On Tuesday, the U.S. Forest Service announced it would release a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) evaluating six options to exempt the Tongass National Forest in Alaska from the 2001 Roadless Rule to varying degrees. In the press release, the Forest Service stated its preferred alternative is to exempt the Tongass from the Roadless Rule altogether, which would open up millions of acres to road building and logging in the nation’s largest national forest. The Forest Service plans to publish the full DEIS in the Federal Register later this week, and will be accepting comments on the alternatives through December 17, 2019.
Following the announcement, Ryan Alexander, president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, issued the following statement:
The new U.S. Forest Service proposal to exempt 9.2 million acres of the Tongass National Forest from the Roadless Rule would be an unjustified giveaway to the timber industry at taxpayers’ expense. Under the Forest Service’s mismanagement, taxpayers lose money when publicly-owned timber is sold in the Tongass – since 1999, we’ve lost an average of $30 million per year. Expanding timber sales into new areas of the Tongass exempted from the Roadless Rule would exacerbate those losses.
The Forest Service preferred alternative to fully exempt the Tongass from the Roadless Rule is as unnecessary as it is costly. The Forest Service has been able to use the Roadless Rule’s flexibility to approve more than 50 projects in roadless areas in the Tongass, from mining operations to aerial trams. Tossing the rule aside would be a sop to one special interest: the timber industry. Current rules require the Forest Service to build in profits for logging companies into every Tongass timber sale, even while they cost taxpayers millions. More timber sales under a Roadless Rule exemption will mean more profits for industry, and more losses for taxpayers.