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Public comment period begins on proposals for roadless rule

Feds to decide if Tongass, Chugach should be exempted from rule

Posted: Thursday, July 17, 2003

The U.S. Forest Service is taking comment on proposed rules that would exempt the Tongass and Chugach National Forests from the roadless rule.

How to comment on the roadless rule

• Comments must be postmarked, faxed or e-mailed by Aug. 14.

• To comment on the rule to exempt the Tongass temporarily from the roadless rule until a permanent decision is reached, direct written comments to:

Roadless TNF

Content Analysis Team

USDA Forest Service

P.O. Box 22810

Salt Lake City, UT 84122

E-mail: roadlesstnf@fs.fed.us

Fax: (801) 880-2808

• To comment on the rule to exempt the Chugach and Tongass forests from the roadless rule permanently, direct written comments to:

Roadless ANPR

USFS Content Analysis Team

P.O. Box 22777

Salt Lake City, UT 84122

E-mail: roadlessanpr@fs.fed.us

Fax: (801) 880-3311

• For more information on the Net, go to Roadless Rule in Alaska: Projects and Plans

Last month, the state and the U.S. Forest Service reached an out-of-court settlement that temporarily exempted the Tongass from the Clinton-era rule, which prohibits timber harvesting and road-building within about 58 million acres of the 192-million-acre national forest system. About 9.6 million acres of Southeast Alaska's 16.8-million-acre Tongass have been designated roadless.

The state argued application of the roadless rule to Alaska national forests violates the "no more" clause of the 1980 Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, which divided conservation and development lands and stipulated no more land would be set aside for conservation.

The settlement called for two proposed regulations, said Ray Massey, spokesman for the Forest Service's Alaska Region. The first permanently would exempt the Chugach and Tongass forests from the roadless rule. The second rule would exempt the Tongass from the rule temporarily until any permanent changes are made.

The second proposal would be moot if the Forest Service were to decide on the permanent exemption first.

"The comment periods (for both proposals) are running simultaneously, but that doesn't mean they'll be settled simultaneously," Massey said.

Environmentalists are crying foul, saying the 30-day comment period, which started Tuesday, is too short and lacks public hearings.

"It's our right and responsibility to comment on governing rules that could dramatically change what our backyards and favorite fishing holes look like," said Emily Ferry of the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council. "Unfortunately, the Forest Service hasn't made it easy for the public to comment."

But Massey said the comment period's length was specified in the settlement.

"The comment period and the actual subject of the proposed rulemaking were part of the settlement between the government and the state of Alaska in their lawsuit," he said. "So we're legally bound to follow that settlement and that's what we're doing."

The comment period ends Aug. 14.



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