The bulk of federal employees will miss two paychecks by Friday, Jan. 25, as the partial government shutdown continues. But the U.S. Forest Service is dedicating paid staff to a controversial initiative in Alaska.
The agency released an update on its website earlier this week, saying it’s still working on “high-priority projects,” such as reviewing how the Roadless Rule applies to Alaska. The rule is a federal regulation most states have to follow, which makes it difficult to build new roads on wilder parts of national lands. Alaska has asked for an exemption to the rule.
It’s been a decades-long battle in the state — centered mostly on the timber industry and energy development in the Tongass National Forest.
In August, the Forest Service said it would review the state’s ask and deliver a draft environmental impact statement by the summer of 2019. Now, despite limited staffing, the agency is still working to meet that deadline.
The Forest Service is using leftover federal funds from last year to pay its employees.
Recently, conservation groups in Alaska criticized the agency for planning a timber sale during the shutdown and for a lack of transparency.
Alaska has a lot going on right now.
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- Donna Arduin is no longer in charge of the state budget for Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s administration. Dunleavy’s chief of staff says the decision was “made unanimously within the leadership of the governor’s office.”
- The move frees up nearly $11 million in funding from federal law enforcement programs, including money for local communities and tribal entities for addressing domestic violence, sexual assault, and other violent crimes. The state will also get three new federal prosecutors who will be focused on rural Alaska.
- An email from Alaska's former first lady sheds new light on the actions that drove Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott from office, suggesting he may have invited a woman into his room, newly released emails show.
- A new Alaska group hopes to overhaul the state's oil and gas tax credit system through a ballot initiative called the Fair Share Act.