Rulemaking for Alaska-specific Roadless Rule

Comment Deadline: Monday, October 15, 2018


The U.S. Forest Service is initiating an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and public rulemaking process to address the management of inventoried roadless areas in the Tongass National Forest. The intent is to evaluate a regulatory exemption for the Tongass to the current nationwide Roadless Rule as well as evaluate other management solutions that address infrastructure, timber, renewable energy, mining, access, and transportation needs to further economic development, while still conserving roadless areas for future generations. 

The nationwide Roadless Rule was established in January 2001 as President Bill Clinton was leaving office. It set in place prohibitions on timber harvests and road construction within inventoried roadless areas of the national forest system. The federal government and the State of Alaska reached a settlement in 2003 exempting the Tongass from the Roadless Rule. In 2011, a federal court set aside the exemption and reinstated the rule. The court’s ruling was initially reversed, but the rule was once again reinstated by a 6-5 decision of the Ninth Circuit in 2015. 

In response to a State of Alaska petition, the Forest Service agrees that the long-standing controversy surrounding management of roadless areas in the Tongass may be resolved through rulemaking creating a state-specific Roadless Rule. Both the State and the Forest Service believe a long-term durable approach to roadless area management is needed that balances preservation with social and economic needs in the Tongass and the region. While exempting the Tongass from provisions of the Roadless Rule, the proposed rulemaking would leave the nationwide rule in place in the Chugach National Forest.

RDC believes the 2001 Roadless Rule prohibitions are unnecessary in both the Tongass and Chugach National Forest, which can be adequately protected under amended land management plans. 

For more information:

Action Requested

Let the Forest Service know that Alaska is unique and deserves a rule that is modeled to the needs of Alaskans. This rulemaking is an opportunity to revisit a sweeping federal rule that never made sense in Alaska and to help create local sustainable economies. What happens next will depend on how Alaskans react.Comments may be submitted by any of the following methods below.

Electronically: https://

Alaska Roadless Rule
USDA Forest Service, Alaska Region, 
Ecosystem Planning and Budget Staff
P.O. Box 21628
Juneau, Alaska 99802–1628 

Points to Consider:

  • Alaska is unique and deserves a state-specific roadless rule that is tailored to the needs of Alaskans.
  • An Alaska-specific roadless rule should allow for further road access for not only timber, mineral, tourism, and energy uses, but also access to resources important to residents for subsistence, recreation and other community economic, cultural, and social activities.
  • A new Alaska-specific roadless rule should balance roadless area characteristics with timber harvesting and road construction that are determined to be needed for forest management, economic development opportunities, renewable energy, and the exercise of valid existing rights.
  • The nationwide Roadless Rule usurped much of the land planning process mandated by the National Forest Management Act (NFMA), particularly on the Chugach and the Tongass national forests. Exempting the Tongass from the Roadless Rule will not authorize any development activities, but it will enable the NFMA planning process to function as intended. That process specifies in detail how each portion of each national forest should be managed. 
  • Acting in response to specific recommendations by both the Forest Service and many environmental groups, Congress has already enacted over six million acres of Wilderness and roadless areas on the Tongass. The remaining areas were passed over so they could support local employment, including year-around timber manufacturing jobs in a region where there are minimal state or private timberlands available to the mills.
  • The Roadless Rule has never made sense in Alaska. Application of the 2001 rule has severely impacted the social and economic fabric of Southeast Alaska communities and violates the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act and the Tongass Timber Reform Act. It has devastated the timber industry where sustainable harvests have plummeted and employment is now a fraction of what it was prior to enactment of the rule.
  • The Roadless Rule as applied to Alaska doesn’t work – it doesn’t work for our timber and mining industries and it doesn’t work for renewable energy and other economic development activities either.
  • A one-size fits all approach doesn’t account for Alaska’s uniqueness, needs, and limited surface infrastructure.
  • Unlike Lower 48 forests, most of the Tongass and 99 percent of the Chugach National Forest are roadless and fall under the high-restrictive Roadless Rule. Both forests are now being managed more like a national park than a multiple-use unit as mandated by law.
  • The current Roadless Rule is impacting access for a wide variety of uses. The result is a weaker economy as local communities face few employment opportunities, higher energy costs, and a smaller tax base to support local services. 

Comment deadline is Monday, October 15, 2018