The Biden administration will scrap a Trump administration action that opened millions of acres of untouched forest in Alaska to development, a move welcomed by environmentalists but likely to anger Alaska Republicans.
The Forest Service will propose to “repeal or replace” a Trump administration action that exempted Alaska’s Tongass National Forest from the so-called “roadless rule” that limits road construction, opening up more than 9 million acres of untouched forest to logging and development.
The agency signaled its intent to revise the Trump administration’s move in the Biden administration’s first regulatory agenda, unveiled Friday morning. According to the agenda, the Forest Service anticipates proposing a new rule in August.
Environmentalists quickly welcomed the Biden administration’s move, noting that the Tongass, the country’s largest national forest, also helps curb greenhouse gas emissions.
“The Tongass, in particular, stores more carbon than any other national forest, and is home to pristine wildlife and wildlands. The livelihoods of thousands of people who live in Southeast Alaska depend on it remaining intact,” said Josh Hicks, a senior campaign manager for The Wilderness Society.
Nonetheless, the administration’s move is likely to anger Alaska politicians who have been keen to see more development in their state, including centrist Sen. Lisa Murkowski, whom Biden has been looking to court with limited success so far.
The Biden administration's recent move to suspend oil and gas leasing in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge also put Murkowski, who helped push the legislative provision opening up that area to leasing, in a tough spot.
“The Tongass is home to many Alaskans who want what most Americans take for granted — the opportunity to live, work, and raise their families in the communities in which they grew up,” Murkowski said in October of the Trump administration’s final rule.
She added that exempting the Tongass from the roadless rule would expand the access of Alaskans in that area to “affordable and renewable energy,” broadband technology, and transportation and recreation.
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Original Author: Abby Smith