Alaska Roadless Habitat Opened to Logging, Development

News for Immediate Release
Oct. 16, 2019
Contact: Katie McKalip, 406-240-9262, [email protected]

Prime big game habitat and fisheries left vulnerable as administration exempts
Tongass National Forest from management under National Roadless Rule

MISSOULA, Mont. – Fish and wildlife-rich backcountry areas in the Tongass National Forest, America’s largest, will be opened to logging, road construction and industrial development under a proposal being advanced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The U.S. Forest Service’s formal draft environmental impact statement is expected to be released later this week and would exempt more than 9 million acres of the Tongass from restrictions on logging and other potentially harmful development established under the national Roadless Area Conservation Rule, which has guided management of 58.5 million acres of backcountry national forests. The administration's proposal follows a request by the state of Alaska, which wants to facilitate increased development of and industrial access to roadless lands in the state.

Backcountry Hunters & Anglers members have consistently spoken up in support of conserving Alaska’s roadless backcountry lands and waters, which include habitat critical to robust big game populations and healthy fisheries. These public lands and waters are prized by sportsmen and women and are a mainstay of Alaska’s outdoors economy.

“The backcountry habitat found in the Tongass is quite simply irreplaceable, a jewel in the crowning achievement that is our national forests system,” said BHA President and CEO Land Tawney, “and we as a nation will be poorer if we suffer its loss and weaken conservation standards for our roadless areas.”

“U.S. roadless areas play a crucial role in the health of our big game populations, our iconic fisheries and our opportunities to find adventure and solace on our public lands,” Tawney continued. “Together, sportsmen and women urge Secretary Sonny Perdue to listen to Alaskans, to hunters and anglers, to the business owners and community members who have overwhelmingly spoken up, again and again, for conservation of the Tongass.”

BHA members in Alaska likewise cast a vote for balanced management of the Tongass.

“As a longtime Alaskan, I’m frankly outraged to be fighting again to uphold the Roadless Rule in the Tongass,” said Zach LaPerriere, a BHA member from Sitka, when the USDA began developing the proposal. “We’ve already held countless public hearings and comment periods, and there was a strong consensus that the best use of roadless areas in the Tongass is to keep them largely the way they are. Thousands of miles of logging roads exist within the Tongass, and those areas will remain open for development and resource extraction. Don’t let anyone convince you that the Roadless Rule is hampering development: It isn’t.

“Like many other Southeast Alaskans, my family of five does not buy meat from the grocery store,” commented LaPerriere, who works as a logger and woodworker. “We hunt and fish as a family and harvest all of our protein from the forest and ocean surrounding the Tongass, much of it in roadless areas. The roadless rule exists to protect vital habitat like this so we can enjoy our public lands, whether it’s hiking, picking berries or hunting and fishing.”

The 9.3 million acres of Tongass National Forest inventoried roadless areas comprises habitat for a unique diversity of sought-after game species, including mountain goats, black-tailed deer and both brown and black bears. The Tongass also encompasses thousands of miles of salmon-rich waterways, legendary among anglers and fundamental to the state’s commercial salmon industry. These valuable resources have been upheld by the Roadless Rule, a collaborative management approach that was adopted following one of the most extensive public engagement campaigns in the history of federal rulemaking.

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