U.S. Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan and Rep. Don Young, all R-Alaska, today released the following statements after the State of Alaska and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to officially initiate the rulemaking process to develop an Alaska-specific Roadless Rule, ensuring greater access to our national forests.
“As I have said many times before, the Roadless Rule has never made sense in Alaska. I welcome today’s announcement, which will help put us on a path to ensure the Tongass is once again a working forest and a multiple use forest for all who live in southeast,” Murkowski said. “I thank Secretary Perdue for recognizing the need for economic relief in these communities, and look forward to continuing to work with the administration, state officials, Sen. Sullivan, and Congressman Young to see this process through to the finish line.”
“I welcome this first step to set forest management and the economy of Southeast Alaska back on track,” Sullivan said. “The Roadless Rule as applied to Alaska doesn’t work—it doesn’t work for our timber or mining industries and it doesn’t work for hydro and other renewable energy development either. As even the Supreme Court has recognized, Alaska is different. I am glad the Forest Service is committed to work with the State of Alaska and the people affected by its policies to create a more workable regulation that can provide for responsible development.”
“I have always maintained that the roadless rule does not work in Alaska. It not only violates ANILCA, but it has made the timber industry in Southeast Alaska difficult to sustain,” Young said. “This one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t account for Alaska’s unique history and geography. I thank Secretary Perdue for his leadership and look forward to continuing to work with him, as well as my colleagues in Congress, to ensure Alaska’s national forests are properly managed.”
The MOU signing comes roughly a month after Secretary Perdue’s visit with Murkowski to Prince of Wales Island, which allowed him to see firsthand the challenges presented by a “one-size-fits all” Roadless Rule. During his trip, Perdue heard directly from community leaders about the need to have a working forest that allows for multiple use to build a stronger, more sustainable economy in southeast Alaska.
The Tongass, which is the nation’s largest national forest, spans 16.7 million acres, but federal regulatory restrictions, particularly the Roadless Rule, are impacting access for timber, hunting, mining, recreation, and even renewable energy development. The result is a weaker regional economy, as local communities face higher energy costs and fewer employment opportunities.A notice of intent to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement for the rulemaking will be published in the Federal Register this summer, and will provide an opportunity for local stakeholders to weigh in during the process.