Forest Service, Alaska Working on State-Specific Roadless Rule

Forest Service, Alaska Working on State-Specific Roadless Rule

In establishing this new rule, the Forest Service is responding to Alaska's petition for a full exemption from the 2001 Roadless Rule.

The USDA Forest Service and the state of Alaska have signed a memorandum of understanding to develop an Alaska state-specific roadless rule that will determine which currently designated roadless areas would require a different management designation to further Alaska's economic development or other needs. The state-specific rule will amend the 2001 Roadless Rule, which prohibits road construction, road reconstruction, and timber harvesting on certain National Forest System lands across the country.

Currently, in Alaska, 67 percent of National Forest System lands are inventoried roadless areas. An additional 26 percent are designated Wilderness, where road construction is also prohibited. In establishing this new rule, the Forest Service is responding to Alaska's petition for a full exemption from the 2001 Roadless Rule. The petition was accepted by Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue in April 2018, with the decision to pursue a state-specific roadless rule.

According to the Forest Service announcement, National Forest System lands in Alaska that are designated Wilderness would be unaffected by this rulemaking.

"We will continue to work with the people of Alaska, the state government, industry, tribes, and Alaska native corporations to maintain the health and vibrancy of our national forests," Perdue said. "The national forests in Alaska should be working forests for all industries."

The Forest Service previously worked with Colorado and Idaho to develop their state-specific roadless rules.

"The state of Alaska is ready to begin this work. I am confident that state and federal officials will be responsive to input from local residents every step of the way and that together, we will account for the diverse needs of people who live, work, and recreate in the forest," Alaska Gov. Bill Walker said.

Perdue aims to sign a final Alaska Roadless Rule within the next 18 months. The preparation process will involve National Environmental Policy Act environmental review and disclosures, gathering public feedback, conducting public outreach, and consultation with Alaskan Tribes and Native Corporations. A notice of intent to prepare an EIS for the rulemaking is scheduled to be published later this summer.

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