy. “That’s why we’re challenging the decision with this complaint.”
“The State has repeatedly obtained a favorable outcome only to have it wrenched away again, with the State and its citizens paying the price.”AK Attorney General Treg Taylor
The state maintains that 2001 rules are unnecessary due to the fact that “numerous environmental safeguards currently ensure that economic survival is balanced with wise conservation practices and resource protection.”
With nearly 17 million acres, Tongass is the largest forest in the United States. More than 71,000 Alaska residents and the capital city of Juneau are surrounded by it.
“The State of Alaska will continue this long-running fight to unburden the Tongass National Forest from the constraints of the Roadless Rule and to protect the economic and socioeconomic development of Southeast Alaska,” said Alaska Attorney General Treg Taylor. “The Tongass National Forest has robust environmental protections in place, and the Roadless Rule is both unnecessary and continues to cripple to the future of Alaskan communities.”
The 2020 Alaska Roadless Rule was adopted by the USDA during the Trump administration after lengthy consideration and public comment. Biden’s administration nixed the 2020 rule without any new analysis or evaluation. The state claims the USDA failed to provide a reasoned explanation for its sudden change in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act.
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The state further maintains that reinstating the 2001 rule violates unique Alaska and Tongass-specific statutory provisions of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act and the Tongass Timber Reform Act based on a “flawed and biased decision-making process.”
“The State has repeatedly obtained a favorable outcome only to have it wrenched away again, with the State and its citizens paying the price,” Attorney General Taylor said. “The Biden administration has unlawfully imposed near-absolute preservation across forest lands meant to provide access and accommodate responsible development. The State seeks to obtain a final and enduring win with this litigation, in what it hopes to be the final chapter of this long-running saga.”