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Possible Alaskan Changes In Federal Roadless Rule Has Caused Concern

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The Trump administration wants to reverse a nearly two-decade rule in order to allow more logging in Alaska's Tongass National Forest - and it's the same rule that protects roadless acres in the  Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest in Wisconsin, though the proposed change affects Alaska only.

Alaska's struggling timber industry hopes to revive large-scale industrial logging known for damaging animal habitat and salmon streams.

Lexi Hackett, who runs a family fishing operation in southeastern Alaska, is among 200 fishers warning the administration about the threat to their livelihood and the environment if protections from road-building and other development are removed.

"There's no good reason to roll back the Roadless Rule at this point," she said. "It's very confusing that this is even on the chopping block. People just say, 'Development, development, development, more jobs,' and people think it's that simple - but it's not."

The Roadless Rule,  covers some 60 million acres in 40 states and territories.

Some have complained that the roadless rule has choked economic growth. However, Mike Dombeck, who served as U.S. Forest Service chief when the Roadless Rule was first proposed, said he thinks the current administration should focus its energy on boosting the recreation and tourism industries that make up 26% of the economy and jobs in that part of Alaska. "So that, compared to the 1% of the timber industry, really should tell us that the future of the Tongass National Forest is really about recreation, tourism, clean water, and keeping wild places wild," he said. Dombeck is a Wisconsin native and has worked with UW-Stevens Point.

Tribal organizations and others opposed to the rollback will testify today before a House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands.  Public comments are being taken until Dec. 17.

The public-hearing schedule is online at fs.usda.gov, the Roadless Rule is at fs.fed.us, and information on the subcommittee hearing is at naturalresources.house.gov. 

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