Roadless Protections Restored for Tongass National Forest

US Department of Agriculture Announces Repeal of 2020 Exemption

JUNEAU, AK – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced today that it has reinstated the roadless rule in the Tongass National Forest of southeast Alaska, repealing an unpopular 2020 exemption. This regulation prohibits road construction, reconstruction, and logging in more than 9 million acres of inventoried roadless areas, with limited exceptions.

“This decision has been a long time coming,” said Austin Williams, Alaska policy and legal director for Trout Unlimited. “It’s great to see the Forest Service move beyond the unsustainable and harmful clearing of old-growth forests and chart a path forward for the Tongass that recognizes that roadless areas are critical to our local communities and economies, and to help combat the effects of climate change.”

Today’s announcement is part of USDA’s Southeast Alaska Sustainability Strategy, which was announced in July 2021. In addition to reinstating the roadless rule, this new strategy ended large-scale logging of old growth forests and redirected management towards restoration, recreation and resistance; re-engaged the Forest Service in meaningful consultation with local tribes and invested $25 million in diversifying the regional economy. This strategy is designed to support local economies fueled by an intact and healthy forest, where tourism and fishing account for one in four jobs.

The reinstatement of the no-road rule in the Tongass supports USDA efforts to address climate change. The Tongass is part of the largest temperate rainforests in North America, storing more carbon than any other national forest in the country, and slowing the impact of climate change. The amount of carbon stored in the trees of the Tongass National Forest is equivalent to the annual CO2 emissions of more than 421 million vehicles. Roadless protections not only provide great local benefits, but are also important globally.

“The Tongass’ wild and scenic landscapes are timeless, but its management practices were stuck in the past for far too long,” said Chris Wood, President and CEO of Trout Unlimited. “Today’s news brings hope for the future. A future where the national forest that produces more salmon than all others combined is conserved for the incredibly valuable and enduring resource that it is, and a carbon sink is left standing that slows the effects of climate change.”

Trout Unlimited, the nation’s oldest and largest cold-water fisheries conservation organization, is dedicated to caring for and restoring America’s rivers and streams so our children can experience the joy of wild trout and salmon and native people. Across the country, TU brings local, regional, and national grassroots organizations, enduring partnerships, science-backed political strength, and legal firepower on behalf of salmon and trout fisheries, healthy waters, and vibrant communities. In Alaska, we work with athletes to ensure the state’s salmon and trout resources stay healthy well into the future through our local chapters and offices in Anchorage and Juneau.