Forest Service Officially Announces Plans For Tongass Roadless Rule Restoration

After news broke Friday night that the Biden administration’s plan to reinstate Roadless Rule protection for Tongass National Forest would be announced today, the U.S. Forest Service announced its intentions this morning. Here’s the press release first:

JUNEAU – The U.S. Forest Service has announced a proposal to restore Roadless Rule protections in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest. This rulemaking will reverse a rollback initiated under the Trump administration that was designed to auction off some of the oldest and largest trees in the Southeast Alaska rainforest to the timber industry. The Forest Service will begin accepting public comment on November 23.   

While the announcement carries promise for the future of the Tongass, the proposal to restore the Roadless Rule is not yet finalized, so defenders of the national forest will rally supporters yet again to make sure the Biden administration makes good on its commitment. This proposed sweeping protection forlands and waters of the Tongass would be a meaningful step toward addressing the  climate crisis.  

“We see this crucial protection for the Tongass as a moral imperative,” said Blaine Miller-McFeeley, Senior Legislative Representative on Earthjustice’s Policy and Legislation Team. “The Tongass is one of the most important forests in the world for carbon sequestration, and the lifeblood for many Alaska Native communities. We are extremely thankful to see the Biden Forest Service taking this step, and we look forward to finally seeing Trump’s attempted attack on this forest tossed into the recycling bin of history.” 

Here are some more details, including information about a 60-day comment period available:

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced it is taking steps to repeal the 2020 Alaska Roadless Rule and restore protections to more than nine million acres of inventoried roadless areas on the Tongass National Forest. The Alaska Roadless Rule, approved on Oct. 29, 2020, exempted the Tongass from the 2001 Roadless Rule, which prohibited road construction, reconstruction and timber harvest in inventoried roadless areas – with limited exceptions.

A proposed rule repealing the 2020 rule will be published for public comment early next week.

USDA determined that the underlying goals and purposes of the 2001 Roadless Rule continue to be a critical part of conserving the resources of the Tongass, especially when it comes to the values that roadless areas represent for local communities, Alaska Natives and the economy of Southeast Alaska. The decision to repeal the 2020 Alaska Roadless Rule is based on the multiple ecologic, social, cultural and economic values supported by roadless areas on the Tongass. More than 95% of commenters opposed exempting the Tongass from the 2001 Roadless Rule during the public comment periods leading up to the 2020 Alaska Roadless Rule.

“Restoring the Tongass’ roadless protections supports the advancement of economic, ecologic and cultural sustainability in Southeast Alaska in a manner that is guided by local voices,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “The proposed rule is considerate of Alaska’s Tribal Nations, community input, and builds on the region’s economic drivers of tourism and fishing.”

A 60-day comment period will begin on Nov. 23, 2021 with the publication of a proposal to repeal the 2020 Alaska Roadless Rule. Comments can be submitted in the following ways:

  • Preferred: Submit electronically using the Federal eRulemaking Portal:
  • Mail to: Alaska Roadless Rule, USDA Forest Service, P.O. Box 21628, Juneau, Alaska 99802–1628
  • Hand Delivery / Courier to: Alaska Roadless Rule, USDA Forest Service, 709 W. 9th Street, Juneau, Alaska 99802
  • Email:

Comments are encouraged on the proposed rule. Comments, including names and addresses, are placed in the official record and are available for public inspection and copying. The public may inspect comments received at

At 16.7 million acres, the Tongass National Forest is the largest national forest in the country and represents the largest intact tract of coastal temperate rainforest on earth. The forest is within the traditional homelands of the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian peoples, holds more biomass per acre than any other rainforest in the world and stores more carbon than any other national forest.