Ground Truth: Dispatch

Majority Support Keeping Roadless Rule in Place for Tongass

More than 140,000 people submitted comments or signed petitions on a proposal to revise or rescind a rule that protects wild stretches of Alaska’s Tongass National Forest from road-building and logging, with the majority voicing support for keeping the rule as is.

Last April, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue granted a request from Alaska state officials to develop a state-specific roadless rule for the Tongass. Forest Service officials have been working on the revision ever since.

Across the country, the 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule protects 58.5 million acres. That includes more than half of the Tongass—9.5 million acres.

The Forest Service solicited public comments about the Tongass revision from Aug. 30 through Sept. 15 of last year.

According to a Forest Service report released this month, the agency received 110,000 signatures on petitions, 32,500 form letters, and 1,400 “unique submissions” about the roadless rule revision during that period.

The report says that “the majority of comments received opposed changing the 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule … for Alaska.” But the report does not say what percentage of those who submitted comments supported keeping the roadless rule as is for the Tongass.

Forest Service officials plan to release a new rule governing Tongass roadless areas next June.