In a fairly stunning move, the Trump administration rolled back the roadless rule for the entire 9.3 million acres of the Tongass National Forest. The roadless rule was created by the Clinton administration, and prohibits development, logging, and road-building on a large chunk of National Forest land.
The Trump administration, acting on guidance from Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy and Senator Dan Sullivan, is citing the need for increased economic activity in the communities in and around Tongass as the impetus behind this move, according to The Washington Post. The area has seen its economy all but decimated due to the pandemic shutting down tourism.
However, according to an article from The Hill, this action by the Trump administration would technically only open 186,000 new acres to logging. And, across the entire 9.3 million acre forest, roads would only increase from 994 miles currently to 1,043 miles over the next 100 years.
Currently, Tongass has a logging program that lost $16 million in 2019, due to a federal mandate that logging companies working on National Forest land have to make a profit. This mandate means the Forest Service has to cover a majority of the costs for logging operations – including building roads. Per the Washington Post, the Tongass logging program has cost taxpayers $1.7 billion over the last 40 years.
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