Potus Reinstates Roadless Rule Protection For Tongass NF

The tug of war between the two most recent presidential administrations has first repealed former Roadless Rule protections for Southeast Alaska’s massive Tongass National Forest and now restored the regulations that would prohibit the nation’s largest national forest from large-scale logging and other interests.

From the Associated Press:

The U.S. Department of Agriculture in late 2021 announced that it was beginning the process of repealing a Trump administration-era decision that exempted the Tongass— a rainforest that is also home to rugged coastal islands and glaciers — from the so-called roadless rule. The agency on Wednesday said it had finalized that plan.

The new rule will take effect once it is published in the Federal Register, which is expected to happen Friday, said agency spokesperson Larry Moore.

The Tongass is roughly the size of West Virginia and provides habitat for wildlife, including bears, wolves, bald eagles and salmon.

We have plenty of reaction to today’s Biden administration’s official decision to reverse a 2020 change by former President Donald Trump’s lifting of Roadless Rule protections. First up: SalmonState:

JUNEAU—SalmonState commends the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s decision today to reinstate the 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule, which comes in response to overwhelming support in Southeast Alaska. The reinstatement is a core element of the U.S. Forest Service’s Southeast Alaska Sustainability Strategy — a new approach to land management and development that puts Southeast Alaska communities and Tribes squarely in the lead.

“Southeast Alaska is in an exciting new era. We look forward to working with the Forest Service as Alaskans figure out how to make tourism, fisheries, and the Tongass National Forest work better for Alaskans,” said Dan Kirkwood, Southeast Futures Program Manager. “The Sustainability Strategy is where I’m seeing energy and opportunity to develop co-stewardship with Tribes and new ways of doing business that are scaled to our communities. This decision allows working forests and protects the things we love about Southeast.” 

Southeast Alaska is home to diverse urban and rural communities and is the ancestral and unceded territory of the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian peoples. Wild salmon are deeply important to the region. The forests birth 25% of the wild salmon caught on the West Coast.  Wild salmon spawned in the Tongass’s more than 5,000 salmon streams not only nourish the ecosystem, traditional ways of life and Southeast Alaskans, but the economy: commercial fishing contributes $1 billion to Southeast’s economy each year and is one of the region’s biggest employers. Fishing and the visitor industry, which attracts people from around the world and relies on Southeast Alaska’s dramatic natural beauty, together account for 25% of Southeast Alaska’s employment. 

The Tongass’ old growth is also an important buffer for climate change. The Tongass contains the greatest concentration of old-growth forests in the nation, storing a massive amount of carbon.  

The Southeast Alaska Sustainability Strategy prioritizes locally-led sustainable economic development; stream restoration; resiliency to a changing climate; and recreation.

Here’s Trout Unlimited:

Roadless Protections Restored for the Tongass National Forest 

U.S. Department of Agriculture announces repeal of 2020 exemption 

JUNEAU, AK – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced today that it has restored the Roadless Rule in Southeast Alaska’s Tongass National Forest, repealing an unpopular 2020 exemption. This rulemaking prohibits road construction, reconstruction and timber harvest on over 9 million acres of inventoried roadless areas, with limited exceptions.  

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

Today’s announcement is part of the USDA’s Southeast Alaska Sustainability Strategy, which it announced in July of 2021. In addition to reinstating the Roadless Rule, this new strategy ended large-scale logging of old-growth forest and refocused management toward in restoration, recreation and resiliency; recommitted the Forest Service to 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 make up one in four jobs.  

The reinstatement of the Roadless Rule on the Tongass supports the USDA’s efforts to address climate change. The Tongass is part of North America’s largest temperate rainforests, storing more carbon than any other national forest in the country and slowing the impact of climate change. The amount of carbon stored in trees of the Tongass National Forest is equal to the yearly CO2 emissions of over 421 million vehicles. Roadless protections don’t just provide vast local benefits, they are also globally significant.  

“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 lasting resource that it is, and a carbon sink that slows the effects of climate change is left standing.”  

Alaska Environment:

Statement: Biden administration restores protections to 9.2 million acres of roadless forest

Reinstated rule for Southeast Alaska’s Tongass provides safeguards to critical wild habitat, massive carbon sink

ANCHORAGE — In the final step to reverse a Trump-era environmental threat, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced <Day> that they will restore 2001 Roadless Rule protections for Alaska’s Tongass National Forest. The Tongass provides critical habitat for wildlife, including an untold number of birds, bears and salmon and plays a critical role as a natural tool to help stop climate change.

The Roadless Rule, established in 2001, is intended to help keep wild spaces in our national forest system free from roads and logging. In 2020, the Trump administration stripped Roadless Rule safeguards from 9.2 million acres in the Tongass, the largest forest in the national forest system.

The USDA has seen almost exclusively favorable comments from Alaskans and locals to the region for restoring the Roadless Rules protections to the Tongass.

In response, Environment America Research & Policy Center Public Lands Campaign Director Ellen Montgomery issued the following statement:

“After eagerly awaiting this announcement, we’re overjoyed that full roadless protections have been restored to the Tongass National Forest. Our largest national forest provides critical habitat for countless birds, salmon and its ancient trees absorb staggering amounts of carbon. The roadless area, 9.2 million acres, has been protected from logging since 2001. Thanks to the Biden administration, this critical forestland will have continued protection for decades longer. Now that this Trump era rollback has been restored, it’s time for the Biden administration to move to increase protection from logging for all old and mature forests across the entire country.”

Alaska Environment Research and Policy Center State Director Dyani Chapman issued the following statement: 

“The restoration of the Roadless Rule is a win for Alaskans. Commercial fishermen, local Indigenous communities, tourism operators and environmentalists have all worked to restore protections to the forest. When intact, the Tongass is a complex web of life. Clear cuts put a fist through that web, and roads slice it into pieces. The roadless area allows the thousands of people that live in and around the Tongass to access intact forest to hike, kayak, hunt, fish and forage. ”

Earthjustice (with several statements from various sources around Southeast Alaska.

U.S. Forest Service restores critical protections to Tongass National Forest

The National Roadless Rule was rolled back for America’s last great rainforest by the Trump administration, threatening millions of acres of undeveloped national forest lands

JUNEAU (ÁAK?W ?WÁAN TERRITORY) — In a win for Southeast Alaska communities, wildlife, and the climate, the U.S. Forest Service reinstated Roadless Rule protections across the Tongass rainforest in Southeast Alaska. Tribal leaders, recreational small-business owners, commercial fishing operators, and conservationists cheered the agency’s restoration of this critical safeguard. The move restores federal protection — from industrial logging and damaging road-building — to just over 9 million undeveloped acres in America’s largest national forest.

The 17 million-acre Tongass National Forest, situated in the southeast corner of Alaska, is a temperate rainforest that draws visitors from around the globe and provides habitat for an abundance of wildlife including grizzly bears, bald eagles, and wolves. It is the ancestral homeland of the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian peoples. The Tongass also serves as the country’s largest forest carbon sink, making its protection critical for U.S. efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions and to set a global example.

The following statements were issued in response to today’s news.

President Joel Jackson, Organized Village of Kake:

“The Tongass Roadless Rule is important to everyone. The old-growth timber is a carbon sink, one of the best in the world. It’s important to OUR WAY OF LIFE — the streams, salmon, deer, and all the forest animals and plants.”

Naawéiyaa Tagaban, Environmental Justice Strategy Lead, Native Movement:

“The restoration of National Roadless Rule protections for the Tongass National Forest is a great first step in honoring the voices of the many Tribal Governments and Tribal Citizens who spoke out in favor of Roadless Rule protections for the Tongass. We are grateful to the Biden administration for taking this first step toward long-term protections for the Tongass. We hope that going forward true long-term protections will be established that do not rely on a rule which can be changed at the whim of a presidential administration. The administration must look to Tribal Sovereignty and Indigenous stewardship as the true long-term solution for protections in the Tongass. Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian people have lived in and managed the Tongass national forest for generations, true protections will look like the restoration of lands into Indigenous ownership.”

Wanda Culp, Tongass Coordinator, Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network:

“The Tongass Forest is homeland to countless indigenous family species, intertwined as strong and delicate as a spider’s circular web. The Tongass National Forest in Alaska is a national treasure, stored wealth, as is each of America’s Public Forests. They should always be handled as the treasures they are — cherished and saved to enable our future generations to breathe fresh air. To BREATHE FREELY!”

Linda Behnken, commercial fisherman and Executive Director, Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association:

“We are thrilled and relieved to know the Tongass’ remaining unroaded areas will remain intact vibrant forests for generations to come. Our fisheries depend on healthy habitat, and with climate change driving ocean warming, protecting habitat is increasingly important to the fish, the fisheries, and the coastal fishing communities. This is welcome news!”

Captain Dan Blanchard, owner and CEO, Uncruise Adventures:

“As an Alaska small business owner, I am ecstatic that the Forest Service is fully reinstating the Roadless Rule in the Tongass National Forest. It is time for us to focus on recreational opportunities for locals and visitors alike. The visitor industry is huge to the SE Alaska economy. Visitors travel from every corner of the planet to explore the rare environment and wildlife that is the Tongass National Forest. Happy Day!”

Mike and Sally Trotter, owners, Baranof Wilderness Lodge:

“GO JOE! Thank you so much for your support, stewardship, and care for this precious and wonderful planet earth! We honor your path.”

Above & Beyond Alaska:

“As a company that has been operating wilderness trips in the Tongass National Forest for over 20 years, we are overjoyed that the Roadless Rule will be restored to help protect this national treasure and to ensure healthy ecosystems continue to thrive in Southeast Alaska.”

Kevin Murphy, owner, Murphy’s Maritime Services:

“As a business owner in Southeast Alaska, reinstating the Roadless Rule allows me to continue to take visitors from around the world to experience an intact ecosystem filled with salmon, wildlife, and old-growth forests — not clearcuts. It’s no wonder Juneau gets more than a million visitors a year.”

Teague Whalen, owner and operator, Tongass Teague:

“There are two uncompromising realities for the survival of life on this planet: clean air and clean water. My hiking tours into the Tongass begin at the literal end of our road, where the Roadless Rule reinstatement will ensure that the Tongass can continue to be a lasting carbon sink.”

Stephen Van Derhoff, owner, Spirit Walker Expeditions:

“We are elated — literally floating on the news that the Roadless Rule is being reinstated in the Tongass. As we kayak, hike, and camp our way through this incredible ecosystem, we’re thankful for its protection and stewardship — and grateful for the opportunity to share the wilds of Southeast Alaska with guests from around the globe.”

Andy Moderow, Alaska Director, Alaska Wilderness League:

“We applaud today’s announcement, because it recognizes that Southeast Alaska’s future is rooted in sustainable uses of the forest. The Roadless Rule protects Tongass old-growth while also providing flexibility for community access, hydropower projects, utility connectors and other economic development projects when they serve a legitimate public interest.  This decision puts public lands and people first, and we are grateful for the action.”

Patrick Lavin, Alaska policy advisor, Defenders of Wildlife:

“Protecting the Tongass National Forest is an important step in recognizing the role of our forests in fighting the biodiversity and climate crises. Today’s action helps restore responsible stewardship in the Tongass, as demanded by an overwhelming majority of people during the public process. We look forward to working with the Biden administration to similarly protect older forests and wildlands across the nation.”

Kate Glover, Senior Attorney, Earthjustice:

“We applaud the Forest Service for making good on its commitment to tribes and to the climate by restoring the Roadless Rule across the Tongass. This is great news for the forest, the salmon, the wildlife, and the people who depend on intact ecosystems to support their ways of life and livelihoods.”

Ellen Montgomery, Research and Policy Center Public Lands Campaign Director, Environment America:

“After eagerly awaiting this announcement, we’re overjoyed that full roadless protections have been restored to the Tongass National Forest. Our largest national forest provides critical habitat for countless birds, salmon and its ancient trees absorb staggering amounts of carbon. The roadless area, 9.2 million acres, has been protected from logging since 2001. Thanks to the Biden administration, this critical forestland will have continued protection for decades longer. Now that this Trump era rollback has been restored, it’s time for the Biden administration to move to increase protection from logging for all old and mature forests across the entire country.”

Hallie Templeton, Legal Director, Friends of the Earth:

“We are proud to stand in victory alongside our Alaskan neighbors and other partners. Today marks yet another reversal of Trump-era attempts to gut conservation policies in the name of profits. Our message is loud and clear: we won’t allow such lawless behavior. We will keep watching and fighting in the name of conservation and environmental justice.”

Garett Rose, Staff Attorney, Alaska Project, NRDC:

“The Forest Service deserves a lot of praise for today’s move. The region’s Native peoples depend on this vast wildland, and the public overwhelmingly wants it protected. The Tongass is a refuge for animals that are endangered in other places, not to mention five species of salmon. We need to keep old-growth forests like these intact all around the globe—and soon—to sharply reduce carbon emissions. A key next step for the Biden administration would be protecting mature forests across all federal lands here in the U.S.”

Alex Craven, Senior Campaign Representative, Sierra Club:

“The Tongass is often referred to as ‘our nation’s climate forest’ for its ability to store carbon and protect us from the worst impacts of climate change. Thanks to today’s reinstatement of the Roadless Rule in Alaska, millions of acres of this valuable ecosystem will once again be protected – as will its supply of clean water, critical wildlife habitat, and carbon stores. We are proud to stand with Indigenous leaders and local Alaskans who have been championing the effort to restore these critical protections.”

Meredith Trainor, Executive Director, Southeast Alaska Conservation Council:

All of us at the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council and across Southeast Alaska are celebrating today’s announcement. This long-awaited decision by the Biden administration will protect over 9 million acres of Tongass National Forest Land for years to come. Hundreds of thousands of Alaskans and Americans wrote, lobbied, rallied, and petitioned for the National Roadless Rule to stay in place on the Tongass, and thanks to the Biden administration and leadership from Southeast Alaska’s Tribal communities, we have finally succeeded. Today’s win is the work of hundreds and thousands of hands and voices, all lifted up to protect this most precious place that we love – the Tongass National Forest.

Dominick A. DellaSala, Ph. D. Chief Scientist, Wild Heritage:

“The Tongass’ towering old-growth rainforests are tops among all national forests, and its roadless areas are 16% of the nation’s total. Even more impressive is this single national forest, the nation’s largest, stores the equivalent of 20% of all the carbon in the entire national forest system, making it North America’s best nature-based climate solution. What a glorious decision for Alaskans and all those that care about a safe climate and our natural legacy.”

Meda DeWitt, Senior Specialist, Alaska, The Wilderness Society:

“This is a long-awaited victory for the Tongass and for the Tlingit people. Through the leadership of the Indigenous peoples of Southeast Alaska, we have made our voices heard and will see over nine million acres of ancestral homeland and invaluable old-growth forest protected from harmful development. While we are grateful to the Biden Administration for taking decisive action in reinstating the 2001 Roadless Rule, we must continue to listen to the voices of Southeast Alaska and ensure that this forest is protected for the preservation of culture and future generations to come.”

Osprey Orielle Lake, Executive Director, Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN):

“After years of collective advocacy, we are celebrating this decision to protect the Tongass Rainforest and our global climate. Old-growth and mature forests are vital to climate mitigation, and we must take action to support protection of all old-growth forests like the Tongass, while we particularly listen to the leadership of Indigenous peoples when their forest homelands and territories are under attack. We look forward to the Tongass remaining protected for current and future generations, and to uplifting Indigenous leadership.”

Ted Zukoski, senior attorney, Center for Biological Diversity:

“What a fantastic day for the old trees of the Tongass, Southeast Alaska communities, wildlife and our climate. We’re in the midst of climate and wildlife extinction crises and the Tongass is a lifeline for our planet. The wild, mature and old-growth forests on the Tongass are carbon-storing champions that are worth more standing. It’s crucial that the Biden administration is stepping up to protect them from logging.”


In October 2020, the Trump administration canceled application of the nationwide Roadless Rule to the 9 million acres of Southeast Alaska’s 17-million-acre Tongass National Forest it previously protected. The public submitted nearly half a million comments during the federally required public process The Forest Service analyzed a subset of the comments, finding 96% supporting keeping the Roadless Rule in force on the Tongass, and only 1% supporting the exemption ultimately selected by the Trump administration.

Originally adopted in 2001, the Roadless Rule is one of the most significant conservation measures adopted to protect the national forests of the United States. Applicable nationwide, it prohibits industrial logging and most road-building in intact areas of the national forest system, with a few exceptions. Alaska’s Tongass National Forest was protected under the national rule in 2001, but was exempted first under the Bush administration and later under the Trump Administration. Today’s decision puts the Roadless Rule back in place across the Tongass, protecting its nine million acres of roadless areas from logging and road-building.

On June 11, 2021, the Biden administration announced it would “repeal or replace” the so-called Alaska-specific Roadless Rule.

Southeast Tribal Leaders

Statement of Southeast Tribal Leaders 

on Reinstatement of Tongass Roadless Rule 

*Organized Village of Kake *Organized Village of Kasaan *Ketchikan Indian Community *Skagway Traditional Council *Organized Village of Saxman *Hoonah Indian Association; *Craig Tribal Association; 

*Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska

Southeast Alaska Tribes appreciate the progress the United States Department of Agriculture has made toward implementing the Southeast Alaska Sustainability Strategy (SASS) and, specifically, the process leading to today’s announcement on the reinstatement of national Roadless Rule protections on the Tongass National Forest. 

Our Southeast Tribes have always prioritized actions necessary for preserving our ways of life, including advocating for the Roadless Rule and working to protect our traditional and customary hunting, fishing, and gathering areas within our traditional territories. We have engaged tirelessly throughout the Roadless Rule process — some of us for more than 20 years — to bring Tribal concerns to the forefront of the conversation through consultation and legal means. 

The return of the 2001 Roadless Rule protections signals a commitment from the agency to address the climate crisis and finally listen to the Southeast Tribes that will continue to be most impacted by climate change effects. 

We are thankful to the Biden administration and the USDA for listening to our concerns and presenting a different approach. We are optimistic that we will be able to create long-term protections for areas inherent to our traditional and cultural uses through our Administrative Procedures Act Petition for a Traditional Homelands Conservation Rule and co-management opportunities. 

As the USDA works to repair its relationship with our Tribal governments and communities on the ground, the agency will continue to be an integral partner in creating a future for the Tongass that is guided by collaboration, Indigenous leadership and values, the needs of future generations, and sustainable economies that will heal the divisions of the past. 

Joel Jackson, President of the Organized Village of Kake, explained the importance of the forest to Indigenous people. “We are tied to our lands that our ancestors walked on thousands of years ago. We walk these same lands and the land still provides food security — deer, moose, salmon, berries, our medicines,” he says. “The old-growth timber plays an important part in keeping all these things coming back year after year; it’s our supermarket year around. And it’s a spiritual place where we go to ground ourselves from time to time.”

And here are other some other social media reactions, starting with Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s and Sen. Dan Sullivan’s opposition to the decision to return protection for the Tongass: