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Biden Plans to Restore Protections to Tongass National Forest in Alaska

  • June 13, 2021

Alaskan senators and governors have long maintained that lifting the roadless rule protections in their state would provide a sorely needed economic boost.

Among them is Senator Lisa Murkowski, a Republican, who has argued in the past that sections of Tongass can be responsibly developed in ways that would not necessarily lead to the loss of major swaths of forest. She has attacked the roadless rule as a “one-size-fits-all” regulation that hurts the timber industry as well as mining, transportation and energy.

It is not clear whether the Biden administration intends to fully replace the roadless rule protections in the Tongass or whether it would replace protections in some areas while leaving others open to economic development.

Ms. Murkowski is also a key player in efforts to negotiate a bipartisan agreement on a sweeping infrastructure bill and the White House has been careful to avoid antagonizing her. Already this year, President Biden — seeking to strike a balance between his vows to fight climate change and protect the environment, while also securing the support of Ms. Murkowski for a signature legislative effort — has alternated between policies that approve fossil fuel drilling in some parts of Alaska while banning it in others.

“Any action to repeal the final rule and reimpose the roadless rule will cost jobs, diminish income, keep energy prices high, and cripple the ability of the communities in the region to develop a sustainable, year-round economy,” Ms. Murkowski said in a statement. “The Trump administration, through the Forest Service and USDA, put considerable work and effort into the final rule and now the Biden administration is literally throwing it all away. We need to end this ‘yo-yo effect’ as the lives of Alaskans who live and work in the Tongass are upended every time we have a new president. This has to end.”

Mike Dunleavy, the Republican governor of Alaska, wrote on Twitter, “Disappointed in the @POTUS latest suppression of AK economic opportunity. From tourism to timber, Alaska’s great Tongass National Forest holds much opportunity for Alaskans but the federal government wishes to see Alaskans suffer at the lack of jobs and prosperity.”

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