Conservation groups are weighing in on a federal ruling last week to end the Tongass National Forest’s exemption from the Roadless Rule. The rule protects such areas from logging and building.
“This decision is a victory for all residents of Southeast Alaska’s Tongass National Forest and those that depend on the land for jobs” Hunter McIntosh, chief operating officer with the Boat Company, said of the decision.
Other groups, such as the Sierra Club and Greenpeace, agree with this statement, while U.S. Sen. Mark Begich did not. He has spoken negatively of the ruling, saying it will result in a, “cookie-cutter rule imposed upon all national forests rather than by the 2008 Tongass Land Management Plan,” and that it will limit timber harvests, mining, hydropower resources and personal use wood permits.
“Simply put, it’s a bad idea and it won’t work for Alaska,” he said.
He also stated, “This will have a severe impact and reverse efforts to revitalize local communities and increase economic diversification throughout the region. I spoke with Alaska Regional Forester Beth Pendleton today and will speak with Secretary (of Agriculture Tom) Vilsack shortly about any administrative flexibility over the short term and will work with my colleagues in the Alaska delegation on legislative solutions.”
Begich’s press officer could not be reached Monday.
Larry Edwards of Greenpeace said Begich’s views are unfounded. He said the rule won’t affect mining there and does not eliminate personal wood use. The rule holds an exemption for personal use meeting defined characteristics.
“An important point is not one timber job is lost through this decision because there are no ongoing timber sales or sold timber in the roadless areas,” Edwards said.
Forest Service Public Affairs Officer Erin Uloth said Tongass authorities are still reviewing the ruling and don’t yet have a comment on its implications.
Mark Rorick, chairman of the Juneau Group of the Sierra Club, agreed the rule does not limit personal wood use, nor does it stop roads between communities.
“It’s right in the Forest Service transition from old growth to second growth,” he said. “It fits that framework and durability.”
Edwards said the order protects the livelihoods of thousands in the region who depend on the lands for tourism, fishing, subsistence and recreation.
“It’s a very clear win. We prevailed on every point and the defendants didn’t have any,” he said.
• Contact reporter Jonathan Grass at 523-2276 or at email@example.com.
Juneau Empire ©2013. All Rights Reserved.