Vilsack is taking steps to lift the Alaskan driving ban exemption
U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski, Dan Sullivan, and Congressman Don Young, all from R-Alaska, made the following statements today after the Biden administration released its regulatory action agenda repealing the final published in October US Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulation called for 2020, “Special areas; Preservation of roadless areas; National Forest System lands in Alaska; ” exempt the Tongass National Forest from the 2001 Roadless Rule.
“In Southeast Alaska, where the Tongass make up most of the land base, the universal Roadless Rule has restricted access required for tourism, recreation, timber, mining, transportation, and renewable energy development. Any action to repeal the definitive rule and reinstate the roadless rule will cost jobs, reduce incomes, keep energy prices high and cripple the ability of communities in the region to develop sustainable, year-round economies. Alaskans believe that roadless rule is a nuisance and unnecessary and have since its inception demanded that the Tongass be exempted from it. ” said Senator Murkowski. “The Trump administration put significant work and effort into the final rule through the Forest Service and the USDA, and now the Biden administration is literally throwing it all away. We need to end this “yo-yo effect” as the lives of the Alaskans who live and work in the Tongass are turned upside down every time we have a new president. This has to come to an end. I will use all means at my disposal to fend off recent government actions. It is time to move forward and use the Tongass Land Management Plan and any other applicable environmental laws to lead new projects and activities and provide the region with long overdue regulatory security. “
There you have it again: another misguided decision by the Biden government that ignores the interests of Alaska’s working class families and reasonable access to our land and instead sells Alaska to the agendas of extreme environmental groups who have no interest in economic opportunity in ours To promote land. “State,” said Senator Sullivan. “I highlighted the importance of this issue in my meeting with Foreign Minister Vilsack during his confirmation process and I am deeply disappointed that neither he nor anyone in his agency contacted us before this unilateral decision was announced. Every Alaskan governor and congressman – Democrats and Republicans – has campaigned for the roadless rule to be lifted for the past 25 years. The Biden administration’s announcement is an unacceptable whip in federal politics just months after the Trump administration enacted a thoroughly revised final rule that strikes the right balance between preserving the land we cherish and encouraging opportunities for hardworking people Alaskans found. The Biden government must recognize that Alaskans in the Southeast – like all Americans – have the right to connect their communities, support the local economy, build renewable energy projects, and responsibly harvest resources, all by returning to them unnecessary and excessive endangered is – onerous regulation. “
“This is a very sad day for the state of Alaska. The withdrawal of the hard-won exemption from the Roadless Rule is not only a devastating assault on our state’s economy, but it also shows a terrible disregard for the Alaskans’ right to rule themselves. Our compatriots in Lower 48 enjoy the opportunity to live, work, and thrive in their communities. They can do so in large part because of the energy and economic opportunities available to them. Alaskans in the area just crave the same opportunities to thrive. The lifting of the exemption from the Roadless Rule is tearing the families in the southeast under the feet and bringing affordable energy, fully funded schools and high quality health care further out of reach. ” said Congressman Young. “I want to say that I am surprised by this government’s decision, but it is entirely predictable given that Minister Vilsack’s office is over 4,000 miles from the Tongass. I tell the secretary this: “Come to Alaska; Visit southeast. Before you make a decision on behalf of my constituents, experience first-hand the enormous social and economic burden the Roadless Rule places on them. ”The COVID-19 pandemic has already harmed our economy, and today’s decision is another nail in the coffin for us economic opportunities in the southeast. I call on President Biden to reverse this decision so that future governments no longer use the Roadless Rule as political football; the family’s livelihood is at stake. “
The Tongass exemption is necessary to restore balance to the Tongass federal administration. Currently, 91 percent of the Tongass is either Wilderness, Wilderness National Monument, or inventoried roadless areas – meaning only 9 percent of the Tongass is available for any type of development.
In 2018, the Forest Service announced that it would develop a country-specific Roadless Rule that will focus on the Tongass National Forest. The Alaska-specific rule passed in October 2020 exempted the Tongass from the uniform regulation for the maintenance of roads without roads from 2001, which lands far-reaching bans on road construction, road reconstruction and timber harvesting in inventoried roadless areas in the National Forest established system. The new rule came in response to an Alaska State petition requesting a full exemption from the 2001 Roadless Rule for the Tongass.
On January 20, 2021, President Biden issued an executive order calling on the USDA to review the final rule exempting Tongass National Forest from the 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule. On February 1, 2021, the USDA issued a memo effectively pausing the implementation of any outstanding programmatic and project land management decisions.