The Biden administration plans to restore environmental protection in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest that was removed at the end of the Trump administration.
according to a White House agenda for upcoming regulatory actions Published on Friday, the administration intends to “repeat or replace” the Trump-era rule that opened nearly nine million acres of Tongas, one of the world’s largest intact temperate rain forests, to logging and road construction. is for.
President Donald J. Trump freed Tongass from a Clinton-era policy known as the Roadless Rule, which banned logging and road building across much of the national forest system.
Alaska lawmakers have long said that removing roadless rule protections in their state would provide a much-needed economic boost. Among them is Senator Lisa Murkowski, a Republican and a player in efforts to negotiate a bipartisan agreement on a comprehensive infrastructure bill.
Environmentalists say allowing road construction – the first step toward logging – could devastate vast forests of snowy peaks, rivers and virgin old-growth forest widely seen as one of America’s treasures. is.
Climate scientists also point out that Tongass serves a vital service to the billions of people across the planet who are unlikely to ever set foot there: it is one of the world’s largest carbon sinks, storing its equivalent is about 8 percent Carbon stored in all forests in the lower 48 states combined.
It is unclear whether the Biden administration will return protection to the entire 9 million acres of forest or just a portion of it. The White House agenda document said the federal government would formally issue a notice of proposed rulemaking by August, with environmental analysis and final decisions to follow in the coming years.
In a 2019 draft environmental study of potential changes to the protection of Tongass, the United States Forest Service said it would consider six possible changes to the rule. An alternative would have maintained restrictions in 80 percent of the area currently protected by the rule; The second would have opened up about 2.3 million acres to logging and construction.