The Trump administration introduced a proposal that would expand the amount of logging permitted in Alaska's Tongass National Forest. Photo courtesy gillfoto/Wikimedia Commons
Oct. 15 (UPI) -- The Trump administration released a proposal on Tuesday to allow logging on more than half of Alaska's Tongass National Forest.
The U.S. Forest Service announced the draft environmental impact statement that would exempt the Tongass National Forest from the 2001 Roadless Rule, which prohibits on-road construction and timber harvesting through 58.5 million acres of roadless lands in the National Forest System.
Under the proposal, the administration would remove all 9.2 million acres of inventoried roadless land in the Tongass forest from the Roadless Rule and again consider them suitable timber lands.
The proposal states that the land would yield 165,000 acres of old growth trees and 20,000 acres of new growth trees.
It also includes five other alternative plans including removing smaller portions of the forest from protection and taking no action.
A group of Republican lawmakers representing Alaska, including Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, and Rep. Don Young, issued statements welcoming the proposed rule.
"As Alaskans know well, the Roadless Rule hinders our ability to responsibly harvest timber, develop minerals, connect communities or build energy projects to lower costs -- including renewable energy projects like hydropower, all of which severely impedes the economy of Southeast," Sullivan said.
Andy Moderow of the Alaska Wilderness League said there are better ways to "meaningfully address local economic and development concerns" than removing the protection.
"The push for an Alaska-specific Roadless Rule has always been just pretext for continuing to subsidize Southeast Alaska's old-growth timber industry and it will do so at the expense of recreation and fishing, Native communities and wildlife," Moderow said.