Rural lands in Southeast Alaska will be preserved permanently

Roadless areas in the Tongass National Forest provide irreplaceable habitat for large game and are home to valuable salmon fisheries.

WASHINGTON – The unique habitat for wildlife and field fish in America’s largest national forest, the Tongass in Alaska, will once again be conserved under a rule finalized today by the US Department of Agriculture.

This afternoon’s USDA announcement is the latest decision affecting the long-term management of the 9.3 million acres of roadless land in the Tongass. The USDA rule restores long-established protections for these areas, which contain habitat for coveted game species, including mountain goats, Sitka black-tailed deer, and grizzly and black bears, and span thousands of miles of land. salmon-rich waterways, legendary among anglers and central to the state’s commercial salmon industry.

Backcountry Hunters & Anglers has consistently expressed its support for responsible management of roadless areas within the Tongass, and the BHA today applauded the administration’s decision.

“Hunters, anglers, tribal nations, outdoor recreationists, business owners and members of the Alaskan community have collectively stepped up to support conservation of Tongass’s unique roadless areas,” said John Gale, BHA vice president of policy and government relations. “These public lands and waters comprise invaluable habitat for fish and wildlife and play an important role in the economies of communities throughout Southeast Alaska.

“Of the 1.6 million comments submitted by Alaskans and others during the original roadless rulemaking process, 95 percent supported strong protections for roadless areas,” Gale continued. “We thank the administration for taking steps to maintain the integrity of this precious rural landscape by ensuring the long-term conservation of roadless lands in the Tongass.”

The Roadless Areas Conservation Rule of 2001 guides the management of 58.5 million acres of national forests outside the country. However, in 2018, USDA formally undertook a rulemaking process to develop an Alaska-specific version of the national roadless rule following a request from the state of Alaska, which wanted to facilitate further development and industrial access to tractless lands. roads in the state. In 2020, the Forest Service repealed roadless protections for the Tongass entirely, opening the world’s largest intact temperate rainforest to damaging development.

“The Tongass National Forest is one of the largest salmon spawning grounds in the world, and its importance should not be underestimated,” said James Majetich, coordinator for BHA Alaska. “Many Alaskans rely on the hunting and fishing opportunities it provides to continue their subsistence lifestyle. The USDA rule restoring roadless protections in the Tongass keeps irreplaceable habitat intact for wildlife and Alaskans, and the Alaska BHA is pleased with the administration’s decision to implement it.”

The 2001 roadless people rule represents a collaborative management approach that was adopted after one of the most extensive public participation campaigns in the history of federal regulation.

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